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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 February 2006, 08:20 GMT
Eyewitness: My fight against hunger
Doula Mokao
Doula Mokao: "We want to deal with Europe as equals"
Doula Mokao is a nomad from the Wodaabe people of northern Niger. His people were gravely affected by last year's drought, but as he explains, he is determined to fight back.

Last year, the earth was bare. Nothing grew. There were no rains.

Tchiena - a cold and strong wind - was blowing everywhere. Our animals had no shelter because there was no grass left. Our animals could not hide, their bellies were empty and they started shivering.

We tried to find bags of millet, there was no millet. Bags of groundnuts, there was no groundnuts. Beans - there were no beans. Those who had food benefited from our plight. They sold it on to us at double the normal price.

A lot of elderly people died, as well as children who could not get milk.

Last year, the nomads lost thousands of animals.

My family lost 59 - we've only got 14 left. This is why we've stopped travelling. We are all staying around the well I bought three years ago.

Rains at last

It's very hard for a nomad to lose his animals. He lives with them, can eat because of them, can buy clothes for his children because of them. We also need animals to get married. We cannot live without them. And we don't know any other job.

Doula Mokao's family group
Animals are central to a nomad's way of life
If we lose our cattle - it's very serious. We don't know where to go and what to do. A lot of our youths have left their families to work for other people in towns.

A lot of people now rely on outside help for food. Since December 2004 we have been meeting regularly to try and find solutions.

A lot of Europeans driving big luxury cars came to help us. They didn't stay for very long - so they could not really grasp everything that was happening to us.

The situation has now improved - the rains came at last, so now our animals have enough pasture to eat.

But we have not been able to rebuild our herds yet - we need many more years of good rains and harvests before we can get back to where we were before the drought.

Astonished

I'm now in France looking for people to sell our traditional goods such as embroidered shirts, jewellery and leather bags.

Now that we have got no more cows, we need to find another way to earn our living.

But it is very difficult. First, it was very hard to get a visa.

Then, I was questioned by French customs officials for about an hour before they let me into the country.

I have been able to sell some goods but just to friends of friends, when they organise little exhbitions in their houses.

The other day, I was stopped in Marseilles by some policemen, who asked me for my papers - and if I was selling drugs.

I was astonished.

We are not asking for Europe's help - we want to deal with them, as equals.



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