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Cablegate: Niger: Usaid/Ofda Program Monitoring Trip Key Findings

VZCZCXRO3828
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHNM #0948/01 3351030
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 011030Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY NIAMEY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5488
INFO RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS 0018
RUEHRC/USDA FAS WASHDC
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0220
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 0319
RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 1704
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME 0281
RHMFISS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 NIAMEY 000948

SIPDIS
AIDAC
SENSITIVE

DEPT FO AF/W, AF/RSA, EEB/TPP/MTAA/ABT, AND AF/PDPA
DEPT PLS PASS USAID/AFR/WA - PHUBBARD, TLAVELLE, KTOWERS
OFDA/W FOR CCHAN, ACONVERY, FSHANKS, MSHIRLEY, JMCINTOSH
FFP/W FOR JBORNS, JDWORKEN, RHUDSON, SGILBERT
ACCRA FOR USAID/AFR/WA LFRANCHETTE
DAKAR FOR RDAVIS AND ZSEMUNEGUS
GENEVA FOR NKYLOH
ROME FOR US MISSION
BRUSSELS FOR USAID PBROWN
NSC FOR CPRATT

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAGR PGOV EAID SOCI NG
SUBJECT: NIGER: USAID/OFDA PROGRAM MONITORING TRIP KEY FINDINGS

REF: A) NIAMEY 813 B) NIAMEY 862

1. (SBU) Summary: October 26 to November 2, 2009 field observations
by USAID/Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) Acting
Senior Program Officer from across the three most easterly regions
of Niger revealed that cereal prices remain high, harvests are poor
or non-existent, pasturage is very bad, and local authorities are
fearful of openly discussing the severity of the situation.
USAID/OFDA makes recommendations to mitigate the developing food
security and nutritional crisis. End summary.

Key Indicators of Food Insecurity Manifest
------------------------------------------
2. (SBU) From October 26 to November 2, 2009, USAID/OFDA staff
monitored USAID/OFDA-funded nutrition and high food price crisis
response programs in Diffa, Maradi, and Zinder regions. Through
observations and discussions throughout the trip with
non-governmental organization (NGO) partners, program beneficiaries,
health staff, community and local authorities, and others,
USAID/OFDA identified four key elements of the unfolding food
security crisis: 1) cereal prices remain as high as at any similar
previous time period; 2) late and insufficient rains have caused
failed or deficit harvests; 3) pasture deficits in 2008 and again in
2009 have resulted in significant agro-pastoralist community
migrations to seek new pastures; and 4) local authorities, already
seized with the problem, fear speaking out on behalf of affected
communities due to a challenging and threatening political
environment. (Note: Although villages in these regions often tend
to suffer food insecurity due to extreme poverty and erratic rains,
any shock such as the current failed harvest has profoundly negative
effects on families' already fragile coping strategies. For many
affected communities, the 2009 deficit harvests, estimated to be 40
percent across Niger, may herald a period as exceptionally
food-insecure as those in 1998 or 2004/2005. End note.)

Local Officials Discreetly Express Concerns
-------------------------------------------
3. (SBU) In closed-door meetings with USAID/OFDA staff, local
officials in Maradi, Zinder, and Diffa regions described the deficit
or failed harvest as a crisis and appealed for assistance.
Underscoring the severity of the situation, local officials made
such statements despite fears of censure or retaliation should the
central government, which asserts that the 2009 harvest was
reasonable, find out that local officials disagreed.

Maradi Offers Many Reports of Increasing Food Insecurity
---------------------------------------------
4. (SBU) In Maradi Region, a regional agricultural official reported
that five of the region's seven districts were suffering alarming
food deficits, whereas communities in the two other districts would
likely "get by," if only barely. However, a woman's association in
Djiratawa commune, located in one of the two districts the regional
official thought would "get by," reported to USAID/OFDA staff that
women had harvested only one month's supply of food in 2009,
significantly less than the previous year.

5. (SBU) In Maradi's Tessaoua District, the traditional leader
categorized the failed harvest as a crisis causing migration, and
stated that local authorities are powerless to respond to the
rapidly deteriorating conditions. At the time of the monitoring
trip, 41 percent of villages in the district were suffering from
agricultural production deficits and consequently members of
affected communities were already migrating at very high rates.

6. (SBU) Also in Tessaoua District, Majirguri village, elders
estimated that 30 percent of the villagers, including entire
families, had migrated since families had neither been able to
harvest their own food nor earn cash by working in others' fields.
In previous years, only breadwinners would migrate, typically to
seek employment in urban areas such as Maradi or across the border

NIAMEY 00000948 002 OF 002


in northern Nigeria. Driving the migrations are not only failed
harvests and lack of cash with which to buy the food still available
in the markets, but also inadequate fodder for livestock.

7. (SBU) In Maradi Region, Aguie District, the Save the Children
pediatrician working with inpatient malnutrition cases at the
district hospital reported treating significantly more cases this
year than last year. In addition, Save the Children staff commented
that while mothers are normally happy when their cured children are
released, mothers have of late often expressed sadness or
discouragement when the child is released from hospital, since there
is little food at home.

Diffa Food Insecurity Leading to Destocking and Migration
--------------------------------------------- --
8. (SBU) Similarly, in Issari Kassoum village, Maine-Soroa District,
Diffa Region, women who last year harvested gumbo (okra), peanuts,
and millet reported not having sufficient food this year to feed
families for even one month. Women in the village are coping with
the current crisis by decreasing the number of meals eaten and
selling livestock. In addition, heads of households, and sometimes
whole families, are migrating from the village. In DiQ Region, 80
percent of the population depends on livestock for livelihoods. In
a visit to Kabelawa village, N'Guigmi District, near the border with
Chad, USAID/OFDA staff learned from the village health officer that
50 percent of villagers had already migrated. USAID/OFDA staff
observed groups of pastoralists and camels migrating south in search
of pasture approximately four months earlier than usual. In
addition, the failed harvests have raised concerns regarding
potentially increased acute malnutrition.

Recommendations Stemming from Field Trip
----------------------------------------
9. (SBU) Following the monitoring trip, USAID/OFDA suggests the USG
consider the following in order to mitigate the developing food
security and nutrition crisis: 1) increase contributions to the
ready-to-eat therapeutic food pipeline; 2) increase efforts to
detect and respond to acute malnutrition; and 3) consider seriously
cash transfers, vouchers, and other livelihood initiatives through
current UN and NGO partners to mitigate against food insecurity in
areas suffering from a deficit in agricultural production.


ALLEN

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