Niamey 2000
There is a strong need for a homelessness solution in Niger and a housing solution like the Niamey 2000 might just be it. Several facts about Niger provide some insight as to why the Niamey 2000 project began in the first place.

5 Facts About Niger

  1. According to Reuters, many impoverished people in Niger build their houses out of “earth or mud,” making the homes susceptible to destruction from natural disasters and extreme weather events. This, in turn, leaves many disadvantaged households at an increased risk of homelessness.
  2. According to the World Bank, in 2021, more than 10 million people in Niger, or about 42% of the population, lived in extreme poverty, surviving on less than $1.90 per day.
  3. World Bank data places Niger’s GDP at almost $15 billion in 2021, gradually climbing from just $2.24 billion in 2000.
  4. According to the United Nations, Niger stands as one of the least developed countries in the world.
  5. The country is dealing with large numbers of refugees coming in as a result of conflicts in neighboring countries, placing strain on the country’s already minimal resources. Extreme weather patterns, the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and rising inflation rates are hampering economic growth in Niger, the World Bank stated.

Niamey 2000

An article written by ArchDaily explains that Niamey, the capital of Niger, has more than 1 million residents and most of the population lives in conditions of poverty. The city is experiencing rapid urbanization, with an expected population increase of 5% annually until 2030.

Because the country is landlocked, it is difficult, “expensive and unsustainable” to continue using popular construction materials, like concrete, for the building of homes. Recognizing the need for affordable housing, Nigerian architect Mariam Kamara led the Niamey 2000 housing project with her design firm, United4Design. The project reached completion in 2016.

The Niamey 2000 is an affordable multi-family housing development spanning 18,000 square feet. Kamara and the team designed the project to specifically address Niamey’s housing crisis while also meeting the needs and wants of the people of Niamey.

Practicality and Desirability

The building utilizes a material called compressed earth block (CEB), which consists of clay and sand. CEBs are more resistant to the elements and natural disasters and help keep the inside of homes cool in warm climates. CEBs are also more cost-effective and environmentally friendly than conventional concrete because of the natural materials and the fact that the bricks do not require importing. Not only are these blocks cheaper and more sustainable but the manufacturing process creates jobs for laborers in Niamey.

The housing development minimizes urban sprawl while conserving space. High-rise buildings and apartments do not fit the culture and norms of Niamey, therefore, the project chose to build only a few stories high.

The Future of Housing in Niamey

The Niamey 2000 project received a 2017 R+D Award from Architect Magazine for its potential to “bring relief to the region’s housing crisis while respecting locals preferences in residential design.” In addition, Niamey 2000 made the shortlist for the 2022 Aga Khan Award for Architecture.

Finding a comprehensive homelessness solution in Niger is no easy feat but innovative ideas like the Niamey 2000 project will no doubt lead to more progress.

– Ava Ronning
Photo: Flickr

Innovation and Technology Center 
One of the world’s least developed countries is about to get a substantial technological upgrade. Following an agreement between Niger’s Agency for Information Society (ANSI) and the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), the development of an innovation and technology center has begun in the village of Sadore. That center will have technical educational opportunities as well as advanced technology and equipment.

The Location of the New Center

Sadore is located in the country of Niger. Niger is an African nation that is on the border of numerous other countries. It boasts a population of more than 24 million people and has a river that runs through its capital, Niamey. Niger is also among the hottest countries in the world, earning it the nickname, the “Frying Pan of the World.”

The Human Development Index (HDI) measures how developed a country is. It considers various factors such as income, life expectancy and education. According to this index, Niger ranked as the least developed country in the world. In 2019, Niger received an HDI of .394, lower than any other country.

Aside from its lack of development, Niger faces other problems as well. Niger currently has a poverty rate of 44% and malnutrition plagues much of the country. Making matters worse is the fact that the fertility rate in Niger is the highest in the world and easily surpasses its death rate. This means that the population is constantly growing, which will lead to more people living in poverty.

The Agreement Between ANSI and ICRISAT

ANSI and ICRISAT agreed upon the decision to develop the new center. ANSI primarily focuses on sustainable digital development in Niger. This spreads to various aspects of society such as education, health and agriculture. The agency also prioritizes digital technology and how the advancement of this technology can have a positive impact on the country.

