Poverty in Niger
When something so essential to a country’s well-being is on an economic swing, it may be hard for it to maintain— especially if there is no warning of the ways that will lead to an abundance of woes. In a land where agriculture is dire to the prosperity of its people, many cannot afford the setbacks stemming from a poor water infrastructure. However, in Niger, where the water is either too little or too much to sustain anyone, it is the livestock that heavily influences the level of poverty in Niger and determines who the poverty affects.


Harmattan’s dry, dust-filled winds are frequent in Africa’s west side, dissolving clouds, lowering humidity and replacing the once fertile landscapes with inarable terrain. Increased temperatures in these settings will lead to the pervasiveness of droughts and strain in the agricultural sector— one that employs almost 90% of the population and could be a way out of poverty in Niger.

Last year, Niger experienced a 78% rainfall deficit in which its economy struggled to stay afloat. The agriculture sector makes up 40% of Niger’s GDP, missing the percentage of those living in extreme poverty by just 1.8%.

As the probability of a good year’s harvest dwindles due to prolonged drought, irregular rainfall and the increase in unsuitable land to carry out agricultural activity, many find themselves working in the field of livestock production where the benefits seem to outweigh the risks.

Livestock has a heavy association with wealth; 69% of livestock herders did so to make money. In rural areas, this figure increased by 10% with 79% of the population reporting that they were involved in livestock work to generate wealth, according to the 2020 Helda report.

Camels as a Status Animal

Though livestock production is not an avenue all Nigeriens explore, it is responsible for 90% of the country’s exports. However, all livestock production is not for monetary gain. According to World Atlas, some Nigeriens opt for subsistence farming where they carry out tasks to sustain themselves and their family.

Niger is a country that mainly uses camels due to their ability to withstand extensive droughts, high tolerance to desiccation and the low-risk, high-reward nature of the even-toed ungulate. Camels could be the safest animal to possess in comparison to other livestock animals as they are capable of providing a stable source of food and finances. They traditionally helped to extract water from dwellings, transportation and pack saddling. Now with new technology, they can help to plow through deserted soil and expose the nutrient-rich ones that were hidden underneath, providing farmers with a new, cost-effective way to cultivate the land.

During the dry season, farmers who engage in transhumance pastoralism begin to move their livestock through Niger’s mainlands in order for their livestock to feed, according to the 2020 Helda report. On these expeditions, herders sell, trade with or buy from locals. One camel can cost and sell for more than $1,600.

Breeding camels contribute to economic expansion as various breeds are in high demand. The value of the camel and other livestock goes without saying. In rural parts of Niger, people use livestock as an alternative payment method, according to the 2020 Helda report. Having a multitude of animals is also seen as a status symbol.

Milk Production

Camels also produce milk. However, milk coming from camels only consisted of 10.1% of the annual milk-related products to have come from the country, according to the 2020 Helda report. However, one entrepreneur, Wouro Habsatou Aboubacar set out to change that when she started her own camel milking and herding business as a teen. Aboubacar owns more than 100 camels and provides local groceries with milk and its townspeople with a source of employment. Niger is one of the top milk producers in West Africa, making more than 1,700 liters of milk a year, according to the 2020 Helda report.

Poverty Reduction

Rural poverty in Niger was at a time, averaging 65.5% in 1999. Urban poverty stood at 35.3%. Since the use of livestock as a means of survival and poverty reduction has been implemented, poverty dropped from 2005-2011, when Niger was among one of the countries that surpassed other coastal countries in livestock production. During 2011-2012, Niger made more than $482 million a year off meat alone, according to the 2020 Helda report.

Nigerien farmers usually make $500 a year. This number could increase by 12% if small-scale irrigation becomes widespread. At present, Niger’s economy is recovering from blows taken during the pandemic where their economy dropped by 1.5%, according to the World Bank. The agricultural boom could not only help the nation’s overall economy but the people living there as well.

– Dorothy Quanteh
Photo: Flickr

The Booming Camel Trade in the Horn of Africa
Last year, war-torn Somalia saw the highest in two decades export revenue from the sale of livestock abroad: $384 million. The increasing trade is a result of increased demand from the Gulf states for camel meat. The booming camel trade is a source of hope for the otherwise unfortunate country.

Once called the “Switzerland of Africa,” Somalia has been entrenched in a bloody civil war between the government and Islamist militant groups since 1986. Estimates place deaths between 350,000 and 1 million.

This year, hope glimmers in the Horn of Africa. The first democratic elections are under way, using a unique model drafted with the help of the United Nations, amid allegations of mass corruption.

In the peaceful regions, progress is taking place. The government has expanded its port facilities for shipping livestock, including camels, goats, and cattle. The animals are shipped mainly from the port of the capital, Mogadishu, but also from the northern ports of Bosaso and Berbera.

Somalia is home to world’s largest population of camels, a third of all on the planet. With an impressive number of 7.2 million animals, they surpass the next biggest herd, in Sudan, by almost 50 percent. They are also the largest camel milk producer worldwide “by far,” according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United nations.

The FAO has worked with the Somali government in the past five years to invest heavily in livestock infrastructure, vaccination programs and producing fodder. The capital for this initiative is coming from the European Union and the U.K. Of the country’s 10.5 million people, more than half rely on livestock for food and income, the Somali Chamber of Commerce has concluded.

The traditional methods used by Somali herders render the meat a unique taste that is desired in the Gulf. The government is trying to market it elsewhere as well. The booming camel trade is expanding to new markets. They recently started exporting to Egypt and are scheduled to begin trade with Malaysia.

The trade of livestock accounts for 40 percent of Somalia’s gross domestic product and is expected to reach 50 percent by next year. It is also the most important source of foreign-exchange earnings, only outnumbered by remittances from Somali diaspora, a central bank official told Bloomberg news.

The booming camel trade is not limited to Somalia. Camels from Sudan and Eritrea are also in high demand. The Rashaida tribe who lives there is known to produce the world’s best racing camels. These are coveted by the high-income countries of the Gulf who traditionally host camel races.

Buyers from the United Arab Emirates buy every year 100 to 300 young camels from the small village of Abu Talha. Some sell for as much as $80,000. Sudan’s exports more than tripled between 2010 and 2013 to $670 million, when the last World Bank data was available.

“The camels are everything, they give us meat, milk, and trade,” Hamed Hamid, a member of the Rashaida tribe told the Economist.

Eliza Gkritsi

Photo: Flickr