The inhabitants of Soumaguela have built a granary in the village to stock the reserves local people need to live on during dry season.
Photo: J. Boethling


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Extended dry periods and drought are regular occurrences in Niger. Whenever rain falls short, people fear for their survival. But they do not give up. They laboriously wrest a harvest from the barren ground, determined to be prepared for the next crisis.

It’s purely coincidental of course, that both men have exactly the same name. Issoufou Mahamadou is the chief of the small village of Soumaguela somewhere in the south of the vast desert country of Niger. The head of state, the President of the Republic of Niger, is also called Issoufou Mahamadou. This is not at all unusual, because Issoufou in the Hausa language means Yussuf or Joseph, and Mahamadou is a version of Mohammed – a common name in a predominantly Muslim nation. But despite their unremarkable-sounding names, their mission is far from unremarkable. Both men are fighting the hunger which afflicts their homeland and its people so regularly and relentlessly.
According to the Global Hunger Index, the situation in Niger is still “alarming”. Every poor rainy season can trigger a major new crisis – such as the widespread famine which raged throughout the Sahel zone in 1973, and then again in 1984, 2000 and 2005.

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