Food for work: Covering immediate and future needs in parched Niger

As the drought and food crisis escalate across West Africa, how is World Vision responding both to urgent, immediate needs, as well as long-term recovery challenges? Here's a closer look at what's going on in villages across Niger.

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Women of all ages -- young and old -- carry babies on their backs and dig in the hard soil under the hot sun. At this point, the depth of Niger's food crisis becomes painfully clear. Communities agonizing over the ongoing drought are able to eat only because of relief efforts that World Vision has undertaken in partnership with the World Food Program.

Just how bad has it gotten? Ask a villager.

"I can tell you that there had been times [when] we eat even millet bran, which normally is for animals," says Haoua Adamou, a 50-year-old woman and mother of seven children. "But now, with the support from World Vision, we have wheat, lentils, and oil.”

Another woman, Limou Halidou, a 60-year-old widow and mother of six children, adds, “With your support, now we know that we do not have to leave our village, because we will have [food] to eat.”

Women participating in World Vision's food-for-work program gather with their shovels.

Indeed, there are some 975 households directly benefiting from World Vision’s food-for-work project in the Tillabery region, with each household receiving more than 75 pounds of food after working for eight days.

"With the amount of food we receive, my family of 15 members can eat for another 10 days,” Haoua says.

And there's a second purpose to this initiative. The women who participate in the food-for-work program help break up soil that has been hardened by the extreme heat and bone-dry conditions. Doing so helps facilitate a return to fertile ground, where cattle can graze and crops can be grown.

In addition to Tillabery, World Vision's partnership with the World Food Program is undertaking similar activities in two other regions of Niger -- namely Zinder, where 1,396 households are benefiting from food-for-work; and Maradi, where 1,245 households are also benefiting from the food-for-work program, and 5,716 households are benefiting from cash-for-work.

So what would happen in the absence of such interventions?

“The only alternative is to leave the village," says Haoua. "Indeed, some began to leave. It's your intervention that stopped us as now we can have [food] to eat.”

She adds, “If you had arrived a month later, you would have found the village already emptied of its inhabitants, because nobody will stay and starve here."

At this stage in West Africa's ongoing drought and food crisis, these programs are the only means of providing survival and hope for such communities.

The food crisis rages on. But with this kind of ongoing support, villagers can take solace in knowing that they will no longer need to flee their villages -- and with the farmland they rehabilitate, they'll produce enough food to eat when the rains return.

Read more of our ongoing coverage of the West Africa food crisis here on the World Vision Blog.

Make a one-time gift to help provide life-saving food and care for children affected by hunger in places like Niger. Your donation will help deliver interventions like emergency food, agricultural support, nutritional training, clean water, and more.

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