This blog by Mahamadou Issoufou, Executive Director, The Federation of Unions of Farmers Groups, is cross posted from the Huffington Post.
This piece is part of a series of blogs by leading NGOs to call attention to a range of issues that should be raised at the G8 summit at Camp David in rural Maryland from May 18-19.
My country, Niger, has consistently been one of the world’s poorest countries. And in the last decade, we’ve been hit by a series of food crises—in 2005, in 2010, and today—pushing us further and further into poverty.
With only three months of rain every year and virtually no available irrigation, our farmers struggle to grow whatever they can from our parched earth. Increasingly erratic weather patterns are making things much worse, with droughts leading to extreme floods and vice versa.
Crisis after crisis has had a devastating impact on the lives and livelihoods of millions of people. Even minor shocks are having an increasingly severe impact on the lives of the poor, as coping mechanisms reach their limits. Many, especially, men, left their families in search of food and work, leaving women to fend for their children alone. Others have sold their possessions and taken on debt, often at very high interest rates, so they can feed their families.
In pastoral areas, even families who anticipated the crisis by selling off their animals in time only benefited from a few additional weeks’ worth of food. But then they were left with no source of further income.
This hunger threatens the survival and development of our youngest children, as well as the health, livelihoods and survival of the adults. It threatens the future of my country.
But we can fight back against this lethal cocktail of climate change and extreme poverty. In fact, we created a plan on how to fight hunger in my country, both in the short term and in the long term, so we can finally pull ourselves out of this cycle of crisis.
Improving access to credit for famers, so farmers can buy seeds, fertilizer and tools to fertilize their crops, will definitely help. Investing in the resilience of farming communities in the face of climate change is crucial. Prioritizing programs that get people working, such as cash for work or food for work programs, will deliver. As will partnering with farmer groups and investing in their capacity to fight for the rights of farmers and involving farmers in the strategies to fight hunger.
We have a plan, but now we need help putting it into action.
Three years ago at the G8 Summit in L’Aquila, Italy, the world’s richest countries made a promise: if poor countries came up with good plans to help poor farmers grow more and earn more, rich countries would help make it happen. Donor countries, including the United States, have helped, but it’s been too little and too late.
As President Obama prepares to host this year’s G8, I hope he remembers the initiative he kicked off at L’Aquila and gets G8 leaders to step it up and deliver. We kept our end of the bargain, but we’re waiting on theirs. If they can muster the courage to prioritize this extremely important issue, they not only can help us in Niger, but they have the chance to lift 50 million people out of hunger and poverty through agriculture. With such an amazing payoff, isn’t it worth a try?