Niger: A high-tech solution for hunger

Hand-held technology offers an innovative new way to distribute desperately needed cash for work in remote parts of countries such as Niger.

By Lauren Fisher, World Vision U.S.
Published July 11, 2012 at 12:00am PDT

“Nagode” means “thank you” or “I’m grateful” in Niger’s local language, Hausa. Zeinabou Salifou, a 40-year-old widow with six children, says the word again and again.

Mobile technology makes distributions easier

She is grateful to take part in a village work project to receive cash from World Vision to buy food. The money is distributed through a program called Last Mile Mobile Solutions (LMMS) that uses hand-held technology.

It’s a high-tech solution to a basic problem — no rain last growing season. 

“The harvest was really bad. Crops were very low when the rain stopped,” Zeinabou says. She was left empty-handed with no way to feed her family. 

Beneficiaries receive a card that has a barcode and their picture on it. Data is also entered into a hand-held electronic scanner. 

During a cash distribution, World Vision staff scan the card, and it registers that the villagers have received their cash.

The process saves people from having to carry around papers, ensures cash goes to the correct people, and sends a secure report back to World Vision within minutes.

“Last mile” reaches remote areas

“Last mile” refers to the critical point where aid reaches those most in need in the remote areas where they live.

LMMS uses hand-held technology to distribute cash to those living in remote areas. (Photo: Lauren Fisher/World Vision)LMMS was developed for food distributions in rural settings where coordination can be difficult. It came from a partnership between World Vision and private companies Field Worker and Intermec.

The technology was first used in 2008 for food aid in Kenya and Lesotho, but it is now used by World Vision throughout Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Now, women like Zeinabou don’t have to wait hours in the blistering sun for money to feed their children.

Cash-for-work payments made easy

In Zeinabou’s village, more than 200 people received cash for 12 days of work digging shallow pits to catch water and regenerate the soil.

The 200-plus workers received their money in less than an hour and a half.

“It’s very easy, and I do not have to wait a long time before I get my cash,” Zeinabou says.

With a smile on her face and clutching her crumpled bills, Zeinabou says she’s heading to the market to buy sorghum.

She can buy enough to feed her family three meals a day for more than a week. This was her ninth time working for cash, she says, and each time it is a blessing.

“If not for this work, it would be difficult for me to get food for my family. I would be going to the bush just to gather leaves and things to eat.”

Learn more 

Read this PBS article for more information about the hunger crisis in Niger and across the Sahel region.

How you can help

Thank God for this new innovation that allows working mothers and others to receive their payments quickly and feed their familes during lean times. 

Make a one-time gift to help provide life-saving food and care in countries like Niger, where a hunger crisis persists. Your donation will help deliver emergency food aid, agricultural support, and more to children and families at risk from food shortages.