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Family Planning in ZinderZinder is a region in southern Niger with a population of more than 3.5 million as of 2012. It is one of the country’s most inhabited areas. While women in Niger give birth to an average of 7.6 children, this rate is even higher in Zinder where women have an average of 8.5 children each. Smaller families and slower population growth often correlate with a decrease in poverty. But in Zinder, where 53.8% of people live below the poverty line, large families and frequent pregnancies were associated with higher social status. Women give birth often and usually at young ages. Half of the girls in Zinder marry before the age of 15. This increases the population of a country that lacks the resources to feed, shelter and educate all of these children. Thus, there is a great need for widespread family planning in Zinder.

Global groups are implementing programs in Zinder to help normalize family planning and slow the population boom. Here are some effective programs that have been established to spread ideas and reduce the stigma surrounding family planning in Zinder.

UNFPA Schools for Husbands

Niger ranked last in matters surrounding gender equality in the 2013 Human Development Report. It is men, not women, who primarily make decisions surrounding pregnancy and childbirth. However, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), an international organization that focuses on maternal and reproductive health, has dedicated itself to changing that. It has started more than 137 Schools for Husbands in the region since 2004 in order to improve family planning in Zinder.

These “schools” lack official lessons and schoolwork; rather, they are safe spaces for men to discuss possible solutions to reproductive health concerns. The men who attend them help each other understand the importance of family planning. Together they brainstorm ways to encourage “pregnant and breastfeeding women to attend Integrated Health Centers” in their area. These men, all of whom are married, also bring this information back to their wives, encouraging not only maternal health for the women in these relationships but also better communication among couples.

This program has been wildly successfulーthe use of maternal health resources has tripled in areas where these “schools” operate. Rates of prenatal doctors’ visits and safe births have increased. With these successes, the program has recently spread to several other regions in Niger.

The USAID and PSI Partnership

Population Services International (PSI), a family planning organization, has partnered with USAID to research reasons behind the lack of family planning in Zinder. It has made two important observations: the fact that Islam, the dominant religion in Niger guides many decisions around childbirth and pregnancy, and that families often fail to consider financial implications before having children.

Using this information, PSI created a series of programs in Zinder. These included a financial budgeting tool to help men calculate the cost of having multiple children. This initiative also urged religious leaders to speak with their communities about reproductive health. Another program that PSI created was a poster campaign that encourages family planning using verses from the Quran. These programs, which included more than 200 community members in nine villages, normalized family planning from both a financial and religious standpoint. They also encouraged open conversations around pregnancy prevention.

While the childbirth rate in the region remains remarkably high, many are making progress in normalizing family planning in Zinder. Organizations are working together to emphasize reproductive health in the region and slow the population growth rate.

Daryn Lenahan
Photo: Flickr

Poverty and income diversification The World Bank estimates that 78% of the world’s poor live in rural areas. Most individuals who reside in these areas depend on farming and agriculture not only for sustenance, but also for household income. There is consequently a correlation between poverty and having one, dominating occupation. Yet according to researchers, there seems to be a solution to this relationship through increased income diversification.

Farming

There is an issue of volatility that is inherent in farming. Variability in conditions can adversely affect crop yield, which ultimately impacts the income received by farmers. According to Farm Europe, competition can also be problematic. If all the poor in a given region take up farming as a means of earning income, then at some point, the supply outweighs the demand. When that happens, either crop prices will either decrease or crops will waste away in storage. This effect is further amplified when governments are unable or unwilling to offer adequate compensation for farmers’ excess crops.

Even in the United States, abundant in resources and well-developed in agricultural techniques, farming is a constantly changing industry. The USDA reports a wide fluctuation in income earned by a typical commercial farmer between 2000 and 2014. As a result, there is a need for income diversity worldwide, and this is particularly illustrated by some of the success stories in impoverished countries.

Vietnam

Since the 1990s, Vietnam has experienced high rates of economic growth. Researchers with the IFPRI (International Food Policy Research Institute) assert this is due in large part to income diversification.

Vietnam’s highest concentration of poverty is located in the Northern Hills. An analysis of the region suggested that those able to earn income by way of agricultural production, as well as non-farming activities, experienced the highest spike in their earnings over time. However, where does that leave those solely reliant on farming?