While ANSI is broader in its areas of focus for development, ICRISAT has more of a focus on rural areas and agriculture. ICRISAT is a nonprofit that uses scientific research to improve the lives of people living in rural communities. It helps farmers grow various types of crops so that they can sustain themselves and their families.

A partnership between these two has the potential to be extremely beneficial for Niger. More specifically, a collaboration to further develop food production could help alleviate Niger’s malnutrition problem. Additionally, as the creation of a new innovation center proved, agricultural technology can also take a step forward and help the country along in its development.

The New Center

The creation of a new innovation and technology center comes as a part of the Niger 2.0 Smart Village Project. Niger 2.0 is a program that plans to transform Niger’s rural and lower-income areas into far more digitally advanced communities. This will improve the lives of the people living in these areas as well as create more sustainable infrastructure.

The center will undergo development in various “clusters” that focus on specific aspects of society such as health, education and agriculture. It will also provide many educational opportunities for the public to use such as a coding academy and a university for several technical careers.

Furthermore, the center will also hold a wide variety of technological resources that many of Sadore’s citizens will likely be experiencing for the first time. These include “a national data center…assembly lines…computers, tablets and solar panels.”

How This New Center Will Affect Niger

Ibrahima Guimba-Saidou, director general of ANSI, has expressed his support for the development of a new innovation and technology city in Niger. He believes that it could be the key to solving many of Niger’s largest problems. He specifically spoke about how technology could help improve agriculture. For example, drones could help collect data about certain crops.

Saidou also highlighted the importance of getting Niger’s population more involved in the country’s development. Two-thirds of Niger’s population is under the age of 25; and, their participation in building a new digital infrastructure could be vital for the country’s overall development. The involvement of Niger’s abundant youth could give it the boost it needs.

The center should also improve the state of business in Niger as it will have facilities that support small enterprises and start-ups. Saidou believes that the growth of these businesses could lead to substantial progress in agricultural development that could help improve Niger’s malnutrition situation. With the implementation of the new center and an increase in technological advancements, the world could soon be looking at a brand new Niger.

– Tyshon Johnson
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Energy in Niger
Niger is a geographically diverse country. The Northern stretch of the nation is located deep in the Sahara Desert, but as one traverses southward, the desert transitions into a lush savannah. Still suffering from the effects of the 2021-2022 Global Energy Crisis; however, Niger has one of the lowest rates of access to electricity in the world, as only 19.2% of the population has access to electricity, giving energy in Niger a small reputation. Despite this, due to Niger’s vast uranium deposits and its great potential to harvest large amounts of solar power, Niger might be a dormant energy powerhouse in the making, with energy in Niger potentially becoming one of the largest industries in the Sahara.

Nuclear Potential

In Niger, uranium exports make up a whopping 5% of the country’s GDP and supply 5% of the country’s tax revenues. Also, Niger has the second highest uranium reserve in Africa, barely behind South Africa. However, at the current moment, Niger cannot make great use of its vast uranium deposits and exports almost half to France instead of using the uranium themselves. Energy in Niger is therefore benefitting other countries rather than the homeland.

Although Niger exports most of its uranium to France, it might be able to make great use of its uranium deposits in the near future. This is because of a new project that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has undertaken. In coordination with the Government of Niger, this project has committed to developing robust nuclear power infrastructure in Niger. According to a recent report, there are 19 possible issues regarding nuclear power in Niger that, if fixed, could pave the way to developing nuclear power plants that would be able to provide electricity to the large numbers of people in the country who do not currently have access to electricity.

Solar Potential

While sounding preposterous, many have considered placing millions of solar panels in the Sahara Desert. According to recent estimates, if just 1.2% of the Sahara Desert has solar panels, the panels would generate enough energy for the entire world. The Sahara covers 80% of Niger’s 489,000 square miles of land, and the entire desert is 3,550,000 square miles. This means that if just under 9% of Niger had panels, energy in Niger would make up enough solar power to provide electricity to the entire world.

