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Niger - Climate

Available evidence shows that the isohyets that delimit the agro-climatic zones shifted southward by 100200 kilometers from 195090, following a decline in rainfall, with a prolonged period of below average rainfall from 197090. Recent analysis of long-term rainfall trends showed that this trend had reversed, with average rainfall increasing again since the 1990s. This suggests that the rainfall isohyets of 350400 millimeters, which delimit the zones where crop production is viable, are shifting north again. As a result, the area suitable for crop production may have increased since the 1990s.

While the country has received an increase in total rainfall since the 1990s, the 21st century has seen the return of a series of droughts and severe food insecurity in 2005, 2010, and 2012. Researchers also have noted what they characterize as changes in seasonal patterns (late arrival and early cessation of rains) and intense rain events. There is not a strong consensus about future rainfall in the Sahel, but scientists have recently suggested the likelihood of a somewhat wetter Sahel, with more variable precipitation on all time scales, from intra-seasonal to multi-decadal, and projected increases in daily rainfall intensity rather than frequency. There is a strong consensus that increases in Sahelian temperatures will continue. Downscaled climate model projections for Niamey covering the period 2040-2060 compared to 1980-2000 anticipate an increase of between 1C and 3C. These projections indicate that Niger is likely to face difficult climate challenges ahead, with perhaps more total rainfall than in some previous decades but punctuated by unpredictability, soaring temperatures, dry spells, and intense storms.

Niger, owing to its climatic, institutional, livelihood, economic, and environmental context, is one of the most vulnerable countries of the world. Poverty is pervasive in Niger and it ranks low on almost all the human development indicators. Agriculture is the most important sector of Nigers economy and accounts for over 40 percent of national gross domestic product (GDP) and is the principle source of livelihoods for over 80 percent of the countrys population.

Niger is a high-risk environment and traditional livelihood strategies have been designed to cope with a harsh, dry, uncertain, and high-stress environment. The traditional symbiotic relationship between livestock and farming community, farming practices using the limited water available, growing crop types and varieties that can withstand water stress for long dry spells, seasonal and long-term migration, and relying on communal networks for coping have all been an integral part of livelihood strategies to survive in Nigers high-risk environment.

These traditional livelihood strategies are becoming weaker and less effective in the face of the changing context. Erratic rainfall patterns, increasing temperature, movement of isohyets, encroachment of crop cultivation on cattle corridors, declining soil fertility, reduction in land holding size, increasing household size, and high pressure on land are some of the factors making it increasingly diffi cult to manage risks using traditional livelihood strategies.

The performance of the agricultural sector, however, due to its high exposure to risks, is very volatile. Niger has experienced multiple shocks, largely induced by agricultural risks over the past 30 years, which impose high welfare cost in terms of food availability, food affordability, and malnutrition. It also adversely affects household incomes, performance of the agricultural sector, the governments fiscal balance, and the growth rate of Nigers economy.

Nigers geographical position and climate make its agricultural sector especially vulnerable. Niger is indeed one of the worlds most vulnerable countries because of its exposure to climate risks and its landlocked position. Compounding this situation are the risks it faces from both internal and regional political extremism. One way or the other, all these factors affect the performance of the agricultural sector and therefore food and nutritional security.

Drought, locusts, livestock diseases, crop pests and diseases, floods, windstorms and bushfires are the main sources of production risk. Farmers also complain of the risks to crop production from livestock herds, although the incidence and severity of these events is difficult to determine.

Drought is the principle risk in Niger and the country has experienced seven droughts between 19802010, with adverse impact on national agricultural production. Over the past 12 years, Niger has witnessed four years (2001, 2005, 2010, and 2012) of severe food insecurity that resulted in appeal for international humanitarian assistance and food relief. Drought is also the principle trigger for spikes in food prices and confl icts over pasture and water; it is highly correlated with some crop pests and diseases, and it aggravates mortality and morbidity due to livestock diseases.

Locust outbreak is another high frequency-high severity risk in Niger. Almost one-third of losses during 200405 crises were due to locust, with adverse impact on both crop and livestock sector. Considering livestocks signifi cance for Nigers economy, livestock diseases, especially pasteurellose, anthrax, peste des petits ruminants, and Newcastle disease (for poultry), are another principle risk for the country.

Flood incidences are increasing in Niger; however, they do not pose a serious risk to the broader agricultural sector, due to localized nature of fl ooding. Furthermore, most of the flood years are usually associated with bumper harvest because of higher than average rainfall at an aggregate level for the country.

Crop pests and diseases, like striga and fungal diseases, are a perennial problem among most crops; however, overall losses from a majority of these pests and diseases, barring the exception of grasshoppers, grain eating bird, and millet borer, are frequent but relatively low. The instability of food prices is one of the main sources of consumer concern, particularly since the spike in the price of food in 2008. In Niger, there is a very close link between seasonal variations in price and the impact of drought and other production risks. It could be said, in general, that the sharp rise in prices is caused, first, by the occurrence of these risks, which severely limits food production and availability. This leads to a shortage of food, especially for rural households that are net consumers of food products and for the poorest households in urban areas, and this situation has a dramatic impact on the nutritional status of their children. The report issued and submitted to the Ministry of Agriculture in January 2013, analyzes the long-term prospects for a successful Nigerien agricultural sector (in the broad sense of the term), i.e., one that is competitive both within its borders and in the subregional market, while being resilient to the various risks it frequently confronts.

Despite its importance, less than 6 percent of farming households have access to drought-tolerant cereal varieties. Early warning about the impending weather season coupled with ready availability of drought-tolerant varieties could help mitigate the risk of crop failure. This will necessitate development of a sustainable seed system, consisting of seed research, seed multiplication, and seed delivery on a large scale.

Effective soil and water conservation techniques in Niger have successfully contributed to (1) conserving rain water, (2) increasing its infi ltration, and (3) enhancing plant growth, which improves the resilience of crop during water stress and serves as a useful drought mitigation intervention. Further expansion and consolidation of water conservation and NRM interventions will contribute to greater integration of the agriculture-livestock sector, yield improvements, and drought risk management.

Expansion of irrigation facilities can serve as an important drought risk management tool, considering that uneven rainfall distribution is one of the principle causes of crop failure in Niger. Despite the desert conditions, there is considerable potential to increase the area under irrigation in Niger, which could contribute to improved nutrition, access to diversifi ed food, and improved household income, thereby reducing food affordability issues and improving household food security.

Extant preventive action reliant on monitoring of seasonal reproductive areas, localization, and destruction of first locust populations has been effective so far by successfully controlling a potential locust outbreak in 2009, largely through use of biopesticides. Therefore, this approach should be supported and strengthened.

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Page last modified: 07-05-2017 19:07:13 ZULU