Niger villagers in bid to break cycle of famine

Spade in hand and barefoot, Hanatou digs holes in the ground intended to catch rainwater. In her village of Tibiri, in southwest Niger, people are trying to break the annual cycle of food shortages.

Like dozens of other villagers in the blazing heat and dusty wind, the young woman works the stony soil to dig holes shaped like half-moons, three metres (10 feet) wide and 50 centimetres (1.6 feet) deep.

On the arid plateau near the clay houses of the village, the aim is to trap water and regenerate the terrain by planting acacia trees, in a project backed by the charity Oxfam and financed by the World Food Programme (WFP).

In Niger, one of the poorest countries of the world, six million people out of the 18 million in the desert Sahel region of west Africa are threatened with famine each year, according to the United Nations.

But the project in Tibiri "has changed our lives," Hanatou shyly told AFP.

Oxfam has set up a "work for money" programme in Tibiri, in which it pays farmers for activities that serve the community.

The charity pays 32,000 CFA francs (about 45 euros/56 dollars) a month, which according to Patrick Andrey of Oxfam UK is enough to cover for the needs of ahousehold for a month.

The money is handed out during the delicate transition period between the time that last year's food stocks ran out and the start of the new harvest, in September and October.

The cash generally goes towards buying supplies at the local markets, said Andrey.

Once the rains come -- in a modest amount at first -- the programme will enter a new phase: the financial support will continue, but each farmer will begin sowing his own land.

And the stakes are high: in the Tibiri region, 80 percent of the 75,000 farmers lost their harvest last year because there was insufficient rain.

Several hundred kilometres (miles) to the northeast, in the Tanout region, Oumarou takes advantage of the first rains to plant his millet seeds.

The harvest of the last three years "didn't meet our needs, because the production was not good," the turbaned Oumarou says, standing outside a barn that has been empty for several weeks.

Oumarou lives alone with his wife -- their son left to find work in neighbouring Libya -- and the couple were able to stay in their village of Assakaram this year thanks to another aid programme.

For it was here, two years ago, that one of Niger's 6,000 cereal banks was set up. The storing of the first harvest was financed by the WFP, while the Irish Red Cross supervises the management of supplies.

"We buy cereals at harvest time, when the market price is affordable," said Moutari Aboubacar, programme coordinator. The cereals are stored and then sold back to villagers during the most difficult times, at a price that has seen a "tiny increase", he added.

Some local merchants on the other hand, do exactly the opposite, stocking up their foodstuffs until they can sell them at exorbitant prices.

The villagers themselves organise the actual distribution of food, meeting in a council, to try to ensure that nobody gives up and leaves for lack of food.

And while they wait for Niger's government to coordinate its limited resources to fight famine, Hanouta and other Tibiri villagers have taken their own initiative locally.

They have decided to use their savings to set up a food bank.

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • N. Korea fires missiles in anger at South-US military drills
    N. Korea fires missiles in anger at South-US military drills

    North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea and vowed "merciless" retaliation Monday as the US and South Korea kicked off joint military drills denounced by Pyongyang as recklessly confrontational. The annual exercises always trigger a surge in military tensions and warlike rhetoric on the divided peninsula, and analysts saw the North's missile tests as a prelude to a concerted campaign of sabre-rattling. "If there is a particularly sharp escalation, we could see the …

  • Couple married 67 years holds hands in final hours together
    Couple married 67 years holds hands in final hours together

    FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — After spending 67 years together as devoted husband and wife, there was no question how Floyd and Violet Hartwig would end their lives — together. …

  • Hijacked Indonesian vessel found in Davao
    Hijacked Indonesian vessel found in Davao

    An Indonesian cargo vessel that was hijacked a month ago in North Sulawesi, Indonesia has been found stuck in the waters off Mati, Davao Oriental, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) reported yesterday. PCG spokesperson Armand Balilo said the PCG- Southeastern Mindanao district was informed on Feb. 23 that the M/T Rehoboth was found aground off Barangay Cabuaya. Four personnel from the local PCG district office were sent to verify the report. The vessel was reportedly hijacked by …

  • 'Jihadi John' relatives under watch in Kuwait
    'Jihadi John' relatives under watch in Kuwait

    Kuwaiti authorities are closely monitoring several relatives of "Jihadi John" who live and work in the Gulf emirate where the Islamic State executioner was born, press reports said on Sunday. A number of relatives of Mohammed Emwazi, named as the militant who has beheaded at least five Western hostages, are working in Kuwait and like him hold British citizenship, Al-Qabas newspaper reported. "Security agencies have taken the necessary measures to monitor them round the clock," the paper said, …

  • Military steps up offensive vs BIFF, Abu Sayyaf
    Military steps up offensive vs BIFF, Abu Sayyaf

    Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. has ordered the sustained campaign against the Abu Sayyaf and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) following the successive offensives against the armed groups last week. A total of 24 Abu Sayyaf bandits and two soldiers were killed in recent clashes in Sulu last week. The Joint Task Group Sulu has received information that Abu Sayyaf leader Radulan Sahiron was wounded during one of the encounters but this is …

  • Militants want US Marines pulled out of Negros
    Militants want US Marines pulled out of Negros

    The militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) is calling for the pullout of US Marines who arrived in Sagay City, Negros Occidental last Wednesday to train Special Action Force (SAF) commandos and members of the allied forces. The SAF commandos and the allied forces will secure the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) ministerial meeting in this city. Bayan-Negros secretary general Christian Tuayon said the US troops might violate the human rights of activists, especially those …

  • Interview: Australia says hunt for missing MH370 jet may be called off soon
    Interview: Australia says hunt for missing MH370 jet may be called off soon

    By Matt Siegel CANBERRA (Reuters) - The search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 cannot go on forever, Australia's deputy prime minister said, and discussions are already under way between Australia, China and Malaysia as to whether to call off the hunt within weeks. No trace has been found of the Boeing 777 aircraft, which disappeared a year ago this week carrying 239 passengers and crew, in what has become one of the greatest mysteries in aviation history. The search of a rugged …

  • Binay backs house arrest for JPE, GMA
    Binay backs house arrest for JPE, GMA

    Vice President Jejomar Binay yesterday supported proposals to put Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile and former President now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo under house arrest. “Government prosecutors are opposing house arrest for… Enrile. Binay issued the statement after the 91-year-old Enrile was rushed to the Makati Medical Center on Thursday due to pneumonia. House arrest for him would be the compassionate thing to do,” he added. …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options