Of course, covering a large swath of desert with solar panels is not as easy as it sounds, with issues such as sand covering the panels or light bouncing off the panels interfering with energy production. However, various creative solutions are already undergoing in desert regions with solar panels to counteract these problems. For example, the Noor Solar Power Plant in Morocco, which will eventually cover around 30 square kilometers of the Sahara, uses many mirrors in a circle formation to reflect light onto a receiver in the middle of the circle. That receiver then converts that light into heat before converting it into electricity. Because these materials take hours to cool off, they continue to produce electricity even after sunset.

Hope For the Future

Although nearly 80% of people in Niger do not have access to electricity, this might change soon. This is because Niger has the potential to become one of Africa’s, if not one of the world’s biggest energy powerhouses through its vast nuclear-based resources and its large amount of solar energy potential.

Since energy in Niger is already expanding through the potential development of nuclear power plants through a project that the International Atomic Energy Agency undertook, the days of Niger being a country where less than a quarter of its citizens have access to electricity might come to a close very soon.

– Humzah Ahmad
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Agriculture in Niger
More than two decades ago, Tony Rinaudo started his journey in transforming the field of agriculture in Niger. Rinaudo is originally from Australia and has worked for the Australian branch of World Vision, a humanitarian organization that strives to reduce poverty. While his official title is natural resources management specialist, his work in the region of Niger earned him the nickname of “The Forest Maker.”

About Niger

Niger is a country just above Nigeria located in West Africa. Land surrounds it on all sides. The location of the country lends itself to low rainfall and drought as well as land degradation and desertification. The agricultural sector sustains the livelihoods of many Nigeriens, however, the unpredictable climate often leads to food insecurity and malnutrition. Niger accepts the assistance of organizations such as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) with the implementation of the Resilience in the Sahel Enhanced (RISE II) program to improve agriculture in the nation.

This program builds off of the first phase of RISE, which began in 2012. While traditional assistance programs typically address specific humanitarian crises in the short term, RISE hopes to engage with local and national communities to a greater extent to encourage long-term resilience.

Recurring Problems

Agriculture in Niger faces several current problems. In less than four decades, the use of land for agriculture increased by 94.2% by 2013. This expansion is the result of population growth and affects areas such as the Tillaberi, Zinder-Maradi and Manga regions as well as along the Niger River. As farmland spreads across Niger, the natural flora of the landscapes disappears, enlarging the sandy areas, which leads to desertification.

The effects of desertification are important to monitor for a nation that relies on agriculture, such as Niger. Desertification makes farming more difficult, which leads to increases in food insecurity and poverty.

These effects create a broader impact than the immediate problem of a decreased ability to farm. In a somewhat cyclic impact, nearby Nigeria faces difficulties preserving the land of the Akure-Ofosu Forest Reserve due to problems associated with poverty. Because people cannot find jobs in the major cities of Nigeria, people turn to the reserve for hunting, logging and creating land for agricultural use through the use of fires and deforestation. In a period of 18 years, the main forest on the reserve experienced a decline of 44% by 2020 and continues to decline.

The Work of Tony Rinaudo

Rinaudo foresaw the beginnings of the problems of agriculture in Niger more than two decades ago and pursued a change in the landscape. After previously attempting to plant new trees in the region, Rinaudo realized that an easier method to enact change is to utilize the existing landscape. He used a process called Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR). The first part of the process involves the use of existing tree stumps and roots.  The second step involves pruning stems to allow the chosen plants to regrow with adequate resources. Regenerating the natural landscape brings food for animals, fuel and nutrients to the soil. The practice of FMNR expanded across Africa and Asia to 25 countries.

Rinaudo’s work through FMNR led to the restoration of 200 million trees in Niger across 5 million hectares of degraded agricultural land. Rinaudo advises that change occurs by listening to the region’s citizens, enhancing their pre-existing skills and understanding the hesitations toward change.

Rinaudo said that FMNR can see long-term success if a local government guarantees ownership of trees to the communities caring for them and enacts local enforcement laws in cases of breaches while establishing “legal, transparent and fair markets for timber and non-timber forest products.”

In many ways, World Vision Australia and Rinaudo’s efforts parallel the endeavors of USAID as these efforts emphasize the long-term solutions to food insecurity and poverty with a community-led approach. With these continued efforts, farmers obtain the ability to sustainably continue the practice of agriculture in Niger for many generations.

