Niger: Agadez stock breeders celebrate livestock vaccinations
Armed conflict, flooding, drought … living conditions for stock breeders in the Agadez region of northern Niger have deteriorated substantially in recent years. But the mood was one of celebration at the recent two-day festival that celebrated the successful first phase of a vaccination programme involving a million animals. The vaccinations are being conducted by Niger’s livestock ministry with the support of the ICRC.
For two days, stock breeders from various towns and villages in the Agadez region were able to forget the harsh realities of life as they came together to share their joy. The assembled crowds were treated to an exciting mix of parades, races, camel displays, singing and dancing. “It’s been years since we’ve had anything to celebrate!” says Assaghid Issighdane, a stock breeder from Gougaram, 20 km south of Agadez. His enthusiasm is contagious as he tells how the Tuareg people love to party, and how they have developed a rich and varied culture.
From armed conflict to drought
“Living conditions have become very difficult in recent years,” he adds bitterly. From 2007 to 2009, the region suffered the consequences of clashes between Tuareg armed groups and the security forces of Niger. Since 2009, the alternating floods and droughts have killed animals and destroyed crops. “Last year, our herds were decimated by a shortage of water and feed. The few animals that survived were too thin or ill to be sold. If an animal is ill, it’s less capable of surviving food and water shortages, and there are plenty of those in our region,” he goes on. “And on top of all that, it’s still not safe around here, it’s difficult to travel and there’s a lack of basic services like health and education.”
The difficulty of accessing certain areas has meant that there have been no effective veterinary services for several years. As a result, animals are more vulnerable to disease and their market value has fallen. The fact that raising livestock is the region’s main source of income makes animal health all the more important.
Vaccinating a million animals
For several years now, the ICRC has been running a variety of programmes to support people in the Agadez region, most of whom live off animal breeding and market gardening. As Boudari village chief Sighidane puts it, “After all these difficulties, somebody has finally offered us a helping hand.”
The vaccination campaign (run by Niger’s livestock ministry with ICRC support) started in December 2010 and covers the whole area from Dabaga to Dannet, via Tchirozérine, Gougaram, Iférouane, Timia, Tabelot, Agadez, Ingall and Aderbissanatt. Around one million animals will be vaccinated, protecting herds against such diseases as small stock plague, contagious bovine pleuropneumonia, pasteurellosis and sheep pox. Animals will also receive treatment against parasites.
“Thanks to this vaccination and treatment programme, we now have a chance of rebuilding our herds. It’s the sale of livestock and associated products that enables stock breeders to buy grain and the other things they need,” explains Assaghid.
“It’s hard to describe how valuable this help is. We are grateful to the ICRC for sticking with us despite the dangers, and for finding ways to resolve the specific problems of livestock breeders. This vaccination campaign is a good example,” he concludes.