Food sufficiency in Niger and Chad is feasibly sustainable
Drought, desert encroachment and locust infestations have continue to spell a doom period in the Sahel countries of Chad and Niger by undercutting food cultivation, harvesting and productions. These disastrous factors combined have brought about massive food shortage in the Africa’s Sahel region and the problem of massive hunger among the inhabitants of the region.
Chad and Niger are among the poorest nations in Africa but they have natural resources that can sustain them to avert the misery of hunger and perennial poverty. But these nations are poorly managed and the citizens are inhibited from partaking in sharing the bounty of the land. With requisite planning and efficient management together with transparency can spell a new beginning in the Sahel region.
Niger has a population of above 15million people with the GDP estimated at $5.323 billion in 2009. “Niger is one of the poorest countries in the world, ranking near last on the United Nations Development Fund index of human development. It is a landlocked, Sub-Saharan nation, whose economy centers on subsistence crops, livestock, and some of the world’s largest uranium deposits. Drought cycles, desertification, and strong population growth have undercut the economy. Niger shares a common currency, the CFA franc, and a common central bank, the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO), with seven other members of the West African Monetary Union.”
“In December 2000, Niger qualified for enhanced debt relief under the International Monetary Fund program for Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) and concluded an agreement with the Fund on a Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF). Debt relief provided under the enhanced HIPC initiative significantly reduces Niger’s annual debt service obligations, freeing funds for expenditures on basic health care, primary education, HIV/AIDS prevention, rural infrastructure, and other programs geared at poverty reduction.”
“In December 2005, Niger received 100% multilateral debt relief from the IMF, which translates into the forgiveness of approximately US $86 million in debts to the IMF, excluding the remaining assistance under HIPC. Nearly half of the government’s budget is derived from foreign donor resources. Future growth may be sustained by exploitation of oil, gold, coal, and other mineral resources. Uranium prices have increased sharply in the last few years. A drought and locust infestation in 2005 led to food shortages for as many as 2.5 million Nigeriens.”
Chad has a population of above 10 million inhabitants with estimated GDP at $6.974 billion in 2009. “Chad’s primarily agricultural economy will continue to be boosted by major foreign direct investment projects in the oil sector that began in 2000. At least 80% of Chad’s population relies on subsistence farming and livestock rising for its livelihood. Chad’s economy has long been handicapped by its landlocked position, high energy costs, and a history of instability.”
“Chad relies on foreign assistance and foreign capital for most public and private sector investment projects. A consortium led by two US companies has been investing $3.7 billion to develop oil reserves – estimated at 1 billion barrels – in southern Chad. Chinese companies are also expanding exploration efforts and are currently building a 300-km pipleline and the country’s first refinery. The nation’s total oil reserves are estimated at 1.5 billion barrels. Oil production came on stream in late 2003. Chad began to export oil in 2004. Cotton, cattle, and gum arabic provide the bulk of Chad’s non-oil export earnings.”
Restricting food crisis in Niger and Chad
The governments of these countries have to start to plan against these foreseen circumstances confronting their respective countries before the situation manifest. By the time they react to hunger crisis many of their citizens especially women and children will be perishing in hands of hunger and drought.
The leaders and bureaucrats of Niger and Chad have to set aside some of the revenues they generated by exporting oil and uranium to invest in the agricultural infrastructures of their respective countries. The local farmers must be educated and equipped with the technical know-how to grow and preserve food.
The government must be willing to setup workshops and food clinics that can help the local farmers to stimulate food productions and preservations. The working together with international developmental entities must extend to prevention and building bulwark against food crisis. By these afore- crisis management the international entities including UN and World Food Programme (WFP) would help to avert the food crisis by involving in prior planning before the calamity sets in.
As the hunger sets in the international bodies especially World Food Programme (WFP) is doing a wonderful job to stem down and retards the severity of the food crisis. In Chad WFP estimated that about 100,000 metric tonnes of food aid is needed but it has so far collected 70,000 metric tonnes of food aid.
The government of Niger deserved to be praise because she planned in advance and with that the country was able to avert the desperate situation that was far worse than the 2005 drought. But the government of Niger Republic must not rest on her laurels but continue to enhance her concerted planning and coordination to totally defeat the crisis.
The WFP is doing a good job; the organization should not be reacting to situations but should devise a methodology based on pre-planning and coordination in order to avert crisis before it happens. The WFP can join the Nigerian and African scientists that are experimenting with a high-yielding, disease-resistant species of cassava that can be eventually cultivate in the Sahel region. By becoming part of the scientific group WFP can inject the necessary fund and credibility needed to make the program a success.