Drought and floods leave Chad herders without food, milk

Nomadic herder Fatime Tchari fended off a hungry calf as she tried to squeeze the last drops of milk from an emaciated cow in an arid corner of southern Chad.

Then she stood up, dejected.

“As you have just seen, I tried to milk six cows but I have not managed to get one litre of milk. They are stressed, sick and malnourished because of the drought and floods,” Tchari said.

A prolonged drought in the vast Central African country was followed by the heaviest rainy season in over 30 years this year, leaving large areas, including parts of the capital N’Djamena, navigable only by boat.¬†Thousands have fled their homes.

Farmland and pastures are under water, leaving herders with little grazing land.

Their situation is mirrored across parts of East and West Africa this year as heavy rains wreak havoc.

In recent years, intense rainfall, land degradation and poor urban planning have led to more frequent flood disasters in the region, whose countries are among the most vulnerable to climate change, according to the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Initiative index.

The nomads depend on the milk for their livelihood. Like nearly 5 million in the country of 16.4 million, they face acute hunger.

Tchari, 34, a mother of four, is in a group of 50 nomads and 450 cattle that found refuge in dry scrubland, some 100 km (60 miles) west of the capital.

The stop has provided respite for the group. In a normal season, they would take a year to cover around 2,000 km as they move from place to place for grazing. They have just covered that distance in three months, fleeing rising waters and humidity.

But their situation is barely sustainable. The scrubland where they stopped has no pasture and water for their tired, ailing herd.

“It is difficult for the cows to produce milk for us in these conditions,” Tchari said.

“Last year we saw our cows starve to death before our eyes, this year we are facing another disaster. We need food and vaccines to preserve our herds or we will end up losing everything.”

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