How to Grow Grass for Goats in the Face of Drought, Heat and Hunger

World Food Programme
October 13, 2020
Photo: WFP

The Problem
Eastern Chad is home to 327,000 refugees who have fled conflict in western Sudan’s Darfur region since early 2003. Most of them live in extremely harsh conditions in camps along the border. They are exposed to long-lasting droughts and unpredictable rainfall that hamper their agricultural and livestock activities.

Chad is part of the Sahel region, which has been experiencing some of the worst conditions in years and has some of the highest malnutrition rates in the world. While much progress is being made in some Sahel countries, we need to protect resilience gains and prevent any deterioration in nutritional status and food security. The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) continues to build the humanitarian and development nexus in Chad, supporting families to become self-reliant and more resilient to shocks. Enter: hydroponics.

Photo: WFP/Mustapha Bribi

Bins of fresh grass can go from seed to shoot in a matter of days.


The Chad Hydroponics Solution
The U.N. World Food Programme is exploring hydroponic solutions to reinforce food assistance activities in Chad. Local innovators, alongside U.N. World Food Programme experts, are currently growing fresh grass with the aim to increase the production of milk and meat and improve people’s nutrition. To make the initiative sustainable over time, Chadian innovators identified and sourced local materials for the hydroponics units.

The project here builds on the U.N. World Food Programme’s experience at the Sahrawi refugee camps of Algeria, where simple hydroponic production units using only local materials are used to grow fresh grass for their goats. Similar environmental conditions have inspired this venture.

A group of women in headwraps sit on the floor, presenting sections of hydroponically grown animal fodder.

The Impact
The project is currently being piloted in the camps of Touloum, Iridimi and Amnabak, as well as with the host community of Iriba, Chad. During the first half of 2018, the U.N. World Food Programme set up 40 hydroponic units with plans to install 100 additional units by the end of the year, supporting Sudanese refugees in the Sahel.

A woman in a red headwrap tends to a box of hydroponically grown animal fodder.

Meet Arafa
Arafa is one of the thousands of refugees who fled to the camps of Touloum, Iridimi. Fourteen years later, she is still living in the camp where she works as a teacher. Like many other community members, she relies on her livestock to feed her children and her elderly parents. In these harsh conditions, however, her animals had been feeding off garbage, like plastic and paper trash, which resulted in poor quality milk and meat.

In 2018, we visited the Chadian camp where we met Arafa. During brainstorming discussions, she stood out in the crowd with her drive and motivation to act and improve her family’s situation. Today, Arafa is one of the refugees who has built their own hydroponic unit using locally available materials in Chad. Her units are already growing fresh grass that is helping to provide more and better-quality milk to her family.

It’s just one of the many ways we help vulnerable families become self reliant.

H2Grow: Growing Green in a Sea of Sand

H2Grow, a project of the World Food Programme (WFP) Innovation Accelerator, helps to grow food in impossible places like Algeria, Chad, Jordan, and Peru, to provide access to nutritious food. H2Grow helps 10,000+ refugees to fight hunger with tailor-made hydroponic containers.