10 Facts About Child Labor in Niger
Niger, a country in Western Africa, is one of the most impoverished nations in the entire world. While its economy is growing, many children enter harsh jobs to provide for their families. Here are 10 facts about child labor in Niger.

10 Facts About Child Labor in Niger

  1. Niger has the highest fertility rate in the world. On average, a woman from Niger will have around seven children. The high fertility rate has led to consistent population growth and large family sizes. It is quite common for large families in Niger to hire underage girls as housemaids where they receive poor treatment and make as little as $6 a month. According to UNICEF, “three out of five girls are working in an environment considered as prejudicial to their health and development.” The high fertility rate has led to consistent population growth and large family sizes which makes it difficult for families to sustain themselves solely off their own farming.
  2. The main form of agriculture in Niger is subsistence farming, however, only 11 percent of the land is arable. Even the arable land is extremely dependent on rainfall, with droughts leading to widespread food shortages. When food becomes scarce, Nigerien children, like 12-year-old Oumar Soumana, must drop out of school and look for work to support their families: “It is a painful job for me… I spend the whole day walking. I do not really rest because I have to sell and bring the money back.”
  3. Roughly 48 percent of Niger’s population is 14 or younger. Niger’s population is increasing so fast, its median age is an alarming 15 years old. Food production is not matching the increasing population of Niger. Lack of consistent rainfall makes it very difficult for rural families to avoid malnourishment. When it does rain, families use their children for labor to try and maximize their food production. This is back-breaking work includes hand planting seeds in rough soil during extreme heat.
  4. According to a report by UNESCO, 42.9 percent of Nigerien children between five and 14 are working instead of going to school. This, coupled with only 70 percent of children in Niger completing elementary school, greatly limits their educational opportunities. Article 23 of Niger’s constitution provides free public education, but experts claim that instituting compulsory education would help keep even more children in schools.
  5. The insurgent Islamist group Boko Haram has contributed to Niger’s child labor crisis with its kidnapping of Nigerien children. Boko Haram uses children mainly for menial labor like cooking and cleaning, but in the past, they have used children for suicide bombings. While Boko Haram agreed to stop using children in 2017, there are still thousands of children missing. Additionally, children who formerly worked as child soldiers receive discrimination at an alarming rate.
  6. Many of the children who do not attend school and enter the workforce experience harsh working environments. “Uneducated, these children grow up in very miserable conditions: long working hours, low wages, no food. Furthermore, they run the risk of becoming victims of prostitution, discrimination, abuse, etc.” Additionally, children whose parents did not register them at birth and “lack the appropriate official papers, are not recognized as members of society and cannot exercise their rights.” These children are severely unprotected from life-threatening situations because their rural families were not aware of Niger’s birth registration law.
  7. Part of the reason why child labor in Niger is so prevalent is that the government either lacks regulation prohibiting these practices or it fails to adequately enforce its laws. In 2017, Niger took a significant step forward in combatting its child labor crisis by increasing the minimum age for hazardous work to 18 and increasing the number of jobs under the hazardous label. People under 18 can no longer work at jobs like quarrying, mining, welding and construction.
  8. While article 14 in Niger’s constitution outlaws forced labor, ethnic minorities like the Touaregs have a history of enslavement. Certain Nigerien traditions effectively endorse child slave labor. Whether it be the purchasing of young girls to serve as fifth wives or Wahaya, or koranic teachers forcing their pupils to beg on the streets and surrender their earnings, slavery is still prevalent in Niger.
  9. Niger is not ignoring the unfortunate truth that slavery still exists. With the help of the group Anti-Slavery International, Niger has successfully prosecuted men engaging in the fifth wife practice. This group also joined forces with a local Nigerien organization called Timidria and opened six elementary schools for descendants of slaves.
  10. These 10 facts about child labor in Niger illuminate the issue of child labor that the country must solve. Social programs funded by the Nigerien Government and other nongovernmental organizations like UNICEF are attempting to combat the crisis. In 2017, both of these groups ran 34 centers tasked with providing “food, shelter, education, and vocational training to street children, many of whom are victims of child labor.”