– Kaylee Messick
Photo: Flickr

Girls Not Brides Girls Not Brides is an international nonprofit that works to end child marriage around the world. The organization is an initiative founded in 2011 by The Elders, a group of senior statesmen and human rights advocates brought together in 2007 by Nelson Mandela. Girls Not Brides has been working for over a decade to bring the issue of child marriage to the forefront of the government’s attention.

What is Child Marriage?

The term ‘child marriage’ refers to any formal or informal union between a child under the age of 18, and an adult or another child. According to the Girls Not Brides Atlas, the three countries with the highest rates of child marriage as of 2020 are Niger, Central African Republic and Chad. Currently, one in five girls worldwide are married before they are 18, which is a decrease from 10 years ago when one in four girls were victims of the practice. Despite this reduction, the practice still remains very prevalent in certain places. Child marriage can be the result of grave gender inequality, as the frequency of the tradition amongst boys is one sixth of that amongst girls.

Child marriage is also largely driven by poverty, as girls can pose as financial burdens to their families and are married to help relieve fiscal pressure. Girls believe that marriage is the key to securing their futures and sometimes drop out of school before they receive secondary education and begin their lives as wives. In some communities, marriage at a younger age can mean a lower expense. It is customary in different cultures for the girl’s family to ask for money in exchange for their daughter’s hand in marriage. Younger brides tend to go for higher rates, which serves as an incentive for impoverished families to sell their daughters as soon as they can.

The Dangers of Child Marriage

The practice of child marriage has devastating effects on the girls who fall victim. Girls married under the age of 15 are 50% more likely to suffer from domestic violence than those married at a later age. Child marriage can result in girls having sex before they are emotionally and physically ready and is a key driver of adolescent pregnancy, which carries its own health risks. When a girl enters a marriage, she is usually expected to drop out of school and tend to the home and eventually, the children.

If and when girls are ready to return to school, they are faced with barriers such as household responsibilities and a lack of educational and social preparation. In fact, school closures due to the pandemic have exposed 10 million more girls to child marriage as isolation and rising financial instability have driven families to turn to child marriage in order to cope with the economic challenges that came with COVID-19.

How Girls Not Brides is Working to End Child Marriage

Girls Not Brides is working to end child marriage in a multitude of ways. Not only does it work to prevent child marriage, but it also amplifies the voices of current and potential victims. Girls Not Brides strives to bring awareness to the problem by encouraging informed discussions about the topic on local, national, and international levels. As of 2020, Girls Not Brides is made up of more than 1,500 members from 104 countries around the world and has advocated across multiple platforms and top-tier media outlets.

Girls Not Brides offers in-person and online workshops in order to enlighten people on child marriage and educate them in ways they can help. It also mobilizes various political and financial supporters to help further its cause.

A Look Ahead

The nonprofit comprises of 1,400 civil society organizations around the world and works with a range of stakeholders and partners to ensure that its message is being heard. Girls Not Brides is working to end child marriage so that girls everywhere can grow up to reach their full potential, and is bringing light to an issue that is often overlooked but extremely important.

Ava Lombardi 
Photo: Flickr

Cash Transfer Programs
For the last 30 years non-government organizations (NGOs) like the Transfer Project and Concern Worldwide have been working with the governments of African nations and conducting trials and experiments with African villages to gauge how simple cash transfer programs will benefit their communities. The idea is to give households a small increase in their spending power through cash transfers. Then, after several months, see if these transfers had a lasting economic benefit on the affected households and villages.

Kenya’s Cash Transfer for Orphans and Vulnerable Children (CT-OVC)

Kenya’s Ministry of Home Affairs began a cash transfer program in 2004 with additional aid and funding from UNICEF. This program provides a cash transfer equivalent to $21 for households in Kenya that have a chronically ill caregiver for a child under 17 years of age. Since its implementation, this cash transfer program has aided more than 250,000 households and nearly 1 million people. It provides necessary resources for vulnerable children, such as food security and health care.

Niger’s Temporary Cash Transfer Program

Niger experienced a food and water crisis after a catastrophic drought threatened the agricultural industry in 2009 and 2010. The government of Niger implemented a temporary social program with the help of the NGO Concern Worldwide. This program aimed to provide cash transfers to families in order to prevent malnutrition and resource exhaustion. This program lasted for five months and provided more than 10,000 affected families with $45 each month in order to guarantee food security during the shortage crisis.

