Published: 00:00 GMT Daylight Time - Wednesday 06 October 2010
Deputy Director's 2010 visit to Niger
Project(s): 38-568, 38-906
Deputy director Mark Green toured Niger’s Christian communities from 17-24 September to monitor food distribution and development projects supported by Barnabas Fund. Below are details about some of the places he visited. Full village/town names have been withheld to protect the security of Christians in these places...
Christian children from GB
his is a village of 1,500 people which is 95 per cent Christian. Mr Green was met by a very large delegation of villagers including church elders, pastors and a school principal, who expressed thanks to Barnabas Fund for the food aid they received. A spokesman for the village said:
We are very grateful for the food assistance sent by you. It has made the difference between life and death for us.
Mr Green described the current crops here as “borderline sufficient”, adding, “We saw that the progress of crops, mainly millet and sorghum, was variable, and some clearly was not going to produce anything this year. Other plants were reasonably advanced and with a little more rain would be fully ripe for October harvest. Generally they think that the harvest will be just about sufficient for 12 months but not enough to get families out of debt or restore food reserves.”
This small village of approximately 800 people is home to around 60 Christian adults.
Mr Green said:
Christians are very poor here and food aid has been a real lifeline this year. The harvest is likely to be barely sufficient, and they fear difficult times again before next year’s harvest.
Typical grain store
There are 20 churches in this area, and they have been trying to promote income-generation projects such as buying young animals and fattening them up for profitable sale, with some limited success.
Churches are looking to re-stock their depleted cereal banks. These work by acquiring grain when prices are low just after harvest, storing it, and selling it when people are in need 9-11 months later. Merchants do the same thing but charge market prices, which can be 50 per cent higher or more in times of scarcity. There are frequent complaints about merchants profiteering from people’s hunger. Church and community cereal banks charge only slightly higher prices (to cover losses and minimal costs).
Christian man from BS with his famished cow
A village with a population of 1,000, which is 90-95 per cent Christian, and has two churches. It has been one of Barnabas Fund’s main feeding points over the years.
Mr Green said:
This year they were desperate at the time, looking for food everywhere, and then the Barnabas Fund distribution arrived. They are at the beginning of their harvest and praying for plenty.
Christian women from GK
There are 176 Christians in this village of 1,000 people. It suffered severely from the food shortages, causing people to flee in search of supplies elsewhere. Some newborn babies died because their mothers had no milk; animals also perished. They received no help from the government or NGOs.
Thank you very much for thinking of us, said one elder.
Mr Green said:
The current situation is worrying; the harvest, which is due now, might be worse than last year. Round the village itself the fields are OK because those are good plots of land, but further away the crops are poor or non-existent.
Christian children from MD
There are about 15 churches in this town and various Christian organisations are at work.
Here, Mr Green found mainstream food distribution to be erratic at best with examples of corruption. He said:
Some people erroneously think Christians are wealthy and get lots of aid and so they should get no government or aid agency help.
We checked the level of persecution here: Muslims build a mosque and send an imam wherever a Christian evangelist works; goods and services (e.g. grinding corn, water, or in shops) cost more if they know you are a Christian; the media is hostile when there is any preaching. Christian children, who are usually recognised by their name, have problems in schools. Muslim aid, school support etc is normally given only to Muslims.