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With food crisis on the horizon, Oxfam supports farmers and herders

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“It’s thanks to the rain that the animals graze; it’s thanks to the rain that we have food,” says Koubra Hamid, who lives with her family in Bahr el Ghazal, Chad. But she is worried.

“This year, it has not rained much, so the pastures are not good enough,” says herder Etta Brahim Senussi. “When an animal dies, it really hurts.” Photo by Andy Hall/Oxfam.
“This year, it has not rained much, so the pastures are not good enough,” says herder Etta Brahim Senussi. “When an animal dies, it really hurts.” Photo by Andy Hall/Oxfam.

 

The rains haven’t come. Not enough, and not at the right times. Across the Sahel region of Africa, poor harvests, erratic and inadequate rainfall, and rising food prices are harbingers of what many predict will be a severe food crisis. Already the poorest families are struggling with hunger, and their animals are visibly weakening.

 Still, there may be time to avert the catastrophic food shortages that plunged East Africa into crisis and Somalia into famine in 2011.

 

 

Oxfam is supporting animal feeding and health care to enable farmers and herders to weather the lean season. Photo by Andy Hall/Oxfam.
Oxfam is supporting animal feeding and health care to enable farmers and herders to weather the lean season. Photo by Andy Hall/Oxfam.

 

A top priority now is to prevent farmers and pastoralists from losing their cows, goats, sheep, and camels – and with them their sources of both food and income. Oxfam’s emergency programs include providing livestock with improved water sources, fodder to supplement the dwindling pasture, and vaccinations to counteract the damage drought and hunger could do to their health. (View “ Taha vaccinates 1,000 goats per day.”)

And we are making cash available to some of the families in greatest need. Cash-for-work programs at times of crisis help communities accomplish important projects, and the incomes participants earn ease the pressure to sell off their belongings – including the tools and animals they need to make a living.
 
As we enter the lean season of a dry year, there’s still hope in the Sahel. Hardship is inevitable, but perhaps desperation is not.

 

“We’re tired and frustrated,” says Hamid. “But there are also moments when we laugh with our children.”

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