Famine threatens millions of cattle-breeders and farmers in the Sahel zone - Climax of the catastrophe is expected in June
More than ten million cattle-breeders and farmers in the Sahel zone are threatened by a famine on account of the failure of the rains, warned the Society for Threatened Peoples STP (Gesellschaft f=FCr bedrohte Völker GfbV) on Wednesday. "Particularly hard hit are 7.8 million people in Niger, two million from Chad, 500,000 Tuareg and other nomads in the north-east of Mali", reported the STP Africa consultant, Ulrich Delius. The climax of the famine is expected in June. Before the crisis meeting of the presidents of the Sahel states tomorrow in N'Djamena ( Chad ) representatives of the cattle-breeder network Billital Marobé from the Sahel zone sent a dramatic appeal to the heads of state. "We are no longer able to feed our herds, so we must sell the animals at give-away prices", they wrote in an open letter to the presidents.
"The cattle-breeders need not only food aid, but long-term support to enable them to maintain their herds", said Delius. The tribes threatened by starvation are the Tuareg, Peulh, Toubou, Bella and other ethnic groups which have lived for centuries in the Sahel zone. "In spite of the inhospitable geographical conditions these people have learnt to cope with the changes of climate and other challenges. But this crisis is too much for them", said Delius. "If the semi-nomads and farmers do not harvest enough they must sell their animals to be able to buy food. If the animals are slaughtered en masse or die for lack of pastureland, then it is merely a matter of time before the people die also. For the cattle herds are for many inhabitants of the Sahel zone both supermarket and piggybank". The largest herds of goats, sheep, cows and camels produce milk, butter, cheese and meat. Some 50 million nomads and nearly 200 million semi-nomads in the arid areas of north-west and east Africa live from cattle-farming.
In the north of Burkina Faso and Nigeria the supply situation is on account of the failure of the rains and low harvests extremely tense. It was only in 2005 that a drought caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of animals living in herds in Niger and Mali. At this time about three million nomads mainly in the north of both countries were affected by the catastrophe. "The famine looming up this time affects farmers as well as nomads", reported Delius. At first it was the farmers in the south of the country who complained of a drop in the harvest of more than 30 percent. Many farmers looked then for work in other regions or neighbouring countries in order to survive. But now the crisis is evident among the nomads living in the north of Niger and Mali.