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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

Moringa Plant Reduces Food Insecurity in Niger

The 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