Mauritania’s farmers struggle to pull out of debt trap

January 21, 2013

"Rains were decent across much of Mauritania in 2012 leading to hopes of a reasonable harvest. However, even in a good year farmers can produce a maximum five-month cereal supply - most small farmers produce much less - and most face 2013 with accumulated debts from previous years following decades of cyclical crises. One third of Mauritania’s population (700,000) was estimated to go hungry in 2012 (some studies put the figure higher at one million), while 12 percent of children assessed were severely malnourished. Though the situation was much worse last year than in other years, the crisis did not come as a shock. “We face crises every year here in Mauritania,” said Sidi Mohamed, deputy director of the Commission for Food Security. 'Even if there is a decent harvest, birds and insects will eat part of it. And stocks will never cover people until the next harvest,' said Sandrine Flament, head of Action Against Hunger in the capital Nouakchott. 'You can’t even talk about stocks in most cases as people don’t really have them.' Mauritanians import 70 percent of the grains they use each year. All vulnerable families will feel the effects of the 2012 crisis in 2013, she said."