Community cereal banks
Some of the tasks of the management committee require specific skills. For example the
treasurer should have simple accounting skills to effectively manage a system of four books
and double entry book-keeping. The system involves keeping four account books, the book of
the treasurer, the book of the purchasing officer, the book of the secretary and the book of the
storekeeper. Thus, the secretary, treasurer, purchasing officer and storekeeper should be
trained on the accounting system. The purchaser will also require skills on effective
If the cereal bank members cannot find people with such skills, they must find people with
other qualities who are willing to learn. It is often possible to find someone from outside who
could come and train the management committee in some of these tasks.
Operating a cereal bank
Determine how much cereal will take the village through the hungry season. This is necessary
before any carrying out other operations. The cereal bank is involved with buying and selling
grain, but the community can also use it to look after those in need.
The cereal bank buys up grain just after the harvest when the market price is at its lowest. It
buys first from its members, then from the surrounding villages, and finally from traders or
other cereal banks in the area.
The price which it purchases grain from its members and the surrounding villages can be
higher than the market price, but when it buys from traders, it should not pay more than the
The quantities, which are bought will depend on how much food will be needed to carry the
members through the hungry season, which is worked beforehand. It will also depend on how
much money is available.
The cereal bank members should make decisions on when to start selling the grain. They
should decide whether to sell throughout the year or during the hungry season. In most cases,
selling takes place during the hungry season when most people have run out of food and it is
very expensive to buy food in the market. However, it depends a lot on what the cereal bank
members want. Some cereal banks sell nearly all year round, replacing their stock when it runs
out. This is quite common in areas, which do not produce enough or pastoralist areas, which
hardly do any farming. However, selling all the year round requires a good management
Often the cereal bank does not want to sell until the moment when the prices are highest on
the open market. This is one of the decisions, which has to be made by the cereal bank
The bank sells first to its members. If there is enough grain, it can then sell to non-members.
The members pay lower prices than non-members. The sale price must be set in relation to the
cost price calculated beforehand. It should be lower than the market price in the neighbouring
villages, but it must be equal to or more than the cost price. It is also important that the cereal
bank sells the grain in both large and small amounts, since not every one can afford to buy
large amounts at a time.
Helping the poorest
Whenever there is not enough, everyone wants to buy from the bank, and since some people
are richer than others, the rich could easily buy up all the grain and not leave any for the rest.
In this case, the cereal bank must be clear about what its policy is and have a system for