This article is written by Kossi Elom Balao
Agbangba, a Togolese farmer cries desperately of hunger in a country where the National Food Security Agency (ANSAT) created by the government is exporting cereals in neighbouring countries.
It is 8 PM. Agbangba’s five children should have gone to take their dinner. But today, there’s nothing in the kitchen and on the plates in which they usually take their dinners. This evening, the whole family is going to bed with a hungry belly.
“This is the first time this situation is happening to me since many years”, he complained, with a melancholic voice, trying to hide a tear that was about to flow from his eyes.
Agbangba is a farmer and owned a small piece of agricultural land in Anie, a village located in the centre of Togo. In his farm, he used to plant maize, beans and yam. His harvests, he does not market them, they are intended to feed his family.
But last year, the lack of rain has terribly dropped his harvests. And the situation is going to be similar this year. He explained that “in 2015 it rained 63 times, in 2016 it was 82 times, in 2017 he got about 74 rained, but in this year due to climate change it has just rained about 13 times since March”. According to him, “climate change is causing a long drought and is affecting his agricultural production”.
The situation of hunger is even worse in Couchoro, a village in the eastern of Togo, in the prefecture of Ogou, near the border of Benin. Tchebe kotshipa - a fifty-three years old, farmer, and father of eight - has stated that the long drought is driven his family into poverty and malnutrition.
“We do not eat well as before because my granary is empty and my wife is forced to walk for miles to get supplies at the market”, he stated, before showing me his empty poultry.
“In a recent past, I do not use to leave my chicken, goat and pigs, walk away from my farm, to prevent them from thieves and to avoid the fact that they destroy someone farm. But now, I am obliged to let them walk away to find something to eat because I have nothing in my granary to feed them”, he confessed.
Like kotshipa, the problem of hunger is affecting thousands of people in Togo, even in the capital. One of the seven children of Amehian Amah was crying desperately making a fuss in the kitchen. It’s about 4 PM and he had not eaten since in the morning.
They lived at Adakpame, a district of Lome, in a very poor and porous house surrounded by tall grasses where boas and venomous snakes have made their base. “At night, these reptiles used to come to eat my chickens and ducks”, said Amah, a mechanic of two-wheeled motorcycles, who does not even have electricity at home.
When asked why his children have not yet eaten since in the morning, he replied: “they have eaten the remaining maize dish yesterday before sleeping. Today, we do not have the maize dish anymore at home”. “Is it the only food they eat?” He then replied: “no, they also eat pasta and rice but I do not have money to buy them”, he stated.
According to the 2016 Global Hunger Index (GHI), Africa Edition produced by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Concern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe in conjunction with the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), the level of hunger in Togo remains unacceptably high. Togo falls into the “serious category” with 27 other Africa countries.
Agbangba, kotshipa and Amah’s family are starving in a country where the National Food Security Agency (ANSAT) is exporting cereals in neighbouring countries.
In 2013, the Togolese Coordination of Farmers Organizations and Agricultural Producers (CTOP) has published a memorandum against the ANSAT to denounce the exportation of agricultural products from Togo to neighbouring countries such as Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, Liberia and sometimes Gabon. In 2012, ANSAT has delivered nearly 32,000 tons of maize to those countries for a total of 13 million USD.
This paradoxical situation has led Aimé Tchaboure Gogue, an opposition leader, and president of Alliance of Democrats for Integral Development (ADDI) to criticize ANSAT, declaring that, “the agency is not fulfilling its mission”.
Indeed, the ANSAT was created to buy cereals from farmers and to store them. Firstly, to avoid cereal shortage. And secondly, to allow the regulation of agricultural products on Togolese market.
However, despite its existence, cereal prices are still expensive on the market and differ from one trader to another.
This situation is preventing poor people surviving on less than 1.90 USD a day for diversifying diets and to have access to the variety of foods they need to be healthy and strong. Finally, they end up with malnutrition and diabetes.