‘Poverty in Niger stems from poor management of agriculture, livestock’

Ambitious livestock, agricultural policies, targeted diagnostics on climate impacts can help reduce poverty, humanitarian says

Aurore Bonny   | 16.10.2021
‘Poverty in Niger stems from poor management of agriculture, livestock’ File Photo

DOUALA, Cameroon 

The people of Niger have been living in a situation of chronic poverty, multiple reasons and consequences of which were explained to Anadolu Agency by leaders of humanitarian groups on eve of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty to be marked on Oct. 17.

"There is a problem of structural poverty in Niger which makes the population more vulnerable to cyclical situations," Patrick Andrey, head of the European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO) in Niger, told Anadolu Agency over the phone.

With more than 24 million inhabitants, this West African country located in the heart of the Sahel has reached a level of extreme poverty of 42.9% in 2020, according to the World Bank.

The bank indicates that the country's budget deficit has widened from 3.6% of GDP in 2019 to 4.9% in 2020, and public debt has reached 45%. The growth rate dropped from 5.9% in 2019 to 3.6% in 2020.

The country's economy is based on agriculture at 40%. Livestock farming is also a popular field.

And yet, "Niger remains associated with chronic poverty since the years of independence," Maman Abdou Maman, project coordinator in Niger for the Cooperation for the Development of Emerging Countries (COSPE), an international solidarity association, told Anadolu Agency.

This situation, in his opinion, stems from the poor management of agriculture and livestock, the two economic engines in the lives of the mainly rural population.

He also noted that climate change-related natural disasters are also among other factors.

"Drought, for example, is a hindrance. We have a majority of desert areas and rainy seasons that do not last but create major hazards such as floods. These situations impact on production and contribute to a low income for the population," he said.

This is equivalent to $540 of Gross National Income per capita, according to the World Bank.

Maman also cited instability and insecurity due to terrorist attacks that have displaced people and their access to resources and agricultural production areas have become difficult.

Uranium and oil exports, two other resources of the country, are also low, according to the World Bank, which predicts the impact on government revenues.

"Sudden shocks such as floods, epidemics, the current cholera epidemic, or insecurity and conflicts lead to the displacement of populations. People are vulnerable to these situations because they are already weakened by poverty. Poverty is increasing because they do not have the means to counteract the shocks," Andrey said.

Several corroborating sources report the same causes and organizations are repeatedly warning of the great humanitarian need in Niger.

A ray of hope

This year, 3.7 million people are in need of food protection due to acute and chronic food insecurity caused by recurrent shocks and climate change. More than one million people have been displaced due to persistent insecurity, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

However, Maman, who works in rural development, believes that one day Niger will no longer be associated with poverty.

But for this to happen, he believes several steps need to be taken, especially with regard to livestock and agriculture.

"It is necessary to diagnose the specific flood zones and then through government management, strategies should be made to create infrastructures to favor agriculture more where possible," he said.

He said the challenges can be overcome by involving the population, adding insecurity is also an important issue that needs to be addressed urgently, he added.

Andrey said that many capacity-building programs have been initiated in the country so that people could better absorb and manage stressful situations.

Some 173 humanitarian organizations are providing emergency multi-sectoral assistance throughout the country, including in hard-to-reach areas, according to the UN.

According to Niger’s President Mohamed Bazoum, terrorism and poverty are the two "enemies" of his country.

During his inauguration as president on April 2, 2021, Bazoum pledged to fight poverty.

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