Guereda and Adré October 2010 – Our day started at 5 am with a cup of coffee and no sunlight. I gave my wife a kiss through the mosquito net and said goodbye. I was heading to Eastern Chad for the 6th Edition of the CRS CHAD Seed Fair, my first trip since my arrival in the International Development Fellowship Program [IDFP]. Chris and I were going to Guereda and Watade Nadjidjim a CRS staff member based in Abéché was heading to Adré for the other half of the CRS Seed Fair. Chris Schunk is the manager of the Eastern Chad Horticulture Project serving households affected by violent conflict, which is funded by the United States Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA).
Once in Guereda, Chris and I made our way over to the site of the fair after checking in with our implementing partner SECADEV. The beneficiaries arrived and were informed once more on how the fair would proceed. Our first task was to register and distribute their coupons worth roughly $12, representing nearly 2 weeks income (55% of the population survives on less than a dollar a day). Knowing the extreme poverty of Chad it is easy to understand the impact of $12 and why this seed fair had attracted so many beneficiaries.
During the course of the day I had a moment to speak with Issac Abdu, a beneficiary from the village of Miri. When asked how far he had traveled to participate in the fair, he responded, “17 kilometers by foot”. Issac had come to purchase a shovel, garlic bulbs and cucumber seeds with his coupons. His initial plans were to provide extra food for his family and sell the remainder to save for the “hungry times”.
Seed fairs are great way to invest the maximum amount of resources into a community when implementing a project. Issac, the vendors and other beneficiaries often responded that seed fairs were preferred to seed distributions, because the products are being bought and sold locally and the beneficiaries can choose what tools and seeds will be most useful for the time of year and the environment.
I was lucky to observe a project being implemented within needy communities. As a staff member it is a great feeling to be able to see and participate in what had before only been miles of paperwork and the occasional visit with a partner. I left with a great sense of what the OFDA project was really about and who it was helping. Being able to participate in a day that required months of preparation is one of my most memorable experiences so far as a Fellow.
Matthew Keller is a CRS International Development Fellow based in Chad.
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