2012 Sahel food crisis

Food crisis in Niger - CBM supports pastoralist communities

03-04-2012
In a very arid landscape where there are only patches of dried grass and few short trees, a Tuareg family is seen with five donkeys, four of which are loaded with their belongings.
© CBM
In the commune of Aderbissinat in central Niger, more than 80 percent of the population is made up of herders

CBM and its local partner Karkara are supporting 400 pastoralist households of the municipality of Aderbissinat, in central Niger. In a context where a food crisis is about to affect the whole Sahel region of Africa, the project aims to enable extremely vulnerable families to pass the summer lean season, which is expected to be particularly long and difficult this year, and be better prepared for the next. Specific activities are also planned to help the persons with disabilities of this community to organise themselves and develop their economic potential.

Among the poorest of the world

An African man wearing a turban is kneeling and holds his head in his hands in despair, as he is surrounded by ten dead sheep. ©CBM
The population of Aderbissinat remains traumatised by the sudden loss of 13,000 head of livestock in July 2010, due to drought and consecutive flash floods
Niger is one of the two poorest countries of the world, with two-thirds of the population surviving on less than $1 a day. It is also one of the planet's hottest areas. Widespread malnutrition and poor healthcare result in high child mortality. Yet this country of 15 million has one the world's fastest-growing populations, with women having eight children on average. Half of Nigeriens are under 15.
 
In the centre of Niger, the rural municipality of Aderbissinat, in the department of Tchirozerine, lies in a semi-arid region that receives only a few weeks of rain per year and where the traditional livelihood consists in raising goats, sheep, cattle and camels. Breeder households live on livestock products (milk, cheese, meat) and grain purchased after the sale of animals on neighbouring markets.
 
Climate change has had a terrible impact in the area. Since 2009 the commune has been affected by low rainfall and very poor distribution of rainfall in space and time. This led to very poor forage production and subsequent pressure on the little grazing land that remained. The situation of livestock has become more and more critical. Moreover, terrible flash floods killed close to 13,000 head of livestock in 2010. CBM and its Nigerien partner Karkara therefore undertook to help this community regain and secure its livelihoods as well as generate solidarity groups, including persons with disabilities.

Cash transfers to weather the lean season

A straw market on both sides of a road in a rural African town ©CBM
A straw market in central Niger. CBM and its partner Karkara will supply cattle feed banks where pastoralists will be able to buy straw, wheat bran or cottonseed at affordable prices
During the lean season, food becomes more expensive and pastoralists used to sell some livestock to buy food. Now that a lot of cattle has been lost, it is difficult or impossible to do so. This leads to survival situations, malnutrition, and starts a vicious circle of extreme vulnerability and dependence.
 
A cash transfer scheme will be set up to reduce the vulnerability vis-à-vis the chronic stress of the lean period and undermine the vicious cycle of dependence. 400 households have been identified through a participatory process as being the most impoverished by the recent droughts and floods and relying only on livestock breeding to sustain themselves. They represent approximately 2,800 people, and 19% of these households have persons with disabilities among them. Each of these households will receive FCFA 25,000 (about €38) per month from May to September in order to pass the lean season.
 
This money will enable them to buy food for themselves and for their animals. It will also mean they can avoid having to sell all of their livestock at a very low price (5 to 10 times lower than the usual), bearing in mind that it is their only means of subsistence: if their stock starves to death or they have to sell it, they are left with nothing to face the future. Finally, the cash transfer also represents an opportunity for them to diversify their livelihood through other income generating activities that require a minimal investment to start with.

Improving livestock management in the long term

A man in a blue Tuareg turban is filling a syringe with a medical solution, in front of a herd of camels ©CBM
Specific attention will be given to animal health to improve cattle raising productivity
As climate change seems to seriously compromise the food security of pastoral households in the long run, there is a need for new strategies and new behaviours more adapted to the new situation. Improving the living conditions of this community also means stabilising the condition of its herds and improving the productivity of its agricultural techniques.
 
Women beneficiaries, who already received two goats and one ewe to replenish their stock, will be trained on the management of animal health and husbandry practices, and supervised by a veterinary practice. All the beneficiaries will be trained on basic animal health and strategic food supplementation. Awareness activities on optimal herd destocking, strategic food supplementation, prophylaxis programmes, etc. will also be implemented in coordination with local authorities, so that each household can better adapt to new realities.
 
The project team is also going to supply livestock feed stores in eight different spots of the municipality. The stores will be managed by the community, livestock feed will be sourced locally and made available at affordable prices.

Persons with disabilities organising themselves

An African man wearing a turban sits in the sand, with two goats and a sheep at his side ©CBM
Abdourahamane, who had polio at the age of 5, received a ewe and two goats from CBM and Karkara to start again after he lost all his cattle in 2010
This support and training in herd management costs approximately €15 per household. It will be complementary to the training of members of a newly formed organisation of persons with disabilities, to enable them to manage common services, facilitate their relations with other stakeholders (local authorities, technical and financial partners, suppliers, customers, etc.) and donors, as well as develop their economic potential. A resource centre will be set up for them and vocational training will be developed (sewing for women with disabilities and manufacturing of metal chairs or other metal objects for men). Substantial support in equipment / hardware as well as in the management of the resource centre will be provided initially. Access to credit and marketing of products produced by persons with disabilities will be facilitated.

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