Editor’s note: In Context is a new series designed to inform and educate you on Heifer’s work in each country we have a presence. Every two weeks we’ll tackle a different country and examine unique situations related to hunger and poverty, how Heifer works to address them as well as take some time to explore local culture and traditions.
Photo courtesy of Heifer International
Northern Cameroon lies in the Sahel region. Described as “thirsty“, it has high levels of food insecurity and chronic malnutrition. It is one of the poorest places on Earth. The region, which stretches across northern Africa between the Atlantic Ocean and the Red Sea has experienced a series of droughts since the 17th century that have served as a catalyst for famine and severe environmental degradation.
Agriculture and livestock have long been a part of the sahelian tradition. However, because of the environmental hits that the area has endured over the years combined with recent drought, the people of the Sahel are more food insecure than before. In northern Cameroon, it is estimated that since 2010, 124,000 children under the age of five and pregnant and lactating women are suffering from acute malnutrition.
Photo by Patrick Hoesly, courtesy of Creative Commons
The Sahel gets about 60 days of rain a year and the region’s farmers need that rain in order to make sure that whatever crops they have planted will grow in time for the dry season. On the flip side, the climate change that is responsible for those very droughts are also responsible for sudden and intense freak rain storms that do more harm than good. Because the land is so dry, it can’t absorb water quickly enough and so the soil erodes. Whatever nutrients that were in the soil are washed away and anything that had been planted will either die or become an unhealthy and underproductive crop.
In an effort to adapt, the Sahelian people are learning new techniques to improve crop yields and to try to slow down the desertification that is hitting the region. Check out this video that demonstrates some techniques that are being implemented by NGOs in the region.