Residents limited to farming only managed to earn a living by applying the principle of diversification to their crops. They deviated from the typical crop grown, rice, and added cash crops, like coffee and tea, to their output. The cash crops yielded a much higher profit per unit of sale and required less land, labor and resources to grow and maintain. Even so, their spike in income did not match that of those who participated in both farming and non-farming activities. Nonetheless, the practice of diversification provided a much more stable source of income overall.

Niger

Niger currently ranks as the fifth most impoverished country in the world, and it is actively striving to end its poverty issue. People are seeing positive results attributed to the dynamic between poverty and income diversification.

A study conducted on over 600 smallholder rice farming families in Niger revealed that those who also participated in non-farming wage employment were better off than those who strictly farmed or were self-employed in some capacity related to farming. An important effect of a second stream of income was the ability to maintain the size of a given farm. The ancillary job could generate enough profit during a poor season to cover overhead costs for the following season.

Conclusion

The relationship between poverty and income diversification has become a central focus for policymakers across the globe. It is an effective way for individuals to mitigate the impacts of poverty. Empowering impoverished families to earn steady income can solve many issues embedded in poverty. If a family can individually afford food and water, they can pay to keep their lights on or go for a visit to a doctor. Moreover, the idea of attaining an education or further developing their current form of income becomes a realistic possibility. Diversifying income creates a pathway to not only sustaining livelihoods, but lays the groundwork for prosperity.

Christian Montemayor
Photo: Flickr

“Every Last Child” Save the Children believes that children have the right to grow up healthy, educated and safe. Since its beginning in 1919, they have worked in over 100 countries. In 2019 alone, the organization reached over 144 million children globally. One of their newest campaigns, “Every Last Child,” has allowed them to increase their reach to especially vulnerable populations of children around the world. Below are four facts about the campaign and its efforts.

The Start

The world was introduced to the global campaign on April 26, 2016. The campaign strives to reach children who do not have adequate access to health care, education and protection. It works to end deaths among children from preventable causes. The specific goal is to prevent at least 600,000 preventable child deaths. Another facet of the campaign is aiding children in receiving a basic quality education. The quantified objective for this goal is helping 50 million more children gain access to education. A 15-year time frame, 2030, was the basic idea for these missions. So far, the campaign has helped 15 million of the world’s “excluded children” have access to life-saving health care and quality education.

“Excluded Children”

“Every Last Child” focuses on “excluded children“, defined as those “not benefiting from recent global progress in social well-being, particularly in health and learning, because of a toxic mix of poverty and discrimination.” The campaign did research to establish the extent of exclusion associated with certain groups of children. It found that persecution and discrimination for beliefs occurred to 400 million children with ethnic and religious backgrounds. Further, children with disabilities are four times more likely to experience physical and sexual violence and neglect when compared to their peers.

Three Guarantees

The campaign calls on leaders across the world to make three guarantees for all children. The first guarantee is the establishment of fair finance. The “Every Last Child” campaign describes this as, “sustainable financing of and free access to essential services.” This includes escalating public investment in high-quality health and educational services to increase access for all children.

The second guarantee is to establish equal treatment by putting an end to discriminatory policies and norms. This is to help eliminate bias that negatively impacts minority groups.

The third guarantee is to increase the accountability of decision-makers by amplifying the voices of excluded groups in policymaking. This will ensure the allocation of community budgets positively impact excluded groups of children. These three promises help contribute to the mission of the “Every Last Child” campaign.

Tailored Strategies

The campaign customizes its efforts to fit each country’s needs. While many countries experience similar issues, not all of them are equal in the amount of impact needed. In order to reach these vulnerable populations of children, the issues addressed by the campaign are varied in each country.

For example, in Niger, the “Every Last Child” campaign advocates for the adoption of policies that outlaw early child marriage and support access to quality education. In Yemen, they fight for the protection of children affected by conflict. In Kosovo, they promote access to quality services in the education and health industries for children, particularly those with disabilities.

The goal is to make these services and information about them available to parents and families in the country to create greater access. Customizing their goals allows the “Every Last Child” campaign to focus on the most pressing issues affecting each country.

Since their beginning in 2016, Save the Children’s “Every Last Child” campaign has made it their mission to put an end to the exclusion of vulnerable populations of children. Through their research and advocacy efforts, they have helped to address the need to increase access to life-saving health care and quality education for children worldwide to ensure that no child is left out of the advancements of the social world.

