Niger is one of the least developed nations in the entire world. It has around 16 million people and their population is growing at a rate of 3.3% annually. Around 84% of the country lives in rural areas and 52% of all of the population in Niger is under the age of 15. They also have very low education levels with around one-third of adults not being able to read. With approximately 76% of the country living on less than two dollars a day, Niger was ranked last in the 2013 Human Development Index of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Social inequality and poverty have not decreased very much at all, even though there have been improvements in education, per capita GDP and infant mortality. The regions of Dosso, Tillabery and Maradi have some of the worst poverty in the country because they are the most rural areas, and that is where many women and girls are among the most harmed by poverty’s power over access to credit, employment and basic social services.
The Niger economy is extremely susceptible to climate shocks because of the large amount of rain-fed crops they produce that depend on having the perfect climate. Even though national food production remains at an insufficient level, the macroeconomic state of the country has improved a great deal recently with positive growth rates coming from the agricultural sector. Less than one-third of farmable land has been developed in Niger, so there is a large prospect for additional growth in the economy, especially by improving crop yields with better irrigation techniques.
The agriculture sector of Niger generates around half of the country’s GDP, though the government is trying to put more emphasis on raw resources like gold, oil and uranium. Irrigated farming accounts for about 90% of the country’s agricultural exports and around 30% of its agricultural production. The agricultural system of Niger is mostly dependent on the work of small-scale family farms. On these farms, rural families combine beans, cereals and other rain-fed crops with other irrigated types of food like sesame, peas, onions and other cash crops.
The population of Niger deeply relies on local and traditional medicine because there are not many facilities for medical care, with only a few in even the Capital of the country. There is a severe shortage of trained medical experts and the clinics and hospitals that are state-run frequently lack the essential drugs and equipment to properly treat their patients. For this reason, when most people become sick, they turn to local healers that use traditional herbal medicines and perform rituals; sometimes they follow Koranic/Islamic methods of healing as well.
The best way to reduce the poverty that is so prevalent in Niger is to invest even more in their agricultural systems, so they are less susceptible to things like climate shocks. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim have teamed up to bring more stability to this country in its trek to become a more developed nation. Among the toughest challenges ahead, the country needs to be able to recover in the resources it has lost from climate shock, but it is very difficult right now with a lot of the country’s budget going toward their military.
– Kenneth W. Kliesner