Guest blog by Rodrigo Ordóñez, Regional Communications Coordinator, Sahel food crisis (Chad, Mali, Niger) for CARE International.
The food crisis currently affecting the Sahel is a result of several causes, including drought, high food prices and regional instability. Certain factors might have a bigger influence than others depending on geography, people’s livelihoods or even personal choices. Every region, every village and every house in Niger attributes their situation to a different combination of reasons, but the result is invariably the same: this year, people don’t have enough to eat.
In the last few weeks, I have talked to families in several regions of Niger, while traveling on my own or when taking journalists to the field. Despite the variety of personal circumstances, certain elements are common in people’s stories.
Clockwise from left: Delou Ibrahim, 70. Her granddaughter Latifa, 8. Delou’s hands hold sorrel leaves, used as a condiment, and grains of sorghum at her home in Saran Maradi, Niger. (Photo: Rodrigo Ordonez/CARE)
Delou Ibrahim has four children and suffered the loss of nine. She has about 40 grandchildren, 16 of which live with her.
“I’ve seen several crises. The famine in 1984 was the hardest. Rains were very weak. The stems of millet came out but the spikes gave no grain – nothing,” she recalls. “Two years ago at least there were people who harvested millet, but this year the crops have been worse because of the drought and the leaf miners.” Delou’s last crop was 30kg, which only provided food for about two days.
Delou and her family receive cash from CARE. “I get to buy cereal to feed my family, particularly my grandchildren.” They have two daily meals, porridge in the morning and sorghum paste in the evening.
Clockwise from left: Maka Ali, 80. Her granddaughter Maria, 10. Maka’s hands hold sorghum at her home in Saran Maradi, Niger. (Photo: Rodrigo Ordonez/CARE)
Maka Ali has been a widow for twenty years. She has eight children and about twenty grandchildren. She has experienced the loss of six children, four of them at an early age. “I was alone taking care of them, so I cannot say their deaths weren’t related to lack of food,” Maka recalls.
Nobody in her family can work, so she receives a cash transfer from CARE. “When I receive the payment, I buy sorghum and maize,” Maka explains. “Before this support, I couldn’t; I was eating leaves.”
Clockwise from left: Sahara Mahama, 40. Her daughter Mariama, 4. A bucket of millet at Sahara’s home in Saran Maradi, Niger. (Photo: Rodrigo Ordonez/CARE)
Sahara Mahama has seven sons and a daughter. She lost four other children; one of them was only 14 days old. “I lost the youngest one during the rains, in the lean season. I didn’t have enough to eat.”
Eating has become increasingly harder through the years, recalls Sahara. “When I was a kid, we used to have three meals: in the morning, at noon, and in the evening.” However, one meal a day has now become the norm. “It’s never guaranteed, but we try.”
Sahara participates in CARE’s cash-for-work project. With the money she receives, she buys cereal and gives her children two meals per day.
Clockwise from left: Mariama Oumarou, 55. Her granddaughter Rakia, 4. A hand holds grains of corn in Mariama’s home in Saran Maradi, Niger. (Photo: Rodrigo Ordonez/CARE)
Mariama Oumarou has ten children and three grandchildren. Through the years she has lost four children and two grandchildren. She participates in CARE’s cash-for-work project. “Not only can we buy millet and sorghum now, but also corn and condiments.”