Hunger, misery, hardship: a tragedy is brewing in Niger. 3.7 million people are threatened by acute hunger. Conflicts and climate change are to blame. The people are left with nothing. SWISSAID is helping quickly and unbureaucratically with food parcels and seeds.
Food parcels, put together in cooperation with the World Food Programme, save the poorest people through the critical period. In addition, seeds for fast-growing vegetables such as amaranth are distributed, which can be harvested after just three weeks.
In December, the landscape in Niger is dotted with bright yellow dots. The granaries usually shine in this color far across the fields. Filled with millet, rice and beans, they get the population through the winter. But this year everything is different. The gray of the old granaries is predominant, they are empty, some are crumbling. Dreariness as far as the eye can see. The farmers have no harvest to store. First heavy rains in July, then drought starting in August have destroyed the precious food. At the end of the year, 2.3 million people were at serious risk of hunger. By the end of May, the situation had worsened: SWISSAID estimates that up to 3.7 million people are affected.
One of them is Zeinabou Amadou, 38. The widow from Koydou planted five kilograms of Niébé bean seeds this summer. In normal years, she harvests 280 kilograms with them. This year, it’s only a fraction of that. “With this miserable harvest, I can’t even buy seeds that I would have planted in my garden. I don’t know how I’m going to get my children through the next few months,” she says in despair.
The situation is similar for Dommo Issaka. She has sown rice and beans along the river. The soil there is very fertile. But this year, the river overflowed its banks and the entire crop was washed away. “I couldn’t harvest a single bag!” the farmer said.
Hunger crisis in Niger
Climate crisis and conflicts
The two women share the hardship with many others: In some regions, up to 80 percent of the harvest has been destroyed. On top of this, conflicts are constantly making life difficult for the people. In the triangle of countries Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, criminal and jihadist groups attack villages and plunder the fields. This year alone, several hundred people have been killed. The army and police forces cannot control the long borders and semi-desert.
Working here has become so dangerous that most aid organizations have withdrawn, including SWISSAID. More and more people are also leaving the border region and moving to the safer south to the Dosso region. SWISSAID has been active there for more than 40 years.
The granaries, which are normally full at this time of year, are empty or destroyed. First drought, then torrential rains have destroyed the harvest – 3.7 million people are threatened by acute hunger.
Food parcels for 5000 families
This rootedness in the region pays off in times of need. Even before the aid from the large organizations kicks in, SWISSAID is able to quickly purchase new seeds thanks to the local seed banks and distribute them to the families within the next few weeks. At the same time, SWISSAID will assess the emergency needs of the neediest families and distribute food parcels.
From January, at least 5000 families are to receive food parcels. The package will contain 50 kilos of rice, 10 liters of oil, 5 kilos of sugar, as well as 10 kilos of millet flour and powdered milk for small children. Each package costs 75 to 80 Swiss francs. Especially women and needy people will benefit from the aid. This will be followed by a further 4,800 families by the autumn, in the Boboye and Doutchi regions, the worst affected areas of Niger.