Tag Archives: Sahel

A new perspective on ants

Last summer the Ghost Ranch Service Corps drew the task of cleaning the labyrinth. In the process of removing a bush, I hit upon a nest of ants. They climbed the shovel. They climbed inside my pants and socks. They boldly went places I did not want them to go. They showed up a couple of hours later.There seemed to number in the thousands; there were probably only a couple dozen. I can still feel them crawling on me as I remember.

Today I read a story that puts my experience in perspective. I will not complain about it again.

Famine stalks the Sahel region of Africa. I looked up the Sahel. Encyclopedia Britannica defines it as a

semiarid region of western and north-central Africa extending from Senegal eastward to The Sudan. It forms a transitional zone between the arid Sahara (desert) to the north and the belt of humid savannas to the south. The Sahel stretches from the Atlantic Ocean eastward through northern Senegal, southern Mauritania, the great bend of the Niger River in Mali, Burkina Faso (formerly Upper Volta), southern Niger, northeastern Nigeria, south-central Chad, and into The Sudan.

The hunger season has come to the Sahel. UNICEF estimates that 1 million children are in danger of dying from severe acute malnutrition. They go on to note that:

Over 15 million people in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal are directly affected by the crisis. And although the people of the Sahel are resilient, their position has been weakened by successive emergencies. The region suffered droughts in 2005 and 2010, and many families were forced to sell their livestock, pull children out of school, borrow money and get by with less food.

UNICEF estimates that it needs $120 million to feed the 1 million children under age 5 who will need lifesaving treatment for severe acute malnutrition.

As you might imagine, people facing such a situation will do most anything to survive. I think I have a good imagination. But it turns out that I could not begin to imagine what people might do.

From the Inter Press Service (emphasis added):

During a recent stop in the capital, Stephen Cockburn, Oxfam International West Africa’s regional coordinator for campaigns and policy, described desperate measures he had seen in the countryside. “In Tassino, a village in the MangalmĂ© district in the central part of GuĂ©ra, women are breaking apart anthills, searching for grain stored there by ants,” he said.

Women are breaking apart anthills, searching for grain stored there by ants.

My heart breaks to read those words. My mind reels as I struggle to imagine that experience – the desperate courage that leads to such an act – and the ants – everywhere the ants.

I made a gift to UNICEF and took a silent vow never to complain about the ants again.

See you along the Trail.

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