Innovative projects in Nigeria to support people in need
Première Urgence Internationale works in the Bolori II district in Maiduguri, Nigeria, helping both refugee and local populations. In 2017, it launched a food aid project in the form of electronic cards. Rémi Alverhne, manager of the food security project, explains the challenges of this innovative programme.
USING INNOVATION TO OVERCOME PROBLEMS
“We’re faced with populations who need everything, particularly money, to meet their food needs on local markets, which are well stocked with basic goods,” explains Rémi Alverhne. “There’s a question we asked ourselves when we wanted to intervene in the area: how can we provide cash to these people so they can obtain food despite the security situation?”
North-east Nigeria has been experiencing a tense security situation since 2009 as a result of the presence of armed groups in the region. Attacks and fighting are common. Première Urgence Internationale is continuing its work, despite the difficulties involved. “Against the backdrop of the security situation, we implemented a highly innovative project – a system of electronic cards. Thanks to this system, we have been able to overcome the problem and provide funds to vulnerable populations so they could access the food aid they need.”
A NEW SYSTEM
Several steps were needed to put this system in place. Firstly, beneficiaries had to be chosen based on their level of vulnerability. The teams then had cards – known as e-vouchers – printed before distributing them to the selected households. Finally, awareness-raising sessions on how to use the cards were organised.
Alongside this, teams had to choose the retailers from whom the programme’s beneficiaries would be able to buy goods. They assessed the quality of the food offered, hygiene standards and compliance with ethical rules, among other criteria, at a number of shops. They then trained shopkeepers in how to use the cards and provided them with the necessary equipment (applications, a printer for receipts, etc.). A list of food items that fit with local dietary customs was determined in advance with the merchants. This meant that prices could be set and also ensured that beneficiaries are able to purchase food in sufficient quantity and of sufficient quality to meet their needs every month. In addition, this approach avoids any disruption to local market prices.
Using a mobile app, teams can now make cash transfers to households. Members of these households can then go to shops to buy food, and the seller takes payment via the same application. Teams can also monitor purchases in order to improve the selection of shops and sellers and the list of food items.
BENEFITS FOR THE POPULATION
“This system means that cash becomes digital and the cards are protected by a PIN code. This gives people independence over what they buy. They can buy what they want, however they want, when they want, and where they want,” says Rémi.
Première Urgence Internationale has helped almost 70,000 people in the region in total.