Niger

Food shortages in Niger

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Christians in Niger are drawing on all their resources to avert a food crisis for the Tuareg tribe in Niger, West Africa, who are the focus of Tearfund's latest resource pack Sahel.

As many as 3.5 million people are facing severe food shortages in the country; while 150,000 children are suffering from severe malnutrition -- which means they are at least 30 percent below the weight they should be.

The Tuareg are selling off animals to buy food; women are selling their jewellery.

Tearfund partner Jemed is well placed to respond. As we see in Tearfund's harvest pack Sahel, Jemed is enabling the Tuareg to survive in their historic homeland by helping them adapt to a change in climate.

There have been eight serious droughts in the past 20 years. Now, the nomadic cattle herders are reeling from the effects of an influx of farmers from the south, who have reduced semi-arid pastureland to dust. A locust invasion, together with sandstorms, has destroyed the little pasture that was left.

Through an emergency grant, Jemed is giving out animal feed and providing trucks so farmers can take their animals to market in southern Niger and look for better places for them to graze.

Survival

Jemed's existing programme with the Tuareg is also helping to alleviate the situation.

Jemed works with the nomadic people to create 'fixation points' where they can find a water well, a grain bank, and send their children to school.

These fixation points are operating well, with extra grain being supplied to ensure that women and children survive the harsh conditions. But, if the rains fail to come in the next few weeks, these grain banks could run out.

Changing climate

The current situation in Niger is part of a much bigger issue.

Hamad Almomin, an 80-year-old Tuareg chief, tells us, 'There have been huge changes in the life of the nomad. The heavy rains we once had have disappeared. Now the rains are sparse.'

An old Tuareg proverb says, 'When the music changes, then the rhythm of the dance must change also.'