Tearfund and partners are working in Africa's
western Sahel region which is experiencing a major food crisis as a result
of the locust invasion and drought last year. As many as 3.6 million people
are facing severe food shortages in the region including 150,000 children
that are suffering from severe malnutrition.
The most critical areas are across Niger where Tearfund have a team assessing the need with partner organisation Jemed. Tearfund emergency grants enable local churches in the region to help remote villages, building contacts in the communities to gain important local knowledge of the unfolding crisis.
Within nomadic tribes, the Tuareg and Woodabe, people rely on moving between pasturelands with their cattle. Their way of life is under threat with increasing desertification as a result of climate change. The drought last year is a clear indication of this and Jemed is well placed to respond - working to enable the Tuareg to survive in their historic homeland by helping them adapt to a changing climate.
Jemed Director, Jeff Woodke, says:
"There is some pasture for animals, but there are very few animals. The climate has been acting strangely. Livestock that survived the drought have been caught in flash flooding. The problem right now is the deficit of cereal, leaving a 'hunger gap' until the harvest in late September. One sack of millet, the staple food, now costs half a month's income - that is the equivalent to a cow or three sheep. People can't afford anything anymore."
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 Tearfund 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.
Hamad Almomin, an 80-year-old Tuareg chief, adds:
"There have been huge changes in the life of the nomad. The heavy rains we once had have disappeared. Now the rains are sparse."
There is an old Tuareg proverb that says, 'When the music changes, then the rhythm of the dance must change also.'
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.
Another Tearfund partner, the Union of Protestant Evangelical Churches in Niger, (UEEPN), runs community grain banks in southern Niger. These grain banks will help provide villagers with a supply of grain during the 'hunger gap' that comes before the harvest. Currently 20 villages have UEEPN grain stores that are managed by elected village committees.
Tearfund is one of the UK's leading relief and development agencies and is committed to addressing the causes of poverty, working in over 70 countries worldwide.
To find out more about the work and activities of Tearfund: www.tearfund.org. Or contact Jonathan Spencer in the Press Office on 020 8943 7901.