Supporting Families in Central African Republic
Sonia Docka, a mother of four, hums softly as she carefully ties a small goat to a nearby tree.
“This little one is going to change our lives,” she says, smiling.
Sonia Docka tends to a young goat she bought using a cash transfer she received as part of an Emergency Food Security and Agricultural Assistance project in Bouar in the Central African Republic.
Photo by Jennifer Lazuta/CRS
A year ago, Sonia and her family were forced to flee their home in the northwestern region of the Central African Republic following attacks by an armed rebel group. They have since resettled in the village of Ngaguene, near the town of Bouar. Life has not been easy, Sonia says.
“We lost our home, our fields, our animals, our clothes—everything,” she says. “I am so thankful we all escaped unharmed. But starting from nothing … it is not easy.”
She and her family are farmers who now rent land to grow their crops. When opportunities arise, Sonia also works odd jobs, helping other farmers weed or harvest their land to earn extra cash. But it is never enough.
“Sometimes the harvest is good, sometimes it is not,” she says. “We use what we grow to eat and sell some of it at the market if the harvest is good and there is extra. But sometimes it is not sufficient, and we barely have enough to use for food. If we can’t sell the extra at the market, that means we earn no money. And no money makes life very hard.”
Even in the best of times, buying a baby goat, which costs about $25, would have been very difficult. But in March 2023, Sonia and her family enrolled in a Catholic Relief Services’ Emergency Food Security and Agricultural Assistance project funded by Caritas Norway. It provides cash transfers for improved food security as well as agricultural support in the form of distribution of seeds and tools coupled with agricultural best-practice trainings. It also provides a series of conflict-management trainings for community leaders to support families affected by conflict in the northwest of the country.
The cash allows participants to decide what to buy, based on their family’s needs, as opposed to giving them supplies that might or might not be useful for everyone.
Sonia Docka buys dried cassava for her family at the Ngaguene market using cash transfer money she received as part of an Emergency Food Security and Agricultural Assistance project in Bouar in the Central African Republic.
Photo by Jennifer Lazuta/CRS
As part of the project, Sonia received $60 each month for three months. This helped her buy food, clothing and household necessities, as well as helped pay school fees for her oldest child. She was also able to purchase a goat, which she will fatten up over the next few months and then resell to earn a profit.
Before joining the project, Sonia often missed the chance to buy food on market days. “But thanks to the distribution on Saturday, today I can buy what we need at the market. So truly this has helped reduce our suffering. With the cash, my mind is at ease now that my children are well-fed and clothed.”
Sonia will use the profit from the goat to buy condiments in bulk to sell at the market for additional profit. She can also buy another goat or other small animals and repeat the process to earn more money. In this way, Sonia has the ability to increase the quantity and quality of food that her family consumes—and even increase their income.
“The dream is to feed my family rice and beans or meat and vegetables every day,” she says. “Right now, it is not always possible, but with some hard work and luck, I hope it can start by selling this goat.”
The Emergency Food Security and Agricultural Assistance in Bouar projects are funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs via Caritas Norway and implemented by Catholic Relief Services and Caritas Bouar. This series of emergency response projects aim to save lives, alleviate suffering and protect human dignity for conflict-affected families in the northwest region of the Central African Republic. The projects consist of cash transfers for improved food security, agricultural support through the distribution of seeds and tools coupled with key agricultural best practice trainings, and a series of conflict-management trainings for community leaders. More than 35,000 people have benefitted from this support since 2020.