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'How will we survive? Only Allah knows'

Text by Melissa BELL

Latest update : 2010-06-12

FRANCE 24’s special correspondent in Niger, Melissa Bell, recounts her experiences reporting on the food crisis that has blighted the country.

Saturday June 12

About two hours north of Zinder, roughly at the place where the Sahel ends and the Sahara begins, lies the Touareg village of Boulfou Albourdatan. To get to it you have to leave the road that leads to Tanout and head across the sand. Which means that only donkeys, camels or 4x4s need apply. Luckily we had the latter.

The village is little more than a collection of straw huts, many abandoned, baking under a relentless sun and clouded in the dust that is constantly swept in from the desert.

Its chief, who has lived in the village all of his life, reckons he's over 80. He tells us it's the first time he's seen entire families get up and go. Times have never been so hard. The reserves of millet are long gone, the goats are too weak and too thin to be sold and the entire village has been reduced to eating a type of sour grain that grows wild in the bush but is normally considered unfit for human consumption.

As for the future, the villagers cannot even look foward to the next harvest. It is the planting season in these parts but the ground is so dusty that the fields around the village have been left empty. I ask the chief what the plan is, how will they all survive?

"Even I don't know", he says, "only Allah knows that".

Date created : 2010-06-12

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