Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Food crisis: a pagivolte

One of the letters you sent, mom, was written on the back of some text you'd printed off of a PCV's blog-I think her name is Brittany-about the current food crisis. She's an excellent writer, and what she said is exactly what I've heard. She's been here longer, though, and I think she knows a lot more about it than I do.
We talked about it a little bit at training last week, and along with three friends I designed a pagivolte presentation for it...I think that's a French word. It means that you use large drawings or photographs to illustrate/educate/raise awareness about a given topic. It's a fun way to share information with anyone, and it works well with non-literate groups. Peace Corps uses them a lot in Niger, as do several other aid/development agencies. I've seen pagivoltes on the importance of handwashing, breastfeeding, how to how to build an improved cook stove, why/how to plant trees in your field. Usually they're the size of a big kid's book, with 6-12 different pages, and big, easily interpreted images. I love pagivoltes; it's fun to present them, which you basically do by asking your audience lots of questions about what they see. Often they create stories about the "characters" giving them all names and personalities.
So anyway, Jacob, Chrystal, John, and I presented a pagivolte we created about the upcoming/current food crisis while we were in Hamdallay. We did it for John's host family: there are three wives and a bunch of neighbor women there often, so it was an enthusiastic audience. We tried to accomplish two things:
1. To explain how this year's food shortage is different from most years (keep in mind, ye of the land of milk and honey, that Nigeriens have food shortages on a yearly basis, and in fact, nonchalantly refer to that time of year as Hunger Season; it is that much a part of their lives)
2. To make a few suggestions on ways to lesson the impact (acknowledging full well that Nigeriens already have a great ability and know-how as to how to do this)

I will share as much as I know about what is going on, globally and in NIger; please excuse any errors, and please correct me if you know the greater details. Basically, my understanding is that:
A. Rice consumption in China and India is at an all-time high.
B. More corn is being directed to the production of biofuel.
C. Oil prices are, of course, rising and rising and rising.
These things combined mean the following things for NIger:
1. Food is REALLY expensive right now, and will continue to go up in price, due partially to the increased price of transportation, and partially because of the high global demand for rice/corn/cereals (especially in China, India, and because of biofuels processors.)
2. The world aid organizations that routinely come to NIger to distribute emergency food bags (usually rice and millet) will not be able to come this year; I presume because they can't afford/find the food, either.
3. SO, even if this year's harvest is spectacular, many Nigeriens will be hungry.

We have heard that it will be in urban areas that food shortages will be felt first. This makes sense; urban residents buy more of their foodstuffs, whereas rural residents grow more of their own. Still I Angie's village, a very small rural community of just a few hundred folks, people are already "skipping" meals to make their food last. One PCV told me about how a year ago she was astonished when a kid, her friend, revealed that "today we won't eat but tomorrow we will." Skipping a day of eating, not out of a desire to be stick thin, not as a spiritual cleansing practice...but because there's only X amount of food, and it's got to last until harvest time. It's hard to wrap my head around that, and I am here, so I can't imagine how you would begin to understand it from home.


Marilyn said...

Wow, this was a very interesting post. She is right, it IS hard to wrap my brain around from home. Hope I can help in some way.

Kerry said...

Hi Mame,
We hope that there will be an opportunity to help the women in Jessica's village establish a grain bank. There will be a way for readers of this blog to contribute if they wish; keep watching the blog for more info on this...

Marilyn said...

Ok I definitely will keep my eye out for this!! Thanks Kerry.