More than 10,000 people in Niger are benefitting from an Islamic Relief project to improve food security by protecting the environment and boosting livelihoods.
Most families in Ouallam district, one of the poorest areas in the Tillabery region, depend on farming to earn a living. This makes them particularly vulnerable to cyclical droughts and desertification, with failed crops fuelling ever-deepening poverty and hunger. Communities in the area typically face a food crisis almost every two years.
The comprehensive Islamic Relief project is supporting communities to sustainably diversify their agricultural activities. By offering income generation opportunities, irrigating farming land, and providing seeds and essential equipment, families are better able to protect themselves from hunger and poverty.
Protecting the environment from further harm
Protecting the environment from further harm is central to the project. Awareness campaigns and newly-introduced seedlings nurseries are helping to ensure that natural resources are used sustainably. Degraded land and forests are being brought back into use and conserved more effectively. Efforts include promoting non-timber forest products such as gum trees as sustainable sources of income, with a role in boosting the local economy.
Through the project, a water-spreading weir is being constructed. By replenishing groundwater, the weir will provide water for irrigation and livestock, and will support the regeneration of degraded land and local ecosystems.
Sustainable water and livelihoods
Collective farming schemes are being introduced, bringing communities together to invest in harvesting and managing water for irrigation as a vital source of food and income. Boreholes are also being constructed, improving access to water across the area and helping to address the scarcity of land suitable for agriculture in the long-term.
Warrantage warehouses are offering farmers – who are often forced to sell crops still standing in the field – the opportunity to achieve a better price. Overseen by a local farmer’s association, individuals will be able to deposit their harvest in the warehouse and obtain credit for the produce. When the market is favourable and the crops are sold, they repay their loan and are encouraged to invest in further income generating activities.
In addition, poor people are receiving support and micro-credit to build small enterprises from which they can earn a living. Women – who are amongst the most vulnerable in poor rural communities – are also accessing life-changing economic and social opportunities such as financial services, education, and training.
The project is due to complete in 2015. It complements a range of other Islamic Relief schemes in the Tillabery region, which are providing communities with better access to water and sanitation facilities as well as enhanced nutrition.