Sara Holm
Photo: Flickr

Combatting Child Marriage in NigerBoarding in between the African countries Algeria and Chad, Niger is ranked the world’s poorest country. Considering the country is home to a 16.3% urban population and 83.7% rural population, the lack of resources for those living on rural land is a primary reason for the severely high child marriage rate. This article will list why combatting child marriage in Niger continues to be a prevalent topic today.

High Birth Rate and A Young Population

Niger has the second-highest birth rate globally, which is caused by a high infant mortality rate. According to the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), the current infant mortality rate is 80.4 per 1,000 live births. Malnutritionment plays a vital role in children’s health and the lack of proper food and clean water contributes to the mortality rate.

According to the United Nations Human Development Index, Niger is ranked the lowest at 189 out of 189 countries. More than 50% of the Niger population are under the age of 15, and approximately 89% of young girls marry prior to reaching the age of 18. Less than 30% of those children receive an education, which is an even more prevalent issue among girls. One of the main reasons children aren’t attending school is the extreme poverty within the country.

When a child is sick or suffering from starvation, they become malnourished, which makes them incapable of attending school, and the more often it happens, the less likely they are of going back to school. Combatting child marriage in Niger is seemingly difficult due to the extreme poverty and it makes human development, especially for children and women, extremely challenging to achieve.

A Lack of Independence With a Lack of Education

Niger has the second-highest birth rate globally, which is caused by a high infant mortality rate. According to the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), the current infant mortality rate is 80.4 per 1,000 live births. Malnutritionment plays a vital role in children’s health and the lack of proper food and clean water contributes to the mortality rate.

According to UNICEF, married women become dependent on their husbands because their sense of independence is taken away. However, women are, more often than not, engaging in marriage during their teenage years before they are even fully mature, which would explain why their sense of independence is stricken away so early on.

Education plays an important role in child marriages in the country of Niger because the lack of knowledge makes a woman more vulnerable to risky decisions. According to UNICEF, “The link between education and the prevalence of child marriage is particularly evident in Niger: 81% of women aged 20-24 with no education and 63% with only primary education were married or in union at age 18.” The lack of children attending school is a primary reason for combatting child marriage in Niger.

Unstable Government

Niger lacks the ability to properly control and patrol its borders, making it more unprotected and defenseless to possible terrorism and criminals. The government lacks accountability in this area, making it the perfect hideaway for terrorists and drug traffickers. The more unstable the government is, the more vulnerable, yet welcoming it is to child marriages.

Although child marriage became illegal by law in 1999, it is still prevalent today and is plummeting young girls’ social and economic standing. However, with the continuous help from the organization Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE), child marriages in Niger and all African countries will soon come to an end. Five female ministers in the education field created the organization in 1992 and are working toward combatting child marriage in Niger. According to FAWE, the goal is to strengthen young girls’ minds in multiple countries in Africa by increasing access to education and ensuring the caliber is up to par for them to benefit from its resources.

FAWE has expanded over the years by remaining in close contact with 34 national chapters to ensure female education grows substantially and it “relates to long-term economic development and its centrality and urgency in education sector planning.” With FAWE’s progression, among other organizations, and the government of Niger taking accountability for flawed areas within the system, young girls in Niger and in other African countries will become more educated and free of potential threats to their personal growth.

– Montana Moore
Photo: Flickr

Photography Fights Child MarriageTwelve million girls a year—or 23 girls every minute—are married before their 18th birthday. The most common factors that contribute to child marriage are poverty, lack of education and gender norms. Around the world, 21% of young women were married as minors. The prevalence of child marriage is even higher in sub-Saharan Africa, at 37% of young women. Various art forms, including photography and music, have been used to advocate for the eradication of this harmful practice. Photography fights child marriage by raising awareness for this pressing issue and empowering women to take action.

Costs of Child Marriage

When young women and girls are forced to marry, they are less likely to attend school. They are separated from their family and friends, and they are also more likely to experience life-threatening complications during pregnancy and childbirth, suffer domestic violence and contract HIV/AIDS. Furthermore, child marriage traps these girls in a cycle of poverty, in which they and their children are less able to access opportunities for education and economic empowerment.

