2005 Niger food crisis

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Niger vegetation maps. Above, July 2004; below, July 2005. Green is a vegetation surplus, brown a deficit. NASA
Niger vegetation maps. Above, July 2004; below, July 2005. Green is a vegetation surplus, brown a deficit. NASA

The 2005 Niger food crisis is a severe but localized food security crisis in the regions of northern Maradi, Tahoua, Tillabéri, and Zinder of Niger. It was caused by an early end to the 2004 rains, desert locust damage to some pasture lands, high food prices, and chronic poverty. In the affected area, 2.4 million of 3.6 million people are considered highly vulnerable to food insecurity. An international assessment stated that, of these, over 800,000 face extreme food insecurity and another 800,000 in moderately insecure food situations need aid.



The crisis had long been predicted after swarms of locusts consumed nearly all crops in parts of Niger during the 2004 agricultural season. In other areas, insufficient rainfall resulted in exceptionally poor harvests and dry pastures affecting both farmers and livestock breeders. An assessment carried out by the government of Niger, the United Nations and international Non Governmental Organizations reached a general consensus that the crisis, while locally severe, had not reached the level of famine according to famine scales.


According to current estimates, the Sahel region as a whole registered a grain surplus of 85,000 tons. However, Niger and Chad suffered grain deficits of around 224,000 and 217,000 tons, respectively. An increase in food prices is fuelling the food crisis, especially in Niger, where millions of people are facing risk of food shortages and outright starvation.

In the most affected areas of Niger, access to food staples is becoming increasingly difficult and severe cases of child malnutrition have been reported to be on the rise. The scarcity of water and fodder is adversely affecting the health of the cattles, camels, sheep and goats that comprise virtually the only source of food and income for nomadic communities. Competition for limited resources has also resulted in some local conflicts.

Acute malnutrition rates have risen to 13.4 per cent in the southern Niger Maradi and Zinder departments, with 2.5 per cent of this group identified as severely malnourished children under age five, says UNICEF quoting recent nutrition surveys by the United Nations and several non-governmental organizations.

The food shortage impacts some 3.3 million people —including 800,000 children under age five— in some 3,815 villages. Officials estimate cereal deficits at 223,448 tons and livestock feed deficits at 4,642,219 tons.

Although rains began early this year and have fallen regularly, initially inspiring hope for a better agricultural season, relief will not come before the harvest in October. Villagers are just now entering into the critical period known as the lean season — the months when food stocks are at their lowest. It is also the moment when farm workers need more caloric energy in order to cultivate their fields, since most of the agrarian labour in Niger is performed manually.


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In late August 2005, the profile of the crisis was raised after UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan visited President Tandja Mamadou in Zinder. The visit was seen as an attempt to draw attention to the crisis, and also address accusations that the UN had responded slowly. Donors have given less than half of the $81 million appealed for by the UN.

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