At 3pm in Tchendjou village, in south-west Chad, Bogolo and his wife Phoebe are at home but the hearth is not lit. It was not needed for cooking this morning, as they have only a bowl of sorghum grains which they will use for porridge for their children before they go to bed tonight.
“We live one day at a time because there is no food at home and we have to work to get money we need to buy sorghum. One needs to work the full day before getting the 500 francs (AUD $1). Francs he needs to buy one ‘koro’ (2.5 kg) of sorghum,” Bogolo explains.
In Tchendjou, people grow sorghum, millet, maize, rice, groundnuts and beans. Last year, delayed and short rains affected the crops very few farmers were able to achieve a significant harvest. “Even now, you cannot see sorghum sold in the village because the harvest was very poor for the majority of villagers,” he adds.
Last year, Bogolo’s family planted an acre of sorghum and another of millet, but the planted acre has only produced one bag of each grain. As well as the poor rains Bogolo’s crop was damaged by birds. The food from the harvest only provided enough food to feed Bogolo’s family for one month. Now, even the seeds intended for planting have been eaten.
“We cleaned everything since January and as of today, there is no single seed kept in the house. How can you keep seeds for tomorrow when you see your children lacking food today?” he asked. The next planting season will start in June and even if Bogolo can access seed and the rains come on time, the family must wait for three more months before harvesting any food.
In the meantime, demanding manual work is the only option to help Bogolo and Phoebe buy food for their family.
“We do not have a choice but to accept to go the bush and weave straws to make fences that are used to cover homes here,” Bogolo says. “It is a very demanding task because you need to spend about a week to look for, find, cut and weave the straws.”
The straws are rare in the local area and Bogolo is recruited by an employer and taken about 12 kms away for up to 10 days at a time. The final woven fences will earn him just 500 francs (AUD $1) each.
Phoebe earns money by making ‘far far’, a name given to a type of curtain made with stalks of reeds. Because of the dryness around the region, it is difficult to get the reeds near the village so she must also travel.
“I walk about 7 kilometers to go and glean the reeds,” explains Phoebe. “To get one bundle that will make three ‘far far’, one has to spend the whole day in the bush.”
If she is able to secure enough reeds over the first four days of the week, Pheobe uses her remaining 3 days to make and sell up to 15 ‘far far’, earning her approximately 4500 francs (AUD $8.50).
Bogolo, Pheobe and their children are representative of the many families struggling with the West Africa food crisis. Like other families, they have exhausted normal coping strategies for the lean season and find themselves using more desperate strategies like travelling away from the family to work and eating the seeds they rely on for future harvests.
“Sometimes you may come back after spending 10 days away from your family with just 2,000 francs (AUD $4). It is not fair but what shall you do when food is not available for the children,” says Bogolo.
World Vision is supporting affected families within the community by providing cereals to get them through the difficult times, a temporary measure to assist people who have been battered from all angles: mother nature, rising food prices, crop attacks by pests. Market gardening is also helping community members, allowing for a variety of food that can be hand watered, rather than reliant on regular heavy rains.
World Vision aims to assist 1.1 million people in Niger, Mali, Mauritania, Chad and Senegal. Our work in these countries includes immediate lifesaving interventions as well as long-term solutions to make communities more resilient to future droughts and other disasters.