- Title: NIGER: Cash-for-Work Programme in Niger tries alleviate food crisis
- Date: 1st July 2010
- Summary: TEKENAWEN VILLAGE, NIGER (RECENT) (REUTERS) MEN SITTING IN THE SHADE FOOD SECURITY OFFICIAL FROM THE FRENCH RED CROSS, ALHADJ ABDOU, SHAKING HANDS WITH THE VILLAGE ELDERS ABDOU SPEAKING TO THE VILLAGERS (SOUNDBITE) (French) ALHADJ ABDOU, SECURITY OFFICIAL FOR FRENCH RED CROSS FOOD PROGRAMME, SAYING: "We want people to be able to work during the dry season so we're helping them to do that and because we don't want to give them money for nothing, people work for the money. That work can either be to make irrigation channels, which is what they're doing here, or clearing dunes, or cleaning out wells. There are several activities and since they get paid for it, we call it 'Cash for Work.'"
- Embargoed: 16th July 2010 13:00
- Location: Niger
- Country: Niger
- Reuters ID: LVABHL1U9NA748ZS2WZCEQNJF5JO
- Story Text: In the sweltering desert near the town of Tanout, in Niger, a small group of men and animals emerge from the haze.
The emaciated animals walking slowly across the desert sands are the remnants of what was once a sizeable herd of healthy cows. Their owners are taking them on a two-day trek to the weekly market in town, hoping to sell them to buy a few sacks of millet for their families.
"There are no crops left to feed us and our animals," says Guima, one of the herders, who had 50 head of cattle at the beginning of the year but now has only 10 left.
Aid workers predicted a food crisis in Niger late last year. The French Red Cross says more than seven million people are affected.
The failed rains in 2009 mean that cattle are selling for low prices at local markets, while the cost of staples like millet has skyrocketed.
"In times of financial difficulty and limited access to food, households start to deprive themselves. They will start to cut back on their food rations, they'll resort to begging, they'll get into debt with family and friends who have more than they do, they will start to sell their animals, their belongings, their personal effects," explained the French Red Cross Country Representative, Clementine Leprete.
Despite its reserves of uranium, oil and gold, Niger was ranked lowest in the United Nations (U.N.) Development Index in 2007.
Ninety percent of its people are farmers but only 10 percent of its land is arable, and less than half a percent of that is irrigated.
In the village of Tekenawen, near Tanout, farmers didn't plant this year because there wasn't enough rain for their seed to germinate.
Many of the men left to find work in neighbouring Nigeria and Libya. Those left behind had nothing to do but wait for rain - until a week ago.
The French Red Cross has set up a 'Cash-for-Work' programme to try and stop families from spiralling deeper into poverty, just to buy food.
"We want people to be able to work during the dry season so we're helping them to do that and because we don't want to give them money for nothing, people work for the money," said Alhadji Abdou, a food security official with the Red Cross.
The men work in groups to build irrigation channels and are paid 15,000 CFA Francs (around 28 dollars) for each channel.
Village elder Sila Djibrila teamed up with five friends and is now collecting the 112 dollars that they've earned in the past week. It will just be enough to buy one large sack of millet for them all to share.
"We have really earned this money before we were given the opportunity to work to earn something, all we could do was spend the whole day sitting in the shade," said Djibrila.
The dusty irrigation channels have no clear use, but the idea is that they will stop the rain from seeping into the surrounding desert.
"We think that after these irrigation channels have been dug, it could be useful to graze animals," said Alhadj.
But only a small minority of Niger's people can benefit from these types of programmes. The others have no choice but to pick wild berries and sell whatever they have left, in the hope that the rain will come before their possessions and food stocks run out.
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