Photography Fights Child Marriage and Empowers Girls

Too Young to Wed, a nonprofit founded in 2012 by photojournalist Stephanie Sinclair, uses photography to raise awareness of the prevalence of child marriage. This organization creates media campaigns focusing on child marriage and uses compelling photojournalism to show that the practice is a violation of human rights. The photographs have been seen by billions, and one media campaign that focused on child marriage in Nepal reached more than 9.7 million people. The photographs, alongside firsthand accounts from girls at risk of or impacted by child marriage, “inspire the global advocacy and policy-making communicates to act,” according to Sinclair.

In addition to organizing photo workshops, this organization provides leadership scholarships, vocational training and other support. The Leadership Scholarship program is especially crucial because education is vital to preventing child marriages. In the last eight years, Too Young to Wed has directly helped 600 girls, and much more indirectly, in its fight against child marriage. Sinclair told Global Citizen, “[Girls] can do all kinds of things that they can bring back to their community and then also bring them out of a level of poverty where the most extreme forms of child marriage are definitely happening.” When young women are educated, their children are more likely to be educated as well, which helps take the family out of the cycle of poverty.  Overall, Too Young to Wed uses visual evidence and storytelling to highlight the harmful impacts of child marriage, empower girls and inspire change.

Tehani Photo Workshop

Since 2016, Too Young to Wed has provided a week-long photography workshop that also functions as an immersive art therapy retreat called the Tehani Photo Workshop. Partnered with the Samburu Girls Foundation, Too Young to Wed held the first workshop in Kenya, where about 1 in 4 girls are married before the age of 18. During this workshop, 10 girls who had escaped their marriages learned how to shoot portraits, and they were able to form friendships and reclaim their narratives. To conclude the workshop, the girls presented their photographs and told their stories to more than 100 members of their community.  According to Sinclair, the workshops aim to “help [the girls] better realize their self-worth and the value of their voice.”

Music as a Tool in the Fight Against Child Marriage

In Benin, where more than 25% of girls are married before they are 18 years old, artists collaborated in 2017 to release a song and music video that highlighted this issue. UNICEF’s Goodwill Ambassadors Angélique Kidjo and Zeynab Abib, along with seven other artists, composed the song as part of the national Zero Tolerance Campaign against child marriage. The song is titled “Say No to Child Marriage” and includes multiple languages so its message resonates with people within Benin and in neighboring countries. “Child marriage is a negation of children’s right to grow up free,” said Kidjo. “Every child has the right to a childhood.”

In 2019, the United Nations Children’s Fund worked with music producer Moon Boots and vocalist Black Gatsby to produce a music video to speak out against child marriage in Niger, where 76% of girls are married before the age of 18. Also, according to UNICEF, Niger has the world’s highest rate of child marriage. The song, titled “Power,” promotes education as a positive alternative that can empower girls and reduce poverty in their communities. According to a Félicité Tchibindat, a UNICEF representative in Niger, it also fights against the practice of child marriage by raising awareness that “ending child marriage is possible,” even though it is a long-held social norm.

Conclusion

Although the rates of child marriage are gradually declining worldwide, it is estimated that 120 million more girls under the age of 18 will be married by 2030 if current trends continue. The coronavirus pandemic has also put up to 13 million more girls at risk of child marriage because of rising poverty rates, school closures and hindered access to reproductive health services and resources.

Twenty-five million child marriages have been prevented in the last ten years, and UNICEF attributes the decline of the practice in part to “strong public messaging around the illegality of child marriage and the harm it causes.” While photography fights child marriage, further far-reaching and powerful art initiatives, along with the work of national governments and international organizations, can continue to raise awareness, empower girls and reduce the prevalence of this practice around the world.

– Rachel Powell
Photo: Flickr

poverty in Niger
Niger is a country in West Africa and is one of the world’s most impoverished nations. Although the country has made significant effort in poverty reduction, Niger’s extreme poverty rate remained at 41.4% in 2019, affecting 9.5 million people. Here are the top 10 facts about poverty in Niger.