While most of these 10 facts about child labor Niger are disheartening, there is evidence that the situation is improving. For instance, a 45-year-old Nigerien woman named Tatinatt was a slave for the majority of her life, but today she is free and her youngest children are the first ones in her family who are attending school instead of entering the workforce. Hopefully, exposure to this crisis will galvanize more groups into focusing their resources on ending child labor in Niger.

Myles McBride Roach
Photo: Flickr

Pregnant in Niger
Pregnancy can be challenging anywhere, but being pregnant in Niger is often life-threatening. Around 14,000 women in Niger die every year as a result of pregnancy-related complications, with only 29 percent of births attended by skilled medical professionals. Because giving birth at home is a deeply ingrained cultural tradition in Niger, only 17 percent of women give birth in health facilities.

Challenges in Being Pregnant in Niger

The difficulties of being pregnant in Niger are exacerbated by the persistence of gender inequality. Women are often treated as property, with girls being married or even sold off before reaching puberty. Violence against girls and women remains a huge problem, especially because victims have often been conditioned to expect and tolerate these abuses.

Due to limited national resources and inadequate funding, the health care system in Niger is unequal to the task of providing universal care for all Nigeriens and relies heavily on assistance from charitable organizations. In 2015, an evaluation of Niger’s national health policy, led by the World Health Organization, revealed that only minimal progress had been made in the area of maternal health. To address this need, nonprofit groups such as Nutrition International are taking action.

Nutrition International

Nutrition International is an organization “helping more pregnant women and their newborns receive access to essential health care services, medicines and other commodities, including vitamins and minerals.” This initiative includes assessing the prenatal and antenatal care as well as pregnancy outcomes and evaluating the potential barriers to care for Nigerien women. These barriers range from a lack of confidence that prenatal and antenatal care is as important as they are being told to more practical concerns such as being able to afford transportation to medical appointments.

The period of time during and shortly after birth is a crucial one for both mother and newborn child. Unforeseen complications can arise, and without adequately trained health providers as well as the proper medicine and equipment, too many mothers and babies needlessly die. Nutrition International is also making materials available to facilities in Niger to provide care to pregnant and postpartum women as well as to train health personnel to give improved care and counseling to their patients. Furthermore, they are utilizing volunteers within the community to impart to pregnant women and their families the importance of antenatal care.

UNICEF and UNFPA

In 2017 alone, 81 out of every 1,000 live births resulted in the death of the infant before reaching one year of age. UNICEF provides support to the government of Niger to ensure that mothers and their babies receive a “continuum of care,” from prenatal to antenatal and promotes the education of girls, which can decrease the odds of childhood or adolescent pregnancy.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) implemented a program in 2014 called Action for Adolescent Girls. This has played an important role in helping to improve conditions for women who are pregnant in Niger. One important mission of the organization is to ensure that the women, and not young girls, are entering into marriages of their own volition and not being impregnated before they are physically and emotionally ready.

UNFPA sought out and trained local women to serve as mentors to young Nigerien girls, teaching them the basics of female hygiene, reproductive health, literacy and the basics of how to manage money. They were taught that child marriage is illegal and were informed of their other rights as citizens and human beings. Within the first eight-month cycle of the program, this initiative had already resulted in an increase of contraceptive use from 19 percent to 34 percent.

Looking Ahead

The government of Niger continues to work with global organizations to improve the health of prospective and new mothers as well as their children. USAID contributes to this effort with development and humanitarian programs in Niger, all of which are aimed at making the country more self-sufficient. The more financially solvent the country is, the better educated its population will be, ensuring that fertility rates continue to decline while the Nigerien economy continues to improve. With assistance from the U.S. and other wealthy nations, Niger can fulfill its potential and all of its citizens can thrive.

Raquel Ramos
Photo: Unsplash

Crop fields Nigeria
Food insecurity is outlawed by international rule of law. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on December 10, 1948, as a minimum standard of treatment and quality of life for all people in all nations. Article 25, section 1 of the declaration states: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food.”

