A man waters plants in a CRS dry season market garden in Jougola, Dogondoutchi district, in the Dosso region of Niger. The gardens are built through CRS cash-for-work projects which reclaim land and use simple irrigation techniques. Niger is one of the countries worst affected by the food crisis which is threatening the Sahel region of Africa, the band of land below the Sahara desert, extending from Senegal to Chad. Last years' rains were poor and the harvests bad or non-existent. Food prices are rising. Conflicts in certain parts of the region have cut the chances for migrant work and have forced thousands to flee their homes, to seek refuge in neighboring countries that are themselves weakened by the crisis. Catholic Relief Services is helping refugees in the region but also has projects which were already in place to better prepare people for the difficult year to come. CRS is working in over 300 villages in the Dosso, Tahoua, Tillabery and Zinder regions, looking at peoples long-term needs. There are projects for well building, dry season irrigation and market gardens, seed and tool fairs, warehouses have been built to store agricultural produce, SILC groups help make monetary loans possible, community radio stations have been invested in to help broadcast agricultural and other advice, the nutritional status of children is measured each month and Moms are given guidance. The Cash-For-Work system is used in many of our agricultural projects and is a way for people to rebuild their livelihoods.
Photo by Helen Blakesley/Catholic Relief Services