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Adapting irrigation to climate change (AICCA)

Background

Niger is the poorest country in the world. In 2013, it ranked 187nd among 187 countries in the Human Development Index list of the United Nations. It has one of the lowest Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita in the world, which was about US$440 in 2014.

Agriculture is one of the most important sectors in the economy, accounting for about 37 percent of the country’s GDP and employing about 82 percent of the work force of the country. Therefore, this sector has great potential of reducing poverty in the country, but will need to increase productivity levels which are currently very low. Cereal and horticultural crop yields could be substantially increased with the use of improved cropping techniques, better seed, the introduction of animal-drawn ploughing, the dissemination of innovations and better irrigation techniques. The country will also need to improve access to factors of production (inputs, equipment), advisory services, rural financing and markets.

Agriculture in Niger is based primarily on small-scale family farms, which vary in size according to region and combine rainfed crops (cereals and legumes) with irrigated crops (onions, sesame and cow peas). Irrigated cropping is increasing and accounts for 30 per cent of agricultural production and 90 per cent of sector exports. Rainfed agriculture in Niger is subject to frequent droughts, which lead to food crises (1973, 1984, 2005, 2010 and 2012) and poverty. About 60 per cent of rural people live below the poverty line set by the country.

Notwithstanding the arid nature of the country, Niger has an estimated irrigation potential of 270 000 ha, with some 140 000 ha located in the Niger River valley. Only about 30 percent of that potential is currently used in the following way: 5 percent is under full control irrigation, mainly for the production of rice, wheat and cotton, and about 22 percent is with some partial water control for out-of-season crops. In addition, about 5 percent is dedicated to flood recession.