Causes of Food Insecurity

Often times, countries that are a part of the U.N. fall short on this promise to provide adequate nutritious food to everyone, including the United States of America. Malnutrition and food insecurity can be attributed to many causes worldwide, from political turmoil, environmental struggles and calamities, lack of financial resources and lack of infrastructure to distribute food equally within a country.

It is widely known that the poorest nations often lack the means or the will to sufficiently supply food to the people and their most vulnerable population, ethnic minority groups, women, and children often suffer the most.

In 2006, the Center for Disease Control reported that widespread media attention in 2005 brought global awareness to a food crisis in the West African country of Niger. According to the report, with a population of 11.5 million in 2002, 2.5 million people living in farming or grazing areas in Niger were vulnerable to food insecurity.

Food Supply Chains

In the United States, conventional food supply chains are used in the mass distribution of food. This method starts with produced raw goods. These products are transferred to distribution centers that may offload goods to wholesalers or sell them directly to food retailers, where these goods are finally purchased by consumers at grocery stores and markets. Food may travel long distances throughout this process, to be consumed by people who may have purchased comparable foods grown closer to home.

In her article entitled Food Distribution in America, Monica Johnson writes, “With each step added between the farm and the consumer, money is taken away from the farmer. Typically, farmers are paid 20 cents on the dollar. So even if the small-scale or medium sized farmer is able to work with big food distributors, they are typically not paid enough to survive.”

Hunts Food Distribution Center is one of the largest food distributors in the United States with over $2 billion in annual sales. According to the New York Economic Development Commission, it sits on 329 acres of land in the Bronx, New York and supplies over 50 percent of food consumed by people in the area, and also supplies food to about 20 percent of people in the region. Still, the Food Bank of New York City reported a meal gap of 242 million in 2014 and food insecurity of 22.3 percent, with 399,000 of people affected being children.

Solution to the Problem

About 13 years after the Niger food crisis the country is still one of the poorest in the world. The World Food Program (WFP), headquartered in Rome, Italy, continues to focus on fixing the problem of food insecurity in countries like Niger. Through helping those like Nigeriens build sustainable livelihoods and ecosystems for crop cultivation, the WFP hopes to lessen the high levels of food insecurity and issues related to it, such as malnutrition and high mortality rates among children under the age of 5.

Assisting locals to manage sustainable local food resources through soil conservation, water harvesting, rehabilitating irrigation systems and reducing the loss of biodiversity among other efforts, the organization focuses on local measures to solve food insecurity issues.

The same is happening in the United States. The country plans to upgrade agricultural facilities and operations, a plan that includes working with other food distributors at the state level to increase integration with upstate and regional food distributors, supporting local farms, and providing growth opportunities for emerging regional food distribution models.

Food insecurity is a big problem in developing, but in developed countries as well. Countries need to make sure to promote local agriculture development in order to achieve food production that will suffice each country needs.

– Matrinna Woods

Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Niger
Following its independence from France in 1960, Niger has faced violent political instability,  deadly droughts and difficult living conditions. The following are the top ten facts about living conditions in Niger.

Top Ten Facts About Living Conditions in Niger

  1. In 2016, Save the Children declared Niger the “worst country for girls” based on two key criteria: child marriage rates and adolescent fertility.

  2. A high rate of child marriage often holds girls back. Over three quarters of Nigerien girls marry before the age of 18. Early marriage only continues the cycle of poverty: girls who marry earlier are less likely to finish school than girls who marry later, which means that they earn less income on average.

  1. High adolescent fertility puts women in danger. In Niger, one in five teenage girls gives birth every year. Nigerien women have the highest birthrate in the world, at over seven births per woman. And childbirth is particularly dangerous for younger girls: WHO estimates that pregnancy complications are the second leading cause of death for adolescent girls worldwide.

  1. “Husband schools” help build stronger families. To ease the burden on Nigerien woman, men learn the importance of helping with what was traditionally considered “women’s work.” The nonprofit Mercy Corps invites men to “husband schools,” where they learn about family planning, cooking and sanitation. Mercy Corps runs 124 such schools in Niger.

