Field visits

When there are no seeds left to plant

August 15, 2012
by 
Kelly Di Domenico, Communications Officer
Farmer working in a rice field in Mali

The Sikasso region in the South of Mali is dominated by the wide berth of the Niger River, making it favourable for the cultivation of rice. After a few days of rain here, the river is full and ready to irrigate the rectangular rice paddies nestled at its banks. But for rice to grow, there need to be seeds to plant. And this year, many farmers simply don’t have any because as a last resort to stave off hunger, they went through their reserves.

When the market is too expensive

August 13, 2012
by 
Kelly Di Domenico, Communications Officer
Karya Sagare and her son at a subsidized food sale

Karya Sagare’s granddaughter is sticking close to the skirt of her grandmother. Despite the heat, she is wearing a sweater with a hood that covers her head. Her eyes are listless as she quietly follows her grandmother through a church courtyard Karya explains that her granddaughter is not feeling well. She brought her to the doctor once, but can’t afford to bring her again. The trip to the doctor also ate into what little money Karya had put aside to purchase food for her family, which includes four children and two grandchildren.

A crisis during a crisis

August 8, 2012
by 
Kelly Di Domenico, Communications Officer

Last year, when the rains didn’t come for the harvest in Mali, it could already be foretold that a potential food crisis was on the horizon. What was less predictable, however, was that the country was on the brink of a political crisis.

Trying to understand a food crisis

August 7, 2012
by 
Kelly Di Domenico, Communications Officer

One of the main questions I had when I left for Niger, was why the country has been experiencing food crises more frequently. After a near famine in 2005, serious peaks in food insecurity have occurred in 2008, 2010 and now 2012. Professor Alpha Gado, a specialist in food crises in the Sahel at the University of Niamey, helped me to understand the complexities of a food crisis in a country like Niger.

Making the land work

August 6, 2012
by 
Kelly Di Domenico, Communications Officer

In Niger, where 80% of the population depends on subsistence farming for its livelihood, getting the land to produce is essential. To see stretches of earth that are rocky and caked dry, languishing with little purpose, feels like an enormous waste, especially at a time when there is not enough food to feed the population.

Not enough food when it is needed the most

August 3, 2012
by 
Kelly Di Domenico, Communications Officer

Niger, like most of the countries in the Sahel, only has one rainy season, which means that the harvest that is cultivated from that rain is crucial to survive through the coming year. The time to plant the harvest, however, comes at a time when last year’s crop is nearly depleted and there is little, if anything, left to eat. It is a time when there is not enough food when it is needed most. To plant a field and work the soil requires energy, energy that is hard to find when there is nothing to eat.

More refugees are arriving every day

July 31, 2012
by 
Kelly Di Domenico, Communications Officer

"There are more refugees arriving every day." These were the words of Nassar, the Caritas Niger representative who accompanied us to the Tabarey Baley refugee camp in Ayourou, close to the Malian border. It is the beginning of the desert here, where the air is dry and the sun is strong. In early February, Malians began to cross the border into Niger to escape violence in their villages by fundamental Islamist groups that have taken over the North of the country.

Food distribution and speculation

July 29, 2012
by 
Guy Des Aulniers, Program Officer for Emergency Relief

We are in the Sae Saboua commune, in the Maradi Diocese. Today, 234 households from four villages are each receiving 80 kg of millet, 21 kg of "niébé" (dried beans) and 5 litres of cooking oil. This ration is intended to feed a family of seven for a month. As the men are in the fields, it is largely the women that gather at the distribution points. It is now the rainy season in this part of Niger and the millet that was planted with the initial rains in June is already well along and needs to be weeded. If all goes well, that is if the rainy season does not bring floods, if the crop doesn't dry up from lack of rain, or if caterpillars don't ravage the crop as was the case last year, the harvest is due at the end of September.

Maradi

July 28, 2012
by 
Guy Des Aulniers, Program Officer for Emergency Relief

We are in Maradi about 650 km away from Niamey, Niger's capital. Maradi is the country's breadbasket, which also makes it its economic capital. However, we are also 25 km from Nigeria and everything from sugar to cars here comes from Nigeria. Boko Haram is also rampant in northern Nigeria and its influence in the area is very much felt, for example with the full veil being predominant. Tensions with the Christians are such that the Church failed to issue its traditional pre-Ramadan greeting on July 21st this year.

A village gets a boost

July 27, 2012
by 
Kelly Di Domenico, Communications Officer

The village of Garbeygourou is found off an uneven dirt road that stretches over red sandy earth that has turned even brighter after a recent rainfall. The village itself only seems to be formed of a small cluster of huts, yet when we arrive and the village chief comes out to greet us, people begin to trickle out, slowly grouping in the middle of the village. Before we know it, there are at least 100 men, women, children and babies milling about behind us, with more arriving by the second. The village is receiving support from Caritas Niger because of food insecurity. Many families do not have enough to eat, and a there have been a few cases of severe malnutrition in some children.