Top 10 Facts about Poverty in Niger

  1. Niger’s fast-growing population adds to its high poverty rate. The United Nations expects Niger’s population to triple by 2050. As a result, the country’s inability to break the cycle of poverty for impoverished families will increase.
  2. Population Services International (PSI) Corporation promotes family planning resources in Niger. In 2019, PSI partnered with the Nigerien Ministry of Public Health to administer an outreach mission for voluntary family planning to rural areas of Niger. For example, the operation provided long-acting contraception methods and health education.
  3. Niger battles hunger. As of 2015, with a population of 18 million, 81% of Niger’s population lives in rural areas. Due to the rurality, most of the community does not have access to a food market. This exacerbates the problem of food security for the 20% of citizens who do not have enough food.
  4. Action Against Hunger aided 429,301 Nigeriens in 2018. The program provided better access to food markets and seasonal cast-for-work opportunities. Action Against Hunger assisted families by donating seeds and agricultural tools to those in need.
  5. Niger encounters climate challenges. As a country in West Africa, 80% of Niger is coated by the Sahara Desert, causing challenges for agriculture. The dry climate and minimal crop growth force 40% of Nigerien children under the age of five to experience malnutrition.
  6. Frequent droughts harm Niger’s economy. Niger’s economy relies heavily on agriculture, accounting for more than 40% of its GDP. As a result, when the country faces continuous short rainy seasons, there are food and job shortages.
  7. The World Food Programme (WFP) assists Niger’s farmers. The WFP buys produce from local Niger farmers and connects the farmers with corporate markets. This program helps the farmers to gain a steady income and reduce poverty.
  8. CARE Niger transforms the lives of Nigerien citizens. Since 1973, CARE Niger has reduced hunger through its Food Security and Nutrition and Management of Natural Resources Program. The plan established farmer field schools that advocated for markets and nutrition.
  9. Conflicts near Niger’s borders affect its citizens. Thousands of Nigerians have fled Nigeria to Niger due to violent extremism. As a result, almost 23,000 Nigerian refugees arrived in Niger in April 2020 alone.
  10. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) establishes nutritional opportunities for Niger. In April of 2020, USAID announced a five-year plan titled the Yalwa Activity, which plans to bolster the capabilities of Nigerien farmers by mandating access to affordable, safe food. Additionally, the Yalwa Activity will enhance food storage for farmers, allowing farmers to sell their produce at markets across Niger.

With its growing population, harsh climate and troubled borders, Niger remains one of the world’s most impoverished nations. Nevertheless, through outreach and international aid, Niger hopes to reduce its extreme poverty rates.

– Kacie Frederick 
Photo: Flickr

Life Expectancy in Niger

Life expectancy rates measure the overall mortality of a country in a given year, a statistic affected by countries’ poverty rates. There is a correlation between poor health and poverty that implies those in better socioeconomic classes will live longer, healthier lives than those in lower classes. With a poverty rate of approximately 44.1 percent in 2017, Niger, a landlocked country in Africa also has one of the lowest life expectancy rates in the world. Below are 10 facts about life expectancy in Niger, which explain the challenges the government faces to improve quality of life and the efforts being taken to prevent premature deaths.

