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

Posted by Elizabeth Stevens Communications officer for Oxfam America

7th Mar 2012

Oxfam is launching programs across the Sahel, aiming to help 1 million people sustain their families and way of life.

"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.

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.

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 programmes 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.

And we are making cash available to some of the families in greatest need. Cash-for-work programmes 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."

Blog post written by Elizabeth Stevens

Communications officer for Oxfam America

More by Elizabeth Stevens