Niger farmer’s plea: “Please help us, to help ourselves”
Moumouni Hamadou has had a rough year. In fact, the last few years have been the roughest of his 45 years in this remote Nigerien village in Dosso Region.
Since last October, he and his family of eight have survived drinking one cup of porridge per day. That’s all the food they could afford.
He once had a large house right next to the compound of the village chief. It was made of dry mud bricks which is the more expensive type construction in these villages. The other option is a house made of straw woven so tightly that it is strong and waterproof.
His children, aged 7 to 18 all went to school and enjoyed fine clothes and as good a life as one could find among the poor villagers in Niger’s rural farming communities.
They were contented and ate well except for the lean season when their supplies of grain ran low.
In recent years, there has been erratic rainfall leading to poor harvests. They had to dip into their savings to buy grain on the market. When they could finally afford it, the merchants had increased the prices. The regular price of a 220 lbs bag of maize was about $30, but when the lean season started the price doubled.
But Moumouni’s family only had so much and no more ‘family silver’ to sell.
Last year, when the crops were looking healthy and promising, trouble struck.
“Just at the time that we expected the millet to mature, the rain stopped and we had a very bad harvest. We were able to reap only 10 measures (about 50 bowlfuls).
“This year I am very worried. The crop was growing nicely when insects destroyed part of it. I had to plant again and it has gone on well until the flood.”
That flood was triggered by half a year’s worth of rainfall. In a few hours it had swept away his entire house.
With the smile now gone, he stared beyond me in a trance-like gaze.
Tomorrow, his family will be able to eat again. Emergency food supplies arrived and were distributed by Plan. His family received 44 lbs rice and half a gallon of oil. In another two weeks, they will get another set of food.
In the meantime he waits for the water in his field to subside.
For the Hamadou family, this Sahel Food Crisis will likely continue until October 2013. The next year is going to be tougher. He is wondering how he will feed his family with all the family silver gone and crops destroyed.
Not only is he unable to feed his family, he does not have the means to rebuild his house. He’s squatting in the home of his brother who has gone away to Cote d’Ivoire to work. He’s sent a message to him asking to borrow money. He’s confident that the money will come. It could be in a month or three months. His brother will send cash by the next person he knows who is returning to Niger.
In the meantime, he waits and thinks about the future.
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