10 Facts about Life Expectancy in Niger

  1. In 2016, the global life expectancy rate was 72.0 years old and on average, women were expected to live to 74.2 years old while the rate for men was slightly lower at 69.8 years old. A 2018 estimate by the CIA estimates the average life expectancy rate in Niger was 56.3 years old. The rate for women was 57.7 years while men on average lived until 55.0 years old.
  2. One of the biggest factors affecting Niger’s stagnant poverty rates is their increasingly growing population rate. With a 3.16 percent growth rate, Niger has the seventh fastest-growing population in the world. The people of Niger lack adequate resources to feed and shelter the constantly increasing population only exacerbating the mortality rate.
  3. In 2017, the UN ranked Niger as the second least developed country in the world due to their reliance on agriculture. The majority of the population, 87 percent, depends on agriculture including subsidized farming and domestic livestock as their primary means of income. Nearly half of the population of Niger falls below the poverty line a consequence of the limited job opportunities and lack of industry.
  4. In 2017, Niger ranked 189th out of 189 countries on the United Nations Human Development Index (HDI), a scale that ranks countries based on three factors: health, knowledge and quality of life. The health factor is determined by the life expectancy at birth while knowledge is determined by the average rate of schooling for citizens and quality of life is measured by the gross national income. Although this index does not account for poverty levels, socioeconomic inequality or human security, Niger’s low ranking depicts a country struggling with healthcare, education and economic prosperity.
  5. The top three leading causes of death in Niger in 2017 were malaria, diarrheal diseases and lower respiratory infections. Comparatively, in the United States, the leading causes of death are heart disease, cancer and accidents. The leading causes of death in the United States are noncontagious and in the case of accidentals, unavoidable. However, both malaria and diarrheal diseases are treatable and communicable conditions that could be prevented with proper healthcare.
  6. Located between three deserts, Niger is one of the hottest countries in the world with a very dry climate. This extreme climate creates inconsistent rainfall patterns, which leads to long periods of drought and widespread famine. Groundwater, the only option for clean water, is often contaminated in wells or kilometers away. As a result, only 56 percent of the population has access to drinking water while 13 percent of the population uses proper sanitation practices.
  7. The people of Niger lack education about proper health practices with 71 percent of people practicing open defecation while 17 million people do not have a proper toilet. The lack of proper disposal for fecal matter affects access to clean drinking water by contaminating hand-dug wells meant to provide clean water to entire villages. This improper sanitation, contaminated water and insufficient hygiene contribute to diarrhea-associated deaths in Niger.
  8. In partnership with European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), UNICEF Niger successfully advocated for the expansion of the national seasonal malaria chemoprevention campaign and the inclusion of malnutrition screening in the country. In 2016, the malaria chemoprevention campaign helped 2.23 million children between three and 59 months suffering from malaria. Also, the incorporation of malnutrition screening contributed to an 11 percent decrease in the number of children with severe acute malnutrition in 2016.
  9. Doctors Without Borders has recognized the need for malaria and malnutrition care in Niger, especially during peak drought seasons. In 2018, Doctors Without Borders treated 173,200 patients for malaria, placed 42,300 people into feeding treatment centers and admitted 86,300 people to hospitals for malaria and malnutrition treatment.
  10. A UNICEF funded branch of the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) program is active in Niger and fighting to increase access to clean water and sanitation facilities to combat open defecation and poor hygiene. Currently, UNICEF is modeling a WASH-approach in 14 municipalities within three regions of Niger with the intent of opening new facilities, strengthening water pipe systems and managing water supply networks.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in Niger depict a country attempting to improve the quality of life for its people despite social and environmental challenges. Slowly, with help from humanitarian organizations and nonprofits, the life expectancy in Niger will continue to improve.

Hayley Jellison
Photo: Flickr

 

Poverty Rate in NigerNiger made American and world news recently for the ambush that killed four U.S. Army Green Berets operating alongside Nigerien troops in October. The World Bank puts the poverty rate in Niger at 48.9, and in 2015 it ranked dead last out of 188 countries in the United Nations Development Index. 76 percent of Nigeriens live on less than $2 a day.

The region of Africa that Niger occupies is home to several armed groups loyal to al-Qaeda or the Islamic State. A group affiliated with the latter is the primary suspect behind the October 4 attacks that killed the U.S. servicemen. Violence, both within and without, has always been a factor contributing to the poverty rate in Niger. In 2015, Niger approved the deployment of 750 troops to neighboring Nigeria to combat the Islamist group Boko Haram. In retaliation, Boko Haram has increased its operations in Niger.

The conflict has also created a refugee situation. About 115,000 people from neighboring Nigeria have relocated to Niger, primarily to the Niger’s Diffa region, which is already known for having a strained food supply.

Another tragic factor contributing to the poverty rate in Niger is teenage pregnancy and child brides. Half of the girls in Niger are married before age 15. Many of these unions are forced marriages. Polygamy is also common in Niger. The extremely young age at which many Nigerien girls give birth and the high numbers of children many mothers have are creating a population boom that could increase the poverty rate in Niger if not handled carefully.

These facts may present a grim picture of Niger, but there are efforts being made to reduce the poverty rate in Niger. Mobile fertility clinics have given Nigerien women education and access to birth control that they would otherwise not have. Many communities also have “husband schools” to educate men on birth spacing and population control, so that they are knowledgeable about these issues and can come to an agreement with their wives to have fewer children.

The agriculture sector also has shown improvements in recent years and has driven Niger’s economy. Less than a third of Niger’s usable land is currently being farmed. Combined with better farming techniques, this could lead to much higher food production. These steps may seem small on their own, but with combined efforts, they can make a major difference in the lives of Nigeriens.

Andrew Revord

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in NigerNiger is a landlocked country in sub-Saharan Africa that struggles to feed its population. Three major factors that contribute to hunger in Niger are overpopulation, scarce water supply and armed conflict.

The food crisis in Niger is made worse by the staggering birth rates of the region. With an average of 7.6 children per woman, Niger’s population is growing fast.

