A Staple in the Sahel

19 Jun 2012   |   Blog   |   Chad   |   Emergency Relief

Tags:  caritas, famine, Poverty, Aid relief, Sahel   |   No comments

Crushing sorghum in Chad, West Africa

Update from Caritas Switzerland

In Al Hadj Derib, a small village in Chad in the Sahel region of Africa, a famine has arrived.

Since April, inventories have depleted and people have no food. The 450 villagers are far away from all traffic routes and the soil is not very fertile, in good times or bad.

The groundwater level is 60 metres under ground and the signs of distress due to hunger and thirst are highly visible. There are emaciated weak old men and thin children with swollen bellies.

Until the next harvest, Caritas Switzerland is distributing sorghum which provides at least one meal a day.

Worldwide, sorghum is the fifth most popular grain after wheat, corn, rice and barley. It can be used for breads, soups or as a puree.

In Al Hadj Derib, most families have between one and 2.5 acres of land. A few wealthier households cultivate between five and 7.5 acres. In good harvest times, approximately 400kg of sorghum can be produced on 2.5 acres. This is sufficient for a small family until the next harvest. However, with the current drought, no family can produce enough to survive. 

At the market, one kilogram of sorghum costs around 37 Australian cents. An eight-member family in a large town with a good income can afford between three and four kilograms of sorghum each day as a side dish. In Al Hadj Derib a family consumes half this as a full meal, usually without supplements (although sometimes families might be able to afford a thin sauce from green leaves and chilli). And this is in the good times.

The drought in the Sahel region of West Africa is affecting more than 15 million people. Find out how you can help on our West Africa Crisis Appeal page.


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