Years of successive drought in the Sahel have driven millions of people to despair and death. Even the normally adaptive nomads, who range this southern fringe of the Western Sahara Desert, are finding life extremely difficult.
In Niger, one of the poorest countries in the world, Nassamu Malan, chief of Foudouk village in the northern region of Agadez, told IRIN how his village is struggling to cope.
“Our village, Foudouk, was founded in 2001. There are 315 families here. We are Peul [Fula] and by nature nomadic, which means we have many cattle. But we have decided to settle in one place, although now and again we must move with the cattle to look for pasture.
“Our village depends on livestock. We can’t engage in farming because the water table is very deep in the Agadez Region. In some places it is 80-100m deep so it is impossible to dig a well.
“The good years were 2003-2005, before the drought. At that time a rich family would have 150 animals. Now nobody has that many. I believe the village lost 70 percent of its animals in the 2010 drought. We suffered very badly that year.
“This year is also looking bad. Normally at this time of year, before the rains, there is still some pasture available, but this year it’s gone already. If you take your animal to market these days no one wants to buy. A goat normally sells for about 20,000 CFA francs [US$40]; today it sells for 1,500. [$3]. Sheep used to cost 25,000 CFA francs [$49] now they cost 10,000 francs [$20]. The reason is because there is no pasture, so people don’t want to buy an animal for which they have to pay feed.
“We heard that the government says it will vaccinate animals. We would like to see that in our village so that they don’t die.
“When there are food shortages in the south we hear about projects to help them, but we don’t see anything here.
“There is nothing for young people to do here, no jobs, no way to make money. At least 150 of our young men have gone to Nigeria to look for work. Sometimes they send money to their families here.
“I think a cereal bank for millet would be a good idea now that we don’t move so much, as well as extra food like cotton grains for the animals. A lot of the village stock was eaten in 2010 - two of our stores are completely empty now.
“People forget that when the rains fail that also affects us. The land in our region is becoming very poor. The animals need good pasture and when it doesn’t rain they over-graze. I know lots of other people are struggling. We try to do our best.”