1. As resources are limited, systems of solidarity should be encouraged.
(SPHERE Core Standard 1: People-centred humanitarian response)
The extent of need in Tillabery Department in Niger is extensive. It is
an area where, according to community leaders, there have been deficit
harvests in 14 of the last 14 seasons3. According to Mr. Diambeidou
Biga, OCHA Bureau Representative in Tillabery4, the cyclic nature of the
crisis has reduced the populations’ assets to such low levels that recovery
is much more difficult. Based on focus group discussions, it seems
the population’s coping strategies have become increasingly negative
each year for both households and their environment. Livestock and
other assets have been sold and the environment has become more
degraded as residents look to natural resources to meet their basic
needs. Previously, residents could collect and sell straw as animal feed
but it is no longer available and livestock owners have sold their animals.
Women used to sell copto, a leafy plant for soups and seasoning but this
is also no longer growing. Similarly, women made baskets for merchants
to use for sorting cereal grains but since cereal is no longer available in
the markets, there is no longer a market for baskets. Finally, trees are cut
to sell as firewood, further increasing desertification and ensuring that
Tillabery’s rainfall remains scarce5.
Mutual aid is a consistent response to help meet basic household needs.
Remittances that are sent home by a migrant family member are shared
with others in the community. Women’s associations take collections to
distribute to those who don’t have. Focus group participants explained
that solidarity is the mutual understanding within communities that
households share when they have and others don’t.
NGO’s interventions are based on precise calculations for rations per
person that will be distributed to households with an average number
of six members, for example. In reality, these calories are consumed by
more people than the target number as they are shared with neighbors
and extended family. This system of mutual aid may diminish the
supplemental calories given to individuals but it provides a smaller
amount of calories to more people.
In all villages visited, the RTE team found community-initiated self-help
mechanisms that effectively re-distributed aid so that more people will
3 Key informant Interview with village chief in Tilabery Dept., Project ADVANCE, RTE
4 Key informant interview with Mr. Diambeidou Biga, OCHA Representative Tilabery
Department, Niger, April, 2012.
5 “Seeing Wood, They Also Make Rain” http://www.economist.com/node/17062713
Sept. 23rd, 2010