  1. High illiteracy remains a stubborn challenge. Only one in five adults in Niger are literate, and as a former French colony, the official language of schooling in Niger is French. Most Nigeriens, though, speak local tribal languages instead, making French literacy a particularly difficult goal.

  1. Frequent droughts make food scarce. Since 2000, Niger has weathered four extreme climate-related food crises. In such seasons of poor rainfall, 30 percent of people cannot meet their food needs. In 2017, one and a half million Nigeriens were food insecure, and 42 percent of children under age 5 faced chronic malnutrition.

  1. The World Food Program protects Nigerien children. To tackle the effects of food insecurity, the World Food Program treated 650,000 acutely malnourished children and nearly half a million malnourished pregnant and lactating mothers in 2015 alone.

  2. Uranium mining depletes Nigerien resources. The French company Areva mines for uranium in the Nigerien town of Arlit. Areva uses millions of liters of water each day, while Arlit’s vegetation has entirely dried up. A 2010 Greenpeace study showed that over its decade of operation, Areva has used 270 billion liters of water, entirely depleting ancient aquifers.

  3. Mining contaminates Nigerien water. A 2009 study by Greenpeace showed that five out of six examined water wells in Arlit contained excess radioactivity. And a 2004 study by the French Commission for Independent Research and Information on Radiation showed that uranium levels found in Arlit’s drinking water were up to 100 times the WHO safety standard.

  4. Activists stand up against corporate exploitation. After her mother, father and husband died from cancer traced back to radon exposure from Areva’s uranium mines, Jacqueline Gaudet founded the organization Mounana. The organization works with Doctors of the World to collect testimonies from Areva’s former employees to build court cases.

Remedying Colonialism

These top ten facts about living conditions in Niger reflect the need for international assistance to help remedy the harmful effects of colonialism. While living conditions in Niger are difficult, dedicated activists and nonprofits are steadily changing the landscape.

– Ivana Bozic

Photo: Flickr

Child Labor
Child labor is defined as the employment of children who are under the legal working age. Currently, there are about 265 million children engaged in child labor around the world. While this is clearly not ideal, there has been a reduction in child labor across the globe, from 23 percent of children working in 2000 to close to 17 percent in 2012. Many countries whose laws once allowed for child labor now protect their children from such harsh conditions instead.

Where Countries Are Based on Levels of Income

There are four basic income levels. Level 1 is extreme poverty; the family can barely afford to eat and must get water from wells. Level 2 is lower-middle income; the family can afford decent food and shoes. Level 3 is upper-middle income; the family can afford running water and basic appliances. Level 4 is high income; the family can afford a nice house and cars.

The higher a family’s income, the less likely they are to have their children work from a young age. Likewise, the higher a country’s income, the less likely they are to approve of child labor. We can see the likelihood of child labor by looking at the income level of different countries.

Level 4: Ireland

In 18th and 19th century Ireland, children were routinely put to work because they could be paid less than what adult workers were paid, they could operate certain machines that adults could not and it was believed that they would grow up to be harder workers. In many cases, children aged 3 to 7 were outright kidnapped by organized trade rings and forced to do whatever work their masters wanted them to.

The Protection of Young Persons (Employment) Act of 1996 changed all of that. Under this law, Irish employers cannot make children younger than 16 work full time. Additionally, employers cannot hire anyone under age 14 at all. Children aged 14 to 15 can only do light work during school holiday periods, work in educational programs that are not harmful to their health or cultural enrichment jobs. On top of that, employees aged 18 or younger must receive a minimum of €6.69 per hour, which is 70 percent of the Irish adult minimum wage.

Level 3: Croatia

In Croatia, the legal minimum age for work is 15. From the ages of 15 to 18 years old, children can only work with written permission from their parents, and inspections must show that the labor does not interfere with the child’s health, morality or education. In addition, anyone caught dealing in child prostitution in any way will face a three to 10-month prison sentence.

These laws have not stopped all child labor in Croatia. Roma children are often forced to beg in the streets, and Croatia experiences the active trafficking of young girls for prostitution. That said, the 2006-2012 National Program for the Protection of the Best Interests of Children made great strides in the reduction in child labor, particularly prostitution.

