Thomas Awiapo

Sahel Food Crisis: Helping Niger Help Itself

Niger garden

A man waters plants in a CRS dry season market garden in Jougola, Niger. Photo by Tahirou Gouro/CRS

By Thomas Awiapo

Traveling in Niger to see the impact of the current food crisis there first-hand, as well as CRS’ work, I spent the last five days with an evaluation team tasked with assessing the impact of CRS’ work in the area. What a special learning moment this was for me!

I sat in on several focus group interviews and discussions in the villages we visited and I walked away with one great lesson: No one can develop human beings; you can only help human beings develop themselves.

Community members, one after the other, made it crystal clear that community sensitization and training was the best help they received from CRS. Sensitization, helping communities better understand their situations and work toward solutions, has helped them to cope better in these difficult times of severe food insecurity in Niger. When talking to villagers, I expected them to point to material resources they received from CRS as the most appropriate help. But I was wrong. Over and over, community members emphasized the sensitization and trainings that equipped them with knowledge and new ideas of how to do things more effectively and sustainably.

This is at the core of CRS’ work throughout the world: mobilizing people, creating enabling conditions and environments and challenging people to recognize their own potentials and resources. This approach to development isn’t completely new to me but it was just more powerful and revealing coming from the people themselves. They have the potential and the capability to solve their own problems and all they ask of us is to be in solidarity with them and help facilitate the process of development by themselves, for themselves.

On this note I humbly commend CRS Niger. Community members shared testimony after testimony about the importance of community education and how much effort CRS Niger makes in that regard. This brings to mind an African proverb: “That which is good is never finished.” So keep up the good work!

I also wish to take this opportunity to express gratitude to CRS friends, donors and others who help CRS in diverse ways to help people help themselves. The need is great and resources are limited but remember this: no one has ever been more generous than God. He will always pay you back a hundred fold.

Read this for more on the Sahel food crisis.

Donate now.

–Thomas Awiapo
As a child in Ghana, Thomas Awiapo was a beneficiary of CRS school feeding programs. Now, as an adult, he works for CRS Ghana and travels to the United States annually to tell his inspiring story to American Catholics at schools, parishes and communities. Thomas will be a featured guest blogger and will be reporting from Ghana about the issues he witnesses firsthand.

Watch the video: Empowered for Life: The Thomas Awiapo Story.

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