Niger’s Childhood Development Cash Transfer Program

After the successful trial of the cash transfer program during the drought and food crisis in 2010, Niger’s government decided to implement Project Filets Sociaux. This is a national cash transfer program dedicated to providing families with the extra help needed for childhood development. Since 2011, this program provided more than 87,000 households with nearly $16 a month for 24 months.

However, this program provided more than just cash transfers to hundreds of thousands of individuals. This program also included a behavioral change component which supplied education for thousands of households on early childhood development practices. Such education practices included breastfeeding, diarrhea rehydration, sleeping under mosquito netting and family planning. Later modules also included school readiness, brain development and discipline. This program experiment turned out to be so successful that many villages that were not receiving cash transfers still benefited from the behavioral modules and learning programs. These educational materials increased the number of affected households to as many as 200,000 with more than 1.5 million people aided.

Cash Benefits

Cash transfer programs have become one of the most popular ways for a government to address poverty within its country. Based on the success of previous cash transfer programs, Niger’s government knew that a cash transfer system would help alleviate poverty. In 2012, Niger began giving its most impoverished citizens about $16 a month for two years. This doubled the spending power of most of these citizens. Despite the fears that these individuals would instead spend this money on luxury items such as alcohol, the opposite was true. The recipients used their extra money productively.

A similar program in Kenya provided around $1,000 to more than 10,000 households in more than 650 random villages. Incredibly, economic activity also increased in nearby villages that had not received the cash transfer, further supporting the idea that cash transfer programs can reduce poverty in African nations.

A Promising Way Forward

A 2021 World Bank report identified nearly 200 similar cash transfer programs across 75 different countries, all providing food security and increasing the quality of life for nearly 92 million people. With such a promising track record, cash transfer programs have firmly established their usefulness in the fight to alleviate global poverty.

– Declan Harkness
Photo: Flickr

Girls’ Education In Niger
Niger, a country of 25 million people located in landlocked West Africa, is amid a wide-scale education crisis. Extreme poverty, unsafe schools, low-quality education, border conflicts, risk of sexual harassment and conservative gender norms significantly impact girls’ education in Niger. However, investing in the improvement of Nigerien girls’ education could improve the economy, create safer societies, increase women’s literacy rates, reduce child marriage and minimize conflicts, among many more benefits.

Nigerien Education Crisis

Niger currently lies at the bottom of the Girls’ Opportunity Index and is one of the most difficult countries for a girl to receive a full 12 years of education. Girls often have to travel long distances to get to school and face a significant risk of sexual harassment along the way. Another barrier to girls’ education in Niger is strict gender norms, including expectations that women solely participate in childcare, cooking and obtaining water from wells. Only 14% of women are literate in comparison to 42% of men. Improved girls’ education in Niger could have prominent social and economic impacts.

Benefits of Girls’ Education in Niger

  1. Women Gain More Economic Power: Nigerien women who have had an education have more control over their economic decisions. Experts determine that education for women can lead to a 0.3% increase in a country’s GDP. Additionally, with only one extra year of education, women’s earnings can increase by 20%. Women also have more power to make decisions on farms if they have higher education levels. Niger’s economy is primarily centered around agriculture, so this power to make agriculture-related decisions is advantageous for women individually as well as the country’s economy as a whole.
  2. Lower Rates of Child Marriage: About 75% of girls in Niger marry by the time they reach 15 years old and 45% of girls become pregnant by the age of 18. Girls who receive an education are less likely to enter into child marriage and become pregnant through force. Education gives young girls more opportunities while establishing independence and self-sufficiency in addition to providing knowledge to make informed decisions.
  3. Health Improvements: A child is 50% more likely to live past 5 years old if the child’s mother obtained a higher education. Additionally, the child has twice the potential of attending school themselves and a 50% higher chance of receiving vaccinations. Educated mothers also have more potential of having a say over when they will have children and how many children they will have. This demonstrates how girls’ education can contribute to the general improvement of people’s health and the well-being of the future generation.