Level 2: Sudan

Of Sudan’s 37.96 million children, 45,600 are currently subject to child labor. Not only are there no laws against child labor, but the government also encourages it by kidnapping children in rural areas during military raids. These children start working at age 5, so they miss out on their educations, which otherwise would be compulsory.

However, Sudan has made strides in decreasing the child labor rate, including signing a Partnership Protocol Agreement with the European Union in 2008 and inspecting working environments to keep children from working in toxic conditions. Unfortunately, little has been done to help rural areas. Families have to migrate to urban areas or to other countries to escape labor and let their children get an education. Although, escape from Sudan is illegal and far from easy, it is still possible.

Level 1: Niger

The child labor rate in Niger is 42.8 percent. The jobs that young children are made to perform include agriculture, mining, caste-based servitude and forced begging. The government has set up a number of programs to reduce child labor, including Centers for Education, Legal, and Preventative Service; The Project to Reduce Child Labor in Agriculture; and The World Bank Country Program. However, these programs have made only moderate advances in stopping child labor.

Child labor continues to be a problem in the world today. Poor and corrupt countries are quick to put children to work because the children do not require high wages. However, laws and legislation all over the world have resulted in a global reduction in child labor. It has not stopped child labor altogether, but a little progress is better than none at all. The fight to end child labor continues.

Cassie Parvaz
Photo: Flickr

Girls’ Education in Niger
As the least educated country in the world, Niger faces severe issues with its current stability and long-term prosperity as a nation. Even more concerning is the educational disparity that exists between the male and female population. While female primary school participation rests at just over 50 percent, the literacy rate for women between the ages of 15 and 25 is less than 25 percent.

Gender Inequality

A potential reason for this gap in early enrollment and more comprehensive literacy could be the average length of schooling for a Nigerian citizen, which sits at a troubling 1.5 years.

As UNICEF reports, “in Niger, only one in two girls goes to primary school, one in ten to secondary school and one in fifty to high school.” Without a lasting commitment to education, early schooling is worthless as many will choose to exit the system before they can learn the necessary educational lessons for an effective and prosperous career.

Girls’ Education in Niger

Girls’ education in Niger has an overall void in educational emphasis. If schooling for males is lacking in a country that experiences gender inequality, as is true in Niger, then there is little hope that female education will be any better. Even when schooling is available, family dynamics and responsibility can serve as barriers for young women being able to attend class.

As a whole, males tend to have greater opportunities to pursue education as many household chores and family finances fall on the girls. Ten-year-old Choukouria from Niger explains, “my mother has six children: three boys and three girls. My brothers are allowed to go to school, but I am not allowed because I need to take care of the daily chores, take care of my little sisters and also contribute to my family’s expenses.”

Stories like this are commonplace for young females which makes girls’ education in Niger a constant struggle.

Child-Rearing and Educational Access

Another obstacle facing improvement in girls’ education in Niger is exceptionally high birth rates across the country. On average, women in Niger have 7.6 children over the course of their lives, with most births happening at a young age.

Teenage motherhood not only places social, financial and physical stress on women, but it also reduces any chance they have of receiving an education. In addition, as citizens of one of the poorest nations on earth, women in Niger do not have the extra capital necessary for child services even if they did want to pursue educational opportunities.

As a whole, girls’ education in Niger is severely lacking. Both poverty and a combination of young motherhood and high birth rates affect female access to educational resources and opportunities. An overall lack of commitment to education in Niger affects both males and females, but it appears that women have very little power in their own schooling experience.

It is young girls who are tasked with family responsibility and finances, which leaves them with very little chance in continuing their education later on.

Projects for Improvement

Among these many adversities, there is still potential in creating a new atmosphere surrounding education throughout Sierra Leone, especially for girls and young women. USAID is currently working to promote a larger reading culture in the country by involving the community in education and its functioning.

In addition, UNESCO also commits itself to transforming education in Niger through their project titled “Tackling Gender Inequalities in Niger’s Educational System.”

