Since the early 1970s, the Sahel – Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal – has been suffering from chronic food shortages caused by economic crisis, poverty, desertification and climate changes. At the same time, population rates have been some of the fastest growing in the world, with a total average increase of up to 120% in the last 30 years.
Two successive years of unusually poor rainfall and the 2004 locusts’ invasion, combined with these structural causes have slashed farmers’ crops, pushed market prices up and forced many families into debt. This has led to an estimated 3.7 million people in need of assistance: 2.5 million in Niger, 0.6 million in Mali and 0.6 million in Mauritania. In Burkina Faso, estimates in late 2005 indicated 500 000 people affected by crop losses. Avian Flu outbreaks in Niger and Burkina Faso have plunged the poultry industry into a crisis, curtailing a basic source of income for poor households.