Famine: Niger villagers helpless

2010-04-21 11:51
Tarna - After the great drought of 2005, which took a severe toll in southern Niger, people in the region again face a severe food crisis for themselves and their beasts.

"We eat once a day instead of our three daily meals," said Abdou Garda, a peasant farmer in Tarna, a small village in the central southern Maradi region of the west African country.

Next to the elderly man, children are fighting over a few bean fritters and a little further away, skinny cows are grazing on the rubbish tip for lack of sustenance elsewhere.

In 2005, Maradi, a region home to more than 20% of Niger's population of 15 million, was one of the worst hit by a famine that affected 3.5 million people, because of drought and the destruction of harvests by locusts.

This year once again, a lack of rainfall is behind the dearth of food in the Sahel region of sub-Saharan Africa.

"We and our beasts are hungry, it's the drama of 2005 that is repeating itself," said Ali Galadima, Tarna's headman.

Millet and maize, the staple cereals, "began to grow well, then the rain brutally stopped for two months and the heat burned everything up", Galadima added.

‘A descent into hell’

In consequence, a majority of farmers had no harvest at all and among those who did, the harvests have been divided by a third compared with last year.

"In the last season, I harvested 30 sheaves of millet compared with just 11 this time, and our reserves are already used up," said Mamane Garba, the father of 18 children.

Abdou Ado, a farmer in a neighbouring hamlet, said that he had "harvested nothing" and that he saw his plight as "a descent into hell".

Many men have begun to flee the villages, leaving behind the women, children and elderly.

In Tarna, between 300 and 500 people have already fled towards Maradi town, according to Galadima.

Since her husband left for neighbouring Nigeria a month ago, Nana-Aichatou must manage to feed eight children and take care of her sick mother.

Malnutrition gains ground

To survive, she goes every morning to cut brushwood, then walks the 3km separating her village, Nassarawa, and Maradi town, where she sells her wood.

"I usually earn about 500 CFA francs ($1). It's just enough to buy two kilos of millet to make a meal," the young woman said, marching with an enormous pile of wood on her head.

The meal is a simple porridge with a little bit of fermented milk.

The situation is equally critical in the neighbouring Zinder region, where families have fled the food shortages "en masse", according to local authorities.

The health ministry has reported that malnutrition is gaining ground among children.

Nevertheless, the shops are full of food products, mostly imported from Nigeria. Some traders hoard food in the hopes of selling it for higher prices later, charged Hassane Baka, who works for a local non-governmental organisation.

Pressing appeal

At the beginning of March, Niger launched a "pressing appeal" for international aid, stating that famine already affected 58% of its population.

The government is trying to ease the suffering by operations to sell cereals cheaply. But the worst is feared during the period between June, when the crop is supposed to be growing, and the month of September, which should be a time to reap the harvest.

To help the most vulnerable people during this time of shortages, the Niger government's Food Crisis Cell is planning the free distribution of food supplies in May.

International aid is slow in coming.

According to the charity Oxfam, the drought could affect "almost 10 million people" in coming months in the Sahel, particularly in Niger.

Read more on:    niger  |  west africa

Read News24’s Comments Policy


Inside News24


Thirty and still single? There’s hope!

Are you thirty and still single, without even a hint of a prospect on the horizon? Then read this!



SA’s Playboy Playmate of the year in action!
12 lies everyone accepts as fact
Hottie of the day: Charlotte
Breakup text goes viral and it’s hilarious!

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Festive gifts!

Check out our awesome range of festive gifts to make everyone’s wishes come true. Shop now!

Seen something you like in our catalogue?

Find the perfect gift and save up to R5000 – As seen on the catalogue. Hurry and shop now!

Save up to R2200 on electronics! – As seen in the catalogue

Wishing for tech gadgets this festive? Save up to R2100 on hot tech products at kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 35% off books

Save up to 35% on the latest page-turners. While stocks last. Shop now!

Good Morning, Mr Mandela by Zelda la Grange

Good Morning, Mr Mandela tells the extraordinary story of how a young woman had her life, beliefs, prejudices and everything she once believed in utterly transformed by the greatest man of her time. Now R221. Pre-order now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25


It may be hard to stay cool, calm and collected. Your emotions can get quite heated in the moment. You may benefit from finding a...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.