Cycle of drought and poor harvest leads to hunger and despair

Published: 19 September 2012 17:17 CET

By Julie Lorenzen

Before the drought began in Niger, Adama Yacouba and her family could eat twice a day, now they can only afford one single meal per day.

Before Adama Yacouba closes her eyes to go to sleep, she says she thinks of ways her family might be able to get some food and water for the next day. The little village in Niger, where she lives together with her husband and their eight children, is severely affected by the drought.

“Life is hard right now,” she says. “We used to eat two meals a day, now we only eat one. We are all losing weight and suffering from a lack of energy. Our future looks bad, and I feel really scared.”

Adama and her husband gather small rocks for a living, which they used to sell to construction workers. But due to the drought, nobody is buying. Everybody is saving money for food.
They’ve also been hit by a poor harvest. Normally the family would have leftovers to plant, but not this year. The harvest was very bad due to the lack of rain, and much of what did grow was damaged by an infestation of insects. This makes them even more dependent on their ability to sell rocks to get a chance to buy crops at the market in readiness for the next harvest.

But, inevitably, as the ground is so parched, they haven’t been able to plant anything. This is a disturbing cycle, as planting now is the only way in which they can secure supplies for the next drought.

“Last year it was also hard, but not as hard as this year,” Adama says. “Normally we would have planted at this time, but this year the rain has been late.”
It is not only food, but also clean water that is in short supply. The drought has emptied a lot of the water in the city well. Twice a day Adama must walk eight kilometers back and forth to the river to bring water.

Because of the well’s inability to quench the thirst of all the villagers, people are starting to drink the water in the river, a practice which brings its own problems. Adama’s daughter has suffered from severe diarrhea, while the neighboring village has struggled with cholera.

A cycle or drought and poor harvest is pushing more and more families like Adams's from one crisis to another, meaning that each meal must go further, and every night is filled with troubling thoughts of what tomorrow may bring.