This project seeks to make learning environments more “girl-friendly” and aims at implementing more female role models for young girls in the school system through awareness campaigns and critical analysis of current educational conditions.

The Long Game

While these projects do exist, their recent implementation means that apparent success will take time to develop. International aid and redevelopment plans, which include education as primary aspects, are also beginning to enter Niger but have not yet taken a firm hold.

As can be seen via U.N. statistics, Niger sits at the bottom of economic and educational rankings for a reason. The nation is in an era of hardship and it will require greater help from international groups and foreign countries to remove itself from future difficulties or disasters.

– Ryan Montbleau
Photo: Flickr

U.S. Benefits from Foreign Aid to Niger
Within the U.S., there is a misconception of the amount of foreign aid given to developing countries. Some Americans believe the government gives up to 25 percent of the budget, but less than 1 percent gets put towards foreign aid. Niger relies heavily on U.S. aid and from additional U.N. agencies; 45 percent of Niger government’s FY 2002 budget comes from foreign aid. The U.S. benefits from giving foreign aid to Niger because of the positive image and the fiscal and potential foreign policy opportunities.

Niger and the U.S. relations

Niger and the U.S. have maintained a diplomatic relationship since the 1960s. The U.S. is a principal donor to Niger, giving up to $10 million yearly in aid, along with helping to coordinate policy in matters like HIV/AIDS and food security. The U.S. benefits from giving foreign aid to Niger because of Niger’s involvement in the Economic Community of West Africa, a program the U.S. maintains a trade and investment agreement to. Along with this program, there is a bilateral investment agreement the U.S. and Niger share with each other.

Foreign aid in Niger

Being one of the poorest countries in Africa, Niger’s economy relies heavily on agricultural production, which is continuously interrupted by extreme heat and droughts. From June to August in 2010, Niger’s crops were destroyed due to the heat, which caused a famine where almost 350,000 people were facing starvation. International food aid was provided when Niger citizens began suffering from malnutrition and respiratory diseases that sickened many children. In addition to international food aid, U.S. foreign aid aims to improve food security, maintain peacekeeping methods and increase healthcare services. With the Millennium Challenge Corporation compact, which began in January 2018, $437 million will be given to enhance Niger’s agricultural capabilities by increasing access to water, roads and markets. Additionally, Niger is one of six other countries that are involved in the Security Governance Initiative, a program that is labeled as a Counterterrorism Partnership Fund.

With programs and partnerships that the Niger and the U.S. participate in, Niger benefits from foreign aid because it is representative of their yearly budget and allows them to develop more resources to eventually become more self-reliant. In addition to providing aid, the U.S. additionally benefits from foreign aid to Niger. Microsoft founder Bill Gates explains how the U.S. benefits from foreign aid: “The 1 percent we spend on aid for the poorest not only saves millions of lives, it has an enormous impact on developing economies – which means it has an impact on our economy.” This shows that giving aid to third-world countries will positively affect the image of the U.S. and the economy.

– Alyssa Hannam
Photo: Flickr

Water Impacts Mental Health
While June is a “cloud cover” month in Africa, temperatures are still considered sweltering hot during the summer months. While some areas of the world are fortunate to have sanitary water, Niger does not. On Niger’s hottest days of the year, temperatures can range from 83 to 106 degrees Fahrenheit.

Not having quality water and safe sanitation practices can make it a challenge to keep cool and hydrated in the Sahara. While clean water impacts overall health, there are many ways water impacts mental health as well.

The Lack of Water in Niger

Water is a basic human necessity to live. Because the body is made up of at least 60 percent water, the body needs water to help regulate body temperature and empty waste.

Half the population of Niger does not have access to clean water. This means that the people of Niger do not have access to proper drinking water, hygiene methods, spaces to rid their bodies of waste and are unable to replenish their bodies with water, causing just over 11,500 deaths of children under five years old each year.

How Water Impacts Mental Health

Among physical health concerns, clean water and proper hydration also affect mental health. Three ways water impacts mental health are:

  1. Circulation
  2. Mood and energy
  3. Ability to process

If a person is not inputting water into their system as quickly as it is being released, the body becomes dehydrated. However, prior to physical symptoms or awareness, the brain’s neurons have already detected dehydration within the body, lowering circulation, energy and the ability to cognitively function or process.

