Food crisis in Chad: Mahamat protects his fields against drought and floods
Mahamat Suleiman repairs the family granary, ready to hold the limited harvest that will be reaped this year in Tireda, his village, after the floods of last September. According to a survey carried out by Oxfam, 55% of the families in this region of Chad have had to get into debt and close to 20% have been obliged to reduce their daily intake of food.
"Right now, I'm not short of work," smiles Mahamat as he finishes polishing the mud walls of the huge earthenware granary he is building to house the family's grain. "The floods destroyed everything and we need to make sure the granaries are ready before they return for the latest harvest," he explains, without ceasing in his work.
Tireda is a small community of some 1,000 inhabitants in the region of Abou Deia, which was flooded as a result of the abundant rainfall of last September. The water caused serious problems in accessing the affected communities, as well as destroying numerous homes and hectares of cultivated fields.
Protecting from the floods
"We lost many of our animals," says Mahamat, who, thanks to his knowledge of bricklaying, was able to build a protective wall to prevent the water from entering his house. But now, four months later, the land is parched and no trace of water remains in the area. Nor is there any trace of the village's inhabitants, other than Mahamat the bricklayer and the injured Damré Alkali. They alone remain to protect the settlement from intruders, including the feared hyenas. "We put sticks together in the form of a cross, with a cloth on top to scare them away," he explains.
In September, when the rains flooded the region, Oxfam's teams travelled to the area to carry out emergency response work. "The floods had destroyed the few water sources which exist in the region and the water which the population had to use did not meet the minimum health requirements. The risk of the spread of disease, in particular the cholera which was beginning to proliferate in other areas of the country, was very high," explains Passiri Moubané, Oxfam aid worker.
Oxfam distributed a flocculant product for treating the water, and carried out the disinfection of certain wells. As well as distributing plastic barrel containers, soap and mosquito nets,we focused on raising awareness of basic hygiene precautions, essential in such circumstances.
"It hadn't rained that hard in at least 10 years, and the fields weren't able to withstand it. We've lost the millet harvest and we will only have the berebere (a variety of the crop which is harvested in the dry season) to sustain us through the next few months," complains Mahamat, putting even greater effort into the construction of his granary. These containers, which will house the harvest which has to feed the families until next season, must guarantee maximum preservation of the grain.
Research into a food crisis
The food crisis, which is affecting the entire Sahelian zone, has been particularly bad in the Abou Deia region, where the havoc caused by extreme weather, such as the droughts of previous years or the recent floods, diminishes the capabilities of the people to grow food.
According to a survey carried out by Oxfam, 55% of the families in this region of Chad have had to get into debt and close to 20% have been obliged to reduce their daily intake of food. Alongside the sale of cattle, day laboring and the consumption of wild fruits and leaves, those are the only solutions they have for temporarily tackling poverty.
Published March 2011.