Ali Zang’s struggle against the desert

6 Jun 2012   |   Blog   |   Chad   |   Emergency Relief

Tags:  natural disaster, caritas, famine, Sahel, West Africa   |   No comments

Ali Zang in Chad, West Africa

Update from Caritas Switzerland

Ali Zang comes from the fertile south of Chad. His family was not wealthy but neither were they poor. All of his six brothers and sisters attended school and received good education.

To Ali's father, this was more important than to ensure three meals a day. Ali studied agronomy and economy in Senegal and France. After graduation, he returned back home.   

Today, Ali lives with his wife, two children and four other relatives in Chad’s capital, N'Djamena.

Ali Zang is the regional director of Caritas partner organisation Acord responsible for the countries of Chad and Cameroon.

Acord is one of the most important non-government organisations in West Africa. The organisation implements projects to improve food security in almost all countries of the region.

Early warning systems

For the third time in the last 10 years, a famine has come over the Sahel. Besides a lack of rain, grasshopper plagues and huge flocks of birds also threaten grain fields and crops. That should not be, said Ali: "If people knew about impending danger, much suffering could be avoided."

Wherever Ali goes in the country, he promotes the establishment of "early warning systems" for impending natural hazards.

Just like in developed countries, the daily weather forecast for farmers is essential. Farmers in Chad could better plan and prepare themselves if they had access to correct predictions about rainfall, information about bird and locust migrations, and news about prices and availability of food.

Chad is divided into 22 regions. All regions consist of a number of Départements, which are further divided into sub-prefectures. The authorities on the Départements-level collect various information on the natural environment. However, this information usually isn’t very specific and does not reach the remote villages where communication infrastructure is weak.

With the support of Caritas Switzerland, Ali Zang and Acord facilitate the formation of village committees, which oversee crop fields and herds. Acord also facilitates the establishment of contingency planning by government offices, to support farmers. They also encourage regional radio stations to disseminate information and warnings about natural hazards.

How does hazard information help?

Ali Zang provides some examples:

  • In places where bird flocks are expected, farmers could grow corn rather than sorghum for a while. The "mange mil" (millet eater), as birds in the region are often called, do not like corn.
  • "We could fight [grasshoppers] the phase of swarm building, and not only when the flock is already on its way to the pastures and crop fields. That would not only save the harvest, but also be good for the environment as much less insecticide would be applied in this case.”

For more, read the 5 June 2012 Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations Media Release Niger, Mali on alert to Desert Locust risk.

The Caritas network of over 160 aid agencies is mobilising to meet the needs of those affected by this large scale humanitarian emergency. Read more on our West Africa Crisis Appeal page.

Providing clean water to aid the West Africa food crisis


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