The brain and the heart are the two main reservoirs of water within the human body. When the body is dehydrated it affects circulation, which means lack of blood flow and oxygen to the brain, altering physical and mental activity.

Because lack of water can cause such fatigue, this can have a quick impact on mood stability and cognitive function. For example, fatigue might accompany anxiety or irritability, causing a higher emotional reaction to circumstances. It also affects the way in which men and women process or perceive surroundings, tasks and situations. Dehydration, whether physical, mental or both, can cause a lack of concentration, reaction time, memory, and reasoning.

Improving Water to Improve Mental Health in Niger

In 2011, the World Bank and World Health Organization partnered with the African Minister’s Council on Water to make financing sanitation efforts in 2015 and beyond a priority in 32 countries, including Niger. These efforts include making sanitation, hygiene and quality water a political priority, founding community-led programs and providing quality water to disadvantaged areas.

The amount of water that one should replenish back into the body depends on the person, activity and climate. Given that Niger residents reside in 80 percent of the Sahara Desert, residents of Niger may need to replenish their bodies with more water than the average person. While safe water is essential for drinking, cooking and keeping clean, water impacts mental health in such a way that it is essential for emotional and mental well-being also.

– Ashley Cooper
Photo: Flickr

Ongoing challenges in Lake ChadCountries surrounding Lake Chad in Central Africa are facing staggering levels of poverty. In addition to ecological challenges, violence stirred up by the terrorist organization Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria has begun to affect other nations in the region — notably Chad, Cameroon and Niger — causing detrimental consequences on food and livelihood security.

How the Region’s Citizens Are Being Affected

Due to ongoing challenges in Lake Chad, the United Nations has found that 10.7 million people are in need of assistance, seven million are food insecure and 515,000 children are suffering from severe acute malnutrition. According to the Operational Inter-Sector Working Group, the upcoming June-to-August rainy season in the Lake Chad region will leave 536,000 people vulnerable in Northeast Nigeria.

Areas of Concern for Ongoing Challenges in Lake Chad

  1. Once the third-largest source of freshwater in Africa, satellite images show that the lake has vanished to roughly 10 percent of its original size, putting millions from Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria at risk of losing their main source of water. In the 1960s, populations surrounding Lake Chad, which was then home to over 130 species of fish, enjoyed a level of food security.But decreasing water levels from the overuse of water, prolonged drought and global warming are forcing local populations to switch from fishing to agricultural production. “This is not only a humanitarian crisis, but it is also an ecological one,” Food and Agriculture Organization Director -General Graziano da Silva said at a media briefing in Rome in early 2017.
  2. Currently, armed fighting is a staple of the region. In Northeast Nigeria, the ongoing conflict with Boko Haram, a jihadist militant organization, will severely hurt cultivation in peak seasons in 2018. According to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, there was a 25 percent increase in the number of fatal conflict events in 2017 compared to the years 2013–2016 in this region. Households are highly dependent on emergency assistance from humanitarian aid agencies and deteriorating living conditions have led to population displacement.In addition, some areas are facing additional conflicts. There were 323 protection incidents reported on 84 sites in the Chad Lake region between January and April 2018, including violations of the right to property, violations of the right to life and physical integrity and sexual violence, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
  3. Food prices are well above average and are much higher than what is sustainable for those making low wages. Concern is higher in the summer “lean season,” when income is lowest and food prices are highest before harvest begins.Although humanitarian aid organizations are providing supplies, USAID reports that more needs to be done to eradicate acute food insecurity. USAID estimates that in the Adamawa State region in Nigeria, response needs are likely much higher than the organization is able to reach.

How Challenges Are Being Addressed

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations is working heavily to mitigate ongoing challenges in Lake Chad, creating a response action plan for 2017–2019 which targets Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad. To assist nearly three million people, the Food and Agriculture Organization is in the process of implementing programs include providing livestock emergency support (restocking vaccinations and animal feed), supporting food production and rehabilitating infrastructure to bolster production.

