The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization renewed its appeal for $4 million for emergency agricultural assistance to respond to the ongoing food crisis in Niger. Funds are urgently needed to provide veterinary services and feed for livestock, which play a key role in the livelihoods and food security of many of the country's most vulnerable pastoralist households.
Livestock assistance is needed for more than 10 000 families who have lost their animals. Funds are also required to provide crop seeds for the next planting season starting in October to help around 95 000 vulnerable households get back on their feet. Without this assistance, the crisis could worsen and more food aid would be needed.
"Livestock are crucial to agro-pastoralist families in Niger, for income as well as food," said Fernanda Guerrieri, Chief of FAO's Emergency Operations Service. "The sale of livestock is often a measure of last resort, after families have already consumed all of their cereal stocks and require cash to buy food for the lean period before the next harvest. A loss of livestock or a decrease in their market value can have a devastating impact on these families' food security."
Drought, exacerbated by the 2004 desert locust invasion, led to a poor harvest last October. This, combined with an economic crisis and sharply higher food prices, has brought Niger's already impoverished population to critical levels of food insecurity, with an estimated 2.5 million people, including about 800 000 children, at risk of food shortage. Severe child malnutrition, which already affects around 150 000 children, is rapidly on the rise.
Earlier appeal unheeded
Today's appeal follows an earlier request for funding in May 2005 for emergency agricultural interventions in Niger.
So far, FAO has only received a contribution from Sweden of $650 000 to provide cereal and pulse seeds for planting during the ongoing rainy season, which lasts until late August, and animal fodder and vegetable seeds for the dry season starting in October.
With almost $400 000 from its own funds, FAO is supporting 12 500 households through immediate distribution of tools and vegetable seeds that can be sown in small-scale irrigated plots and along riverbeds now and throughout the dry season.
FAO is also providing bean seeds to approximately 450 000 farmers for the current cropping season and livestock feed and supplements for 12 000 pastoralist households.
Immediate additional funding would allow FAO to support 25 000 pastoralist households by providing needed animal feed and supplements in areas affected by the drought and locust infestations.
"The rains have started well for the crop planting and if this continues, we expect a better harvest in October," said Guerrieri. "In the meantime, however, people urgently need food and livestock feed."