(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

WFP debuts vouchers

A farmer inspecting his rain-fed rice field in Sagada, in the northern Philippines. Experts at the Philippine-based International Rice Research Institute say they have developed rice varieties that are flood resistant, and could help farmers in typhoon- a
Jason Gutierrez/IRIN

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has begun distributing food vouchers in Africa for the first time, targeting 120,000 cash-strapped residents in Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou, where food prices remain high despite record harvests.



"Sometimes it makes more sense to give people vouchers than bags of food," said Burkina Faso’s WFP country director, Annalisa Conte. On 13 February, residents lined up to receive coupons worth US$3, which they can spend on maize, sugar, cooking oil and soap in stores under contract with WFP.



WFP launched a three-year plan in 2008 to buy more food from local farmers and give vouchers that can be redeemed for food in urban areas where there is little risk that increased food purchases would hike up prices or lead to food scarcity.



Despite surplus agricultural production in 2008 farmers in Burkina Faso have increased cereal prices by up to 20 percent in recent months, prompting officials’ fears of renewed riots. Ministers have told IRIN they are using agricultural incentives rather than threats to bring down prices.



WFP is expected to distribute vouchers to 60,000 more people in Burkina Faso’s second largest city, Bobo Dioulasso, in March. Each family is allowed six vouchers per month for six months.



pt/np

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