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The FAO Component of the Consolidated Appeals 2013: Niger

The FAO Component of the Consolidated Appeals 2013: Niger

Dec 2012

The severe food and nutrition crisis affecting the Sahel region since late 2011 continues to impact millions of people in the Niger. Climatic and economic shocks – coupled with the spillover effects of conflict in neighbouring countries – brought many challenges to rural communities in 2012. Flooding displaced more than 500 000 people, destroyed crops and increased the risk of disease outbreaks.

Challenges facing food security and livelihoods

Three major food crises in the last seven years have significantly weakened the livelihoods and resilience capacity of small-scale farmers in the Niger. More than 3 million people are in a state of chronic food insecurity, and their ability to withstand shocks is exhausted. Malnutrition rates have worsened between 2011 and 2012, and are expected to rise further in 2013.

Agricultural and livestock production was poor and food prices increased significantly following the drought in 2011/12. This made the 2012 lean season (May/June to September) even more difficult for families. Pastoralists and agropastoralists continue to face numerous challenges, such as limited availability of animal feed in local markets, animal diseases and the absence of pastoral water points network. When livestock numbers decline, families lose their most important safety net, which provides quick access to food and income in times of crisis – and with it, their resilience.

Since fighting broke out in northern Mali in January 2012, more than 65 000 people have fled to the Niger, and are in need of assistance. Most refugees are agropastoralists, and some have travelled with their animals, increasing competition over access to limited grazing areas. Food has become more scarce and expensive in communities hosting refugees, which were already hard hit by the food and nutrition crisis.

In addition, 2012 saw unprecedented flooding, which affected more than 500 000 men and women, especially in the Tillabéry and Tahoua regions. It destroyed crops, particularly rice and vegetables, and forced thousands from their homes. The risk of disease outbreaks, including malaria, measles and cholera, also increased (5 000 cases reported in October 2012).

Extensive summer rainfall encouraged swarms of desert locusts to grow, threatening harvests. Poor access to some locust breeding areas due to insecurity in neighbouring countries – northern Mali, Libya and Algeria – has made it difficult to adequately monitor the locust situation. This could have a significant impact on food security in the Niger if emergency measures are not taken.

FAO response

FAO’s proposed actions not only meet the immediate needs of vulnerable female and male-headed households affected by disasters but also lay the foundations for a sustainable recovery and transition to development. They are in line with the Sahel Plan developed by FAO in 2012 and with the 3N initiative (Les nigériens nourrissent les nigériens) led by the Government.

Extensive livestock rearing is still the dominant production system in pastoral and agropastoral areas of the Niger, with animals exclusively fed on hay. However, given recurrent fodder deficits, this is not a sustainable practice. FAO aims to develop alternative sources of fodder and help herders better manage their livestock to draw additional revenue from their production. Other interventions to increase the resilience of vulnerable communities include the provision of goats and sheep and the implementation of cash-for-work activities to restore pastures as well as rehabilitate water points in pastoral areas.

To help the Niger better prepare for, prevent and mitigate the impact of disasters, FAO intends to reinforce the national seed systems and coordination capacities for disaster risk management. To this end, FAO will promote the marketing of improved seeds through seed fairs, the establishment of a national seed stock in regional centres and the building of storage facilities.

Legend: FAO funding requests for Niger from 2008 to 2013

In collaboration with local and international NGOs, other United Nations agencies and the Government, FAO aims to provide vocational skills training to promote dietary diversification and good nutrition practices, with particular attention given to women-headed households and vulnerable youth, and to establish farmer field schools, focusing on adaptation to climate change and disaster risk management.