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Niger - Nomadernes eksistensgrundlag dør pga. tørke

NIGER: Nomadic herders watch helplessly as animals die taking income with them

IRINnews.org, 5. august 2005

Kvæget er nomadernes eksistensgrundlag, men tørken rammer nu i stigende omfang også kvæget, som dør af mangel på foder. Selv kamelerne bukker under nu, mange steder er der kun tilstrækkeligt med foder til nogle få geder.

SAKABAL, 5 Aug 2005 (IRIN) - Tuareg nomad Amadou Ibrahim stands amid the orange dust, his white robes streaming out behind him, and kicks himself for not having foreseen how bad Niger's food crisis was going to get.

"If only I'd sold my animals, then I'd have had something to show for it. At least I would have been able to feed my family a little," he said. "Now I have nothing."

Almost 40 percent of the animal fodder in this vast semi-desert nation was reduced to dust after one of the worst droughts in recent years was followed by an invasion of hungry locusts.

Niger's authorities put the fodder deficit at 4.6 million tonnes, more than 20 times greater than the grain deficit,.

With little to eat, the animals started to perish, taking the nomad's livelihood with them.

Out of a herd of ten goats, seven camels and six cows, Ibrahim is now down to a single goat. But he considers himself and his seven children to be lucky because of that sole surviving animal.

"There are lots of people who lost absolutely everything," he told IRIN in the village of Sakabal, which lies more than 700 km east of the capital, Niamey.

"I know one guy who had already lost lots of animals (to drought) and then a big rain came and wiped out the rest," he recounted. "He couldn't bear it. He threw himself down a well and killed himself."

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that more than 10,000 families in Niger have lost their animals.

It has appealed to the international community for US $4 million of emergency agricultural aid but as of Tuesday only one donor, Sweden, had heeded the call with a contribution of $650,000.

"Livestock are crucial to agro-pasturalist families in Niger, for income as well as food," said Fernanda Guerrieri, the head of FAO's emergency operations. "A loss of livestock or decrease in their market value can have a devastating impact on these families' food security."

Rotting in the sun

As the world's media swarms into the country, rated the second poorest in the world by the UN Human Development Index, donors' consciences are being pricked, malnourished children are being treated and free food is being distributed.

But the animals, a key part of the wider recovery picture, are still dying. Even now, as the first green shoots begin to peep through after the rains, carcasses of cows lie decomposing in the sun.

Even those Tuareg and Fulani herdsman with animals still left to sell are finding life difficult. Livestock prices are in freefall at the market, while the cost of staple foods, like millet, is skyrocketing.

At the Sakabal market, Alka Kaossane, the village chief, stands with his last remaining cow that looks more like a calf.

A passing butcher takes one glance, offers him 1,000 CFA (US$ 2) for the animal, and receives a disbelieving look in return.

At one time a large healthy "bororo" cow, typical of the region with its hump and its long horns, might fetch around 150,000 CFA (US$ 300). But today herders are lucky if they get 5,000 CFA ($10).

Kaossane will be selling his cow to British aid agency Oxfam, who, he says, should give him between 30,000 and 40,000 CFA (US $60 to $80).

"We're buying their cows and bulls at a fairer price to give these people the chance to buy millet or flour," explained Margie Morar, the food security advisor for Oxfam in the nearby town of Dakoro.

"We have also set up a food coupon system to pay people for community work like slaughtering animals, cleaning up the carcasses or planting trees."

Adapting to make ends meet

One of the people to have benefited from the system is Amina Dague. By frying meat, she was able to earn a coupon to buy millet, something her family have not been able to eat since they lost their herd of 10 cows.

Balancing the millet ration on her head at the same time as trying to feed a baby from her shrivelled breast, she scurries off home, eager to deliver the bounty to her other six children.

The food crisis engulfing Niger has forced the Tuareg and Fulani herdsman, who live without electricity and running water in the remotest regions, to adapt their habits, coming into town to find work or pick up food rations.

"It's a shock for our culture, for someone that is used to being perched up on his camel to now come back to a village on foot with just a single goat at his side," Ibrahim said.

Others seem more bitter.

"Now for two rations of sorghum, you have to sell your dignity," said Amadou Doutchi, a Fulani leader and chairman of an association of herders and farmers in Dakoro.

And aid workers too, admit that for some herders the psychological ramifications of the food crisis are as large as the physical ones.

"If you don't have your herd, it's like not having a house or a bank account. They use them for everything, for working the fields or for supplying milk," said Louis Belanger, the spokesman for Oxfam in Niger. "For the nomads, the future is uncertain."

© IRIN - This article appeared originally on IRIN News.org and is published by engelund.dk according a general agreement. To view the original article, please click here.
IRIN (Integrated Regional Information Networks) is a project of UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
[This article does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies.]


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Opdateret d. 24.8.2005