Improvements in Girls Education

President of Niger Mohamed Bazoum has made girls’ education a primary focus of his mandate so that the country can reap the abundant benefits of girls’ education in Niger. President Bazoum recognizes that education is critical for the future of Niger and plans to focus on developing the education sector for the well-being of the nation’s young girls. He has committed to increasing Niger’s education budget to 22% by 2024. He has also promised to establish more schools and school dormitories so that fewer girls need to embark on risky journeys to get to their schools. Lastly, Bazoum has implemented a ‘zero straw-hut schools’ initiative, which will facilitate the building of better quality school infrastructure to improve the teaching environment.

Improving girls’ education will provide economic, social and health advantages, which will enhance the quality of life in Niger. The benefits of girls’ education in Niger stand to serve not just women but the entire population and should undergo implementation imminently.

– Isabella Elmasry
Photo: Flickr

Child Marriage in Niger 
Niger, one of the largest countries in West Africa, holds the highest rate of child marriages compared to the rest of the world. In fact, 75% of young girls marry before turning 18. This is because the nation’s legal marital age is 15 for girls and 18 for boys. Although Niger has made efforts to reduce child marriage, the country has noted only minimal progress in the last 20 years. As a result, many consequences have arisen from child marriage.

Why Does Niger Have a High Child Marriage Rate?

First, child marriage in Niger harshly affects girls deprived of attending school because they need to rely on others to survive. In addition, many young girls choose to drop out of school because of the unsafe learning environments. As a result, they cannot live an independent life due to the lack of income and confidence to make rational decisions. Due to few other options for their futures, many families decide to marry their daughters off for financial stability.

According to the World Bank, Niger has a poverty rate of 42.9%. However, Niger’s population continues to increase, causing the number of people in poverty to grow. Currently, many families are struggling financially, so they view child marriage as a way to alleviate their financial burdens. Because of this, marriage becomes “a strategy for economic survival” due to the lack of social protection, according to Save the Children.

Moreover, child marriage in Niger is common because many communities believe a woman’s purpose is to become a housewife and bear children. Due to this belief, families tend to prioritize the education of sons over daughters. To add, marrying young is a way that Niger communities attempt to prevent pregnancy before marriage, which is “a source of shame for the family,” Save the Children reports.

Consequences of Child Marriage in Niger

Although families aim to avoid pregnancy before marriage and look for financial stability by marrying their daughters off at a young age, this only causes more damage in the long run. For example, without education, young girls are unaware of the risks of early pregnancy. In fact, these young girls are at greater risk because 30% of the young girls show signs of malnutrition. As a result, “maternal mortality constitutes 35% of all adolescent deaths between ages 15 and 19,” according to Save the Children.

Not only do women face physical challenges but they also face mental health challenges caused by marrying at a young age. This is because young girls have to abruptly transition to adult life and take on responsibilities they are not mentally prepared to tackle. They are still at an age that requires guidance from a guardian. In a BMC Public Health study, many Nigerian girls expressed emotional distress and depression due to fulfilling their marital responsibilities and sexual demands from their husbands.

Due to the common practice of child marriage in Niger, young girls do not have the opportunity to have a childhood and face threats to their lives and health. For instance, some experience domestic violence and cannot return to school to escape these living conditions. Unfortunately, young married girls “have worse economic health outcomes than their unmarried peers, which are eventually passed down [sic] to their own children,” UNICEF reported.

How is Niger Receiving Help to End Child Marriage?

UNICEF is working to help implement laws and policies to help end child marriage and work within Nigerian communities to address the social norms that encourage child marriage. UNICEF partnered with the Niger Traditional Leaders and Association and the Islamic Congregation because they are well respected in their communities and can create new rules for people to follow.

Due to these advocacy efforts, the Niger Government created a national action plan, “Towards the End of Child Marriage in Niger,” that convenes every month to discuss what the community needs to do to advocate for better treatment of young boys and girls. Fortunately, “Education sessions by the Village Child Protection Committees were able to prevent cases of child marriage through direct mediation with parents and assisted girls to return to school,” UNICEF reported.

Lastly, Plan International Niger is helping girls establish confidence to fight child marriage in their communities. As a result, the young girls are using their voices and asking their leaders to end child marriage and provide them with an education to gain independence through employment. The Plan International Niger placed child protection committees throughout Niger and provided them with the tools to protect the rights of young girls to ensure change.