Next, there seems to be mutual understanding among countries in the region of the urgency of action. In February 2018 in Abuja, the Lake Chad Basin region commission along with the Nigerian government and UNESCO held a conference called, “Saving Lake Chad to restore its basin’s ecosystem for sustainable development, security and livelihoods.”

Finally, USAID’s Famine Early Warning Systems Network seeks to meet the needs of the most vulnerable. In April 2018, 2.25 million people in the northeast area of Nigeria received food assistance from the organization.

Ongoing challenges in Lake Chad, including the disappearance of Lake Chad, civil conflict driven by Boko Haram and limited access to foodstuff, have pushed thousands into poverty. Keeping these issues in mind, humanitarian aid organizations are working to mitigate and reverse the impacts of decades of damage.

– Isabel Bysiewicz
Photo: Flickr

Moringa Plant Reduces Food Insecurity in NigerThe United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funds efforts to reduce food insecurity in Niger, a landlocked country located in the Sahel region, an area prone to droughts. Frequent climatic shocks like droughts and floods make agriculture an inconsistent commodity. The vitamin-packed moringa tree could be a method of overcoming the inconsistent agricultural patterns and resulting food insecurity in Niger.

Nutritional Benefits of Moringa

The mystical miracle plant, moringa, is known as “the tree of life.” Officially known as Moringa oleifera, the plant is native to northern India and has been around for hundreds of years. The grassy and earthy taste of the plant is reminiscent of spinach but with a slightly more bitter taste.

The numerous health benefits of moringa prove the plant to be a natural superfood. The plant has many vitamins and minerals, including iron and calcium. Iron assists the body in mitigating anemia, and calcium helps with bone mineralization. Moringa also lowers blood sugar and cholesterol levels, which is essential to heart health. Additionally, the plant has a high protein content. The protein in the plant contains all nine essential amino acids that are usually only found in animal products.

Malnutrition occurs because of the agricultural inconsistencies that lead to food insecurity in Niger. Animal protein is usually considered a necessity in addressing malnutrition, but moringa has the nine essential amino acids in addition to containing 30 percent protein, making the plant a good substitute for animal products. Additionally, the moringa tree grows exceptionally fast in dry, semi-arid environments where other plants cannot typically grow, making it well-suited to the Nigerien climate.

Promoting Moringa to Address Food Insecurity in Niger

The National Cooperative Business Association Cooperative League of the United States of America (NCBA CLUSA) implemented the Moringa Value Chain (Moringa VC) project, which promotes the use of the moringa plant to combat food insecurity in Niger, in addition to Mozambique and Senegal.

The Moringa VC project began in 2009 and was funded by USAID. In 2012, the project was renewed under the title Moringa Intensification Project to Help Respond to and Mitigate the Drought Disaster in Niger, which assisted in strengthening the moringa plant’s role in contributing to economic growth and alleviating food insecurity.

The NCBA CLUSA’s approach to the implementation of the moringa plant included many effective steps. The development included information and awareness of the Moringa VC project, the restoration of current cooperative groups, routine data collection of focus indicators, training in production techniques and feasibility studies. These steps were implemented and carried out by many different actors in the region, including Peace Corps volunteers, agricultural officers and non-governmental organization staff.

In USAID’s Responding Early and Building Resilience in the Sahel, Nancy Lindborg said, “We know we can’t stop droughts from happening, but we can and do commit ourselves to early action when we have early warning signs, with a focus on highly targeted programs that build resilience even as we meet urgent needs.”

Women’s involvement in the growing and production of the plant has been an essential goal of the Moringa VC project. Expanding the production of moringa included women’s participation in the marketing, processing and consumption of the plant in Niger. Amy Coughenour, NCBA CLUSA’s Vice President for International Development, said that “focusing on women as a key element in this process ensures food security for the whole family.”

The NCBA CLUSA’s decentralized, inclusive and collaborative Moringa VC project is an active step in mitigating food insecurity in Niger caused by inconsistent agricultural patterns in the Sahel region.

– Andrea Quade

Photo: Google