Food crisis in Chad: Selling the last ram
Almost 10 million people across West Africa are facing a food crisis following erratic rains that have caused poor food harvests and water shortages. In Chad, harvests have fallen by 34% with some 2 million people now threatened with food shortage. Oxfam's Cristina Vázquez visited Chad to see how people are coping.
Fadoul Acheul is a farmer and he is used to having to find ways of surviving though periods of drought. He is aware that he lives in a region which is severely affected by the climate and that he needs to adjust, but he has finally got tired of fighting. At the age of 53, and with 8 children, he has today sold the one asset he had left: his prized ram.
Fadoul’s story is not an isolated example. He and his family live in the outskirts of Mongo in Mongino, one of the villages worst hit by the famine. The situation is getting serious: within the next few months some 25% of the population could be left with nothing.
With no work in the countryside, he has been looking for building jobs in the city, but he has had no luck. Because of his age, and because there are so many others competing for the same jobs, he has to make do only with what his wife earns from selling ‘savonnier’ (balanitas) leaves in the market.
Their limited cereal stocks ran out a month ago and Fadoul is impatient for the arrival of the rainy season, so that he can get back to work helping with the next harvest in November. Until then, the family face an anxious six months of living hand to mouth and getting by as best they can.
In the past, they have always had various alternatives to see them through the hard times, but not now. “The mango trees haven’t borne fruit this year, so we can’t sell those. Also, there isn’t enough water to maintain our family orchard,” Fadoul complains.
Today, he has had to make a hard decision. He has sent his sons to sell their one remaining ram. The market price for livestock has fallen drastically, however. Due to the scarcity and high prices of fodder, many people are getting rid of their animals because they can’t afford to keep them. Consequently, there is more supply than demand. Fadoul has only received 5,000 CFA (7.5 Euros) for his ram. Just enough for the family to survive on for one more week.
With a population of close to 20,000, Mongo is the active capital of the region of Guéra, in the middle of the Sahel zone. The city’s inhabitants have seen their number triple in under two years, due partly to the construction of a new road linking it to the capital and also to massive migration from the countryside, caused by a lack of opportunities and the need to earn a living.
On top of a poor year for agriculture in 2009 – which saw harvests down by 35%, reducing the means of subsistence for many – the situation now is greatly affecting the population of the city and its surrounding area. Conflicts over scarce resources, the increase in the prices of staple foods, the increase in disease, absences from school and cases of alcoholism are just some of the collateral effects which make them even more vulnerable.
What Oxfam is doing
Oxfam has worked in the Sahel region for decades, developing sustainable solutions to tackle the root causes of food shortages such as creating cereal and fodder banks, promoting income diversification as well as education and literacy. In Chad, we are distributing food and running agricultural and livelihood support projects and will be sending assessment teams to the affected areas.
Text and photos by Cristina Vázquez/Oxfam.