Child marriage is common in Niger, but it has far-reaching negative impacts on girls, such as emotional stress and depression. To add, young girls are at risk of domestic violence and pregnancy complications due to their age and malnutrition. These young girls have to become adults at an early age, which strips them of their childhood experiences. Fortunately, many young Nigerian girls are receiving help in an attempt to end the cycle of child marriage.

– Kayla De Alba
Photo: Flickr

Food Insecurity in Niger
Niger is a landlocked country in Western Africa. Approximately 75% of Niger’s land is the Sahara Desert, with 81% of the population relying on agriculture for food. According to World Bank data, 42.9% of the 24 million Nigerians live in extreme poverty. Hunger in Niger is a significant issue, with the Global Hunger Index ranking Niger as the 17th hungriest country in the world. Here is some information about food insecurity in Niger and what some are doing to reduce it.

Overpopulation

Currently, more than 25 million people live in Niger and almost 50% of the population is under the age of 15. Niger is one of the fastest-growing populations with a growth rate of close to 4% annually, but its ability to produce food for the growing population has not been successful. The United Nations World Food Program has estimated that food insecurity in 2019 affected more than 1.4 million Nigeriens. Many must face the adverse effects of hunger due to the continuously growing population and scarcity of food. The growing population exhausts hunger program initiatives and creates a challenge to feed communities. The high population also contributes tension to the already strained natural food resources.

Agriculture

Agriculture serves as one of the top food sources for people across the world. As for Niger, depending on agriculture poses a big problem. The land already suffers from degradation, deforestation and desertification, with low fertility and heavy pests, making it hard to produce food.

The land deals with fluctuations in precipitation and environmental changes, which make the production of crops limited. Droughts and floods are also likely and increase the risk of dying crops. Although that is the case, much of farmland still depends on rain to feed crops because of the lack of infrastructure to retain water and irrigation.

Malnutrition

One of the direct results of food insecurity is malnutrition. Malnutrition develops when the body does not receive proper nutrients. This could be a result of poor diets, lack of food or even inconsistent food intake. Proper nutrients are necessary in order to maintain a healthy immune system, growth and development. Since Niger lacks the proper food resources, malnutrition continues to endanger the lives of children.

Child Marriage

Another direct effect of food insecurity is an increase in child marriage. Hunger forces some families to resort to desperate measures such as child marriage. Payments such as dowries have been helpful during hunger-stricken moments. Child marriage is a common practice among Niger natives. Around the age of 16 young girls usually have to choose between school or marriage. Approximately 75% of young girls marry before the age of 18.

Data from a 2018 study for the International Center for Research on Women shows that women who marry at an early age have high levels of food insecurity. Additionally, those women end up forfeiting their education. Consequently, once married early, their educational growth becomes stunted. The act of child marriage has increasingly contributed to the low literacy rate among Niger women, resulting in an indirect effect of food insecurity in Niger. An analysis has also linked child marriage with early childbearing. Early childbearing may lead to more children, and as a result, reduce the amount of money in the household.

USAID

USAID is offering programs that bring more job opportunities, food security and stability to the people of Niger. Along with those programs, USAID is working to provide additional support such as access to credit, economic opportunities, better natural resources, soil management and more farming production.

In 2019, USAID funded a project that provided improvement, sustainability and nutrition to families in need. Along with those provisions, the organization also focused on developing agricultural entrepreneurship for youth in the Zinder area of Niger. USAID taught youth about compost production, pest management, marketing gardening and fruit tree nurseries.

The KfW Development Bank

The KfW Development Bank helps finance projects around the world to fight poverty. KFW has fought poverty and protected the environment for over 50 years.

KfW launched a project on Mar. 8, 2021 to expand small-scale irrigation infrastructure. This project is serving as phase two of two. Phase two should run until 2025 and provide farmers with successful harvests and sustainability. Water availability and food production should increase substantially.

Despite the prevalence of food insecurity in Niger, organizations like USAID and the KfW Development Bank are making a difference. Through continued efforts, hunger should reduce improving the lives of Niger’s citizens.

– Destiny Jackson
Photo: Flickr

Environmental Solutions to PovertyChanging ecosystems from economic development have increased the risk of poverty and food insecurity around the world. Informal sectors, which mostly exist in lower-income countries, sidestep environmental regulations. This further degrades the environment and puts more people at risk of poverty. However, these high-risk environments also provide an opportunity to implement environmental solutions to poverty and lower the risk of environmental destruction.