This growth raises questions regarding how to feed these children. An estimated 2.5 million people have no secure source of food.

Niger has poor access to contraception, so the population is likely to continue increasing and put more strain on its already meager food supply.

Nigerien president Mahamadou Issoufou is working with the African Development Bank (AfDB) to better modernize the infrastructure of the country in an attempt to feed the growing population.

“We have launched the Nigeriens Nourish Nigeriens initiative, aiming to reduce poverty — which mainly affects women and rural populations — to 31 percent and enabling the complete eradication of hunger in Niger by 2021,” Issoufou said.

Niger is a landlocked country located just beneath the Sahara Desert. As a result, finding access to water can be difficult.

Niger’s food sources are vulnerable since the country relies heavily on subsistence rain-fed agriculture. The variance in rainfall and the harsh climatic conditions contribute to the chronic food insecurity.

AfDB president Akinwumi Adesina addressed members of Niger’s government on Sept. 26, 2017, in an effort to show how the AfDB plans to help mitigate the lack of water.

“I am convinced that the construction of the Kandadji dam, one of the projects we are financing here in Niger, will enable your country to overcome challenges in agriculture and energy. Once complete, the Kandadji dam will produce 1.5 billion square meters, 125 megawatts, and will allow about 45,000 hectares of land to be irrigated.”

Ongoing Boko Haram-related conflict has caused an influx of Nigerian refugees. Population displacement has left locals in the Diffa region of Niger food-insecure.

Boko Haram, the Islamist extremist group, has rampaged across the region for years, forcing more than two million people to flee their homes and farms. Across the border of Niger and Nigeria, trade has come to a halt. Markets have shut down because vendors have nothing to sell.

Because of Boko Haram-induced terror in Nigeria, refugees flee north into Niger. This places even more stress on the overpopulated and food-insecure country.

Farmers in Niger and Nigeria have begun to change their tactics, planting crops that lay low to the ground so as not to be easily spotted by raiding soldiers. However, this is a desperate solution to hunger in Niger that only direct actions from world powers can fix.

Sam Bramlett

Photo: Flickr

Education and ReintegrationSince 2015, Niger has been subject to attacks by jihadist group Boko Haram. In 2016, Niger launched a new political initiative: a de-radicalization and reintegration program based on education and participation for the captured Boko Haram fighters. This strategy, also known as disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR), can be effective during violent times. It is the means to achieving post-war goals and maintaining order in society.

DDR, now seen as a useful tactic to countering violent extremism, has become a political strategy, one that supports education and vocational training rather than violence and imprisonment. Rather than fighting violence with violence, the idea is to stimulate peace by instilling conventional development goals for society. Despite the de-radicalization classes and vocational training in the DDR camps, jobs are scarce and poverty is still rampant, making extremism more attractive to civilians.

Structural issues in the prison system and reintegration issues in society create more obstacles for the government in maintaining peace. Niger lacks the proper legal mechanisms or sorting criteria for prisons and the DDR program. No set standards exist for distinguishing between the detainees and escapees sent to prison or to the DDR program. Without these legal processes, the Boko Haram ex-insurgents are still legally terrorists. The U.N. excludes Niger and refuses to provide them with international assistance; the U.S. also does not grant them foreign material aid.

There is a need for supporting this method at the community level as well. Many ex-insurgents find it hard to reintegrate into a society that rejects them. People need to understand that in order to thwart the threat of extremism, it is necessary to destroy the ideology and punish those who spread it, not those who were a product of it.

This initiative has been pioneered by the southern town of Diffa. Diffa governor Mahamadou Lawaly Dan Dano has requested that the University of Diffa help build the community for those in the program. With 150 people in the program, including fighters’ wives and 28 young boys, conditions in Diffa became poor. After an escape attempt, it was relocated to a refugee camp in Goudoumaria where it can expand. They now have food, water and even a small infantry.

Despite not having schools until the 1990s, this region is now receiving 12 EU-funded vocational training centers and is set to put this into action. Another DDR program is working with this effort to release some of the 80 minors detained on both sides of the border to transit and orientation centers in Diffa.

Limiting risk through a national acceptance of the larger enemy and incentivizing peace through a collaborative systematic process are how education and reintegration could save Niger from Boko Haram.

Tucker Hallowell

Photo: Flickr