When drought caused crops to fail in the Sahel region of West Africa last year, local Caritas organizations knew that the coming year would be a difficult one for the population. The Sahel is a dry, arid region that sits directly below the Sahara desert. A majority of the population relies on subsistence farming, so a bad crop can be devastating – particularly as drought and erratic weather patterns are becoming more frequent, making food shortages more common and the ability to cope through a bad harvest increasingly difficult.
With such a poor harvest, it didn’t take long before stocks in the granaries were becoming depleted and the suffering of people began to grow in consequence. Many families began to ration the food available to them, reducing the number of meals they eat per day, and compromising their livelihoods by selling off livestock or other resources at reduced costs. Mothers began to sacrifice meals so there would be more for their children, and fathers left their families and villages to try to find work in urban centres or neighbouring countries to earn an income to send home.
Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso were some of the countries most affected by this drought and the local Caritas members quickly mobilized to respond to the needs of communities. As the Canadian member of Caritas Internationalis, a federation of 165 Catholic organizations worldwide working in humanitarian aid and international development, Development and Peace supported Caritas Mali, Caritas Niger and Caritas Burkina Faso in responding to this growing crisis. Through programs such as food distributions, cash-for-work initiatives and the subsidized sale of grains, the Caritas family, including Development and Peace, walked in solidarity with the most poor and vulnerable to help them live through this period of insecurity with dignity. These widespread efforts helped prevent this food crisis from deteriorating into a large-scale humanitarian disaster.
Development and Peace will continue to support Caritas Mali, Caritas Niger and Caritas Burkina Faso in helping communities become more resilient and breaking the cycle of impoverishment brought on by the plight of hunger.