Demi-Lune Agriculture to Stop Desertification

In the past century, deserts have expanded rapidly due to industrialization and rising global populations. This threatens millions of people living on the periphery of deserts who farm for a living, people who may see their crops dry up in coming years. Environmental solutions to poverty often focus on stopping the expansion of deserts.

For example, farmers on the periphery of the Sahara Desert have adopted a new style of farming to adapt to the desertification of their farmland: half-moon agriculture. This environmental solution to poverty, introduced in the 1980s, has many benefits.

Half-moons retain water much more efficiently than traditional agricultural techniques, an important feature in water-scarce climates. Farmers can easily understand and execute the process, which only requires basic tools, increasing its usability in communities with poor education and literacy.

In West Africa, half-moon agriculture has led to an incredible transformation of the landscape, with formerly arid land now covered in grass, trees or crops. Binta Cheffou, a farmer in Niger, planted half-moons in the 1990s when her community’s land was bare and unproductive.

Now, according to Cheffou, “Many people are no longer hungry” due to increased livestock yields and more agriculture. Communities using this environmental solution to poverty have witnessed a large increase in biodiversity as well, a useful safeguard against ecological disasters.

Planting Trees to Reduce Landslides

Natural disasters pose a large barrier in the fight against poverty, causing $210 billion in damage in 2020, according to major insurers. Landslides, a common disaster in developing countries, kill nearly 4,500 people each year, according to earth scientist Dave Petley. There are several environmental solutions to poverty and natural disasters, including a simple one: planting trees.

Landslides largely occur in environments where erosion is widespread and the ground can no longer hold its weight. These conditions often emerge just after deforestation and unregulated mining, where people extracting resources leave hillsides barren and organic structures rotten.

The lack of organic structure holding the slopes together leads to these tragic natural disasters. Reverting the hillside to its natural state with biodiverse trees can provide the structure necessary to prevent landslides while also providing revenue to those caring for the trees.

This strategy, popularized worldwide in the past few years, has seen major success in preventing landslides and reducing poverty. In Ethiopia, studies in communities with tree-planting initiatives noted a dramatic increase in community income and food supply. In Indonesia, research confirmed a decrease in landslides where trees were present. The study found that coffee trees prevent landslides especially well with the added benefit of providing coffee beans for communities to harvest and sell. This would decrease the motivation for unregulated logging and mining, further reducing landslide risk.

Cleaning Rivers for Clean Water

Rivers serve as key assets for countries to fuel their development. Rivers can provide power, food, drinking water and trade routes. Furthermore, recreational activities on rivers provide economic stimulation. However, many of the world’s key rivers, especially in developing countries, are experiencing a crisis of pollution and wastewater. This pollution costs countries billions of dollars. As such, key environmental solutions to poverty should focus on cleaning rivers and ensuring proper wastewater systems to prevent pollution.

In Indonesia, where riverway pollution costs $6.3 billion each year, or 2.3% of GDP, the government aims to make river water drinkable by 2025. Indonesia is implementing several strategies to address river pollution and protect the environment, including tree planting to combat erosion and regulations to ensure water factories produce drinkable water from rivers. Indonesia also focuses on environmental education as many people discard domestic trash in rivers without considering the consequences.

India also suffers from polluted rivers. The Ganga River, sacred to Hindus, serves almost 400 million people, providing water for drinking, irrigation and industry. It also deposits significant amounts of plastic into the Bay of Bengal and is filled with damaging pollutants which cause waterborne diseases that kill 1.5 million children per year.

The Indian government is focusing on the tributaries to the Ganga, ensuring clean water flows into the major river for a long-term cleaning strategy. So far, the government has spent $3 billion on cleanup initiatives since 2015 and has doubled sewage capacity.

The Future

These environmental solutions to poverty can increase both wealth and living standards. Studies show that access to a green and clean environment can boost mental health and life expectancy. Clean rivers, green hillsides and re-purposed desert land can provide access to these benefits worldwide. Going forward, governments should focus on innovative solutions to both improve the environment and reduce poverty.

– Justin Morgan
Photo: Flickr