AP PHOTOS: Hungry people in Niger sell animals

August 20, 2012 - 12:44 AM
APTOPIX Niger Last Camel

In this picture taken Tuesday, July 17, 2012, a Nigerian taxman records the sale of a camel at the market in Bermo, Niger, 200 kms (125 miles) north of Maradi. This is a region where it is in livestock that a man settles disputes, pays the dowry for his future bride and leaves inheritance to his sons. For generations, nomads have lived in a precarious equilibrium with the sky above them. When the first rains come, they head north toward the Sahara desert, where the grass is said to be saltier, packed with minerals. They time their movements according to the clouds, waiting for the second major downpour, before making a U-turn to head back to the greener south. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

In markets all over Niger, hungry people are selling hungry animals for half their normal value, giving up on the milk and money of tomorrow so that their children can eat today. Their plight is a sign of how far the economy of the desert has broken down, leaving its people unable to feed themselves in drought after drought.

This is a community so tied to its animals that children play with miniature camels or cows cut from rock. It's in livestock that a man settles disputes, pays the dowry for his future bride and leaves an inheritance to his sons.

So to see a nomad sell his last camel is like watching someone sell their house and car, liquidate their 401(k) and empty their bank account all at once, just to buy groceries.

Here are some images from the African Sahel.