Despite a wealth of minerals, including uranium, Niger is one of the poorest countries in the world. Nearly two-thirds of its 15 million people live on less than USD1 a day.
Agriculture is the mainstay of the country’s economy, with most families relying on subsistence farming and livestock breeding for their survival. Millet, sorghum and cassava are the main crops.
Niger is a landlocked country, prone to drought and desertification. A severe drought in 2004, coupled with damage from desert locusts, led to widespread crop failure in 2005. This set off a serious food security crisis.
Soaring food and agricultural input prices in 2008 compounded the situation, leaving many poor rural households even more vulnerable.
European Union Food Facility
In June 2009, FAO launched a two-year project to help the government of Niger improve the food security and livelihoods of rural farmers hit hard by the food price crisis.
Funds from the European Union worth just over € 3 million are being used to boost the productivity of rain-fed crops (millet and sorghum) and irrigated market gardens throughout the country.
Small farmers’ inability to access quality inputs – certified seeds and fertilizers – has hampered production in Niger.
To reverse this trend, work is being done to strengthen the existing network of cooperative input shops and to create new ones, building on an existing FAO input project. This will help to ensure that 56 000 smallholder farmers have improved access to quality seeds, fertilizers and other agricultural products and tools.
Soil infertility is another major obstacle to increasing agricultural productivity in Niger. Fertilizers currently supplied by the local authorities do not meet the farmers’ needs. Therefore, funds are being used to make 700 MT of fertilizers available to the farmers and to train farmers’ groups on how to import fertilizers themselves.
The project is also promoting the use of inventory credit to help safeguard the produce and improve the incomes and lines of credit of around 10 000 small farmers. To this end, FAO is helping to build 100 new warehouses and repair 50 existing ones. In addition, credit lines will be made available through local microfinance banks.
Funds are being used to improve the technical and organizational capacity of farmers’ groups and managers and to strengthen farmers’ ability to produce and market agricultural inputs. Exchanges and trainings on innovations in agriculture are being organised to help facilitate information sharing and technology transfer among the farmers.
The overall project is in line with the government’s strategies on poverty reduction and rural development.
Other FAO Activities
The EU Food Facility project in Niger is a continuation of the IARBIC – a project aimed at intensifying agriculture through the strengthening of cooperative input shops. In addition, FAO has undertaken other projects since 2008 to help lessen the impact of high food and input prices on vulnerable farming families, including:
- a Technical Cooperation Programme (TCP) project to boost the food and nutrition security of around 26 000 vulnerable farming families through the provision of market garden seeds and livestock support;
- a TCP to strengthen national and regional capacities to monitor and assess the food situation and prices and to take effective action aimed at tackling high food prices;
- an emergency project to reduce acute malnutrition and bolster the livelihoods of vulnerable rural families.