Photo: Action Against Hunger, Niger
Land degradation poses daunting challenges in Niger. In recent years, the deterioration of agricultural land has intensified, straining community relations and the environment. The RESILIAC project is responding with targeted solutions.
For more than a decade, residents of Niger’s Diffa region have faced crisis after crisis. Lack of infrastructure and access to basic services as well as ongoing violence by non-state armed groups have resulted in widespread insecurity. The impacts of climate change are further exacerbating the situation, increasing drought frequency and causing soil fertility to decline, putting crops and livestock at risk. Local populations have been forced to abandon productive agricultural areas, including the fertile lands surrounding Lake Chad. Conflicts have flared between communities due to the pressures of internal displacement, the arrival of refugees from neighbouring countries, and a scarcity of basic resources.
In response, our teams are supporting the implementation of targeted programs to restore the land and help communities improve natural resource management. The RESILIAC project aims to develop new techniques to revive degraded land and promote sustainable development in a manner that responds to local needs and conventions. The project is designed to promote multi-stakeholder debate, formalizing the rules of access to natural resources on developed lands and uniting community leaders, elected officials and other stakeholders.
STRENGTHENING COMMUNITY DIALOGUE
In the Diffa region, project teams are helping strengthen the mechanisms for dialogue between different territorial entities. They are also sharing data to demonstrate the link between the development challenges within a specific area and the needs of the local community, opening the door to data-driven solutions.
The project has helped the municipalities of Maine Soroa, Chétimari and Goudoumaria begin the process of updating their municipal plans and developing a vision to respond to the challenges they will face over the next five years. In these municipalities, departmental authorities supported the project by establishing 22 community land commissions who are responsible for carrying out development operations. In addition, consultation frameworks to improve mediation on recurring conflicts related to access to natural resources have been implemented.
These mechanisms pave the way for communities to work together to implement sustainable practices, and to call for a joint effort to reinvest in abandoned land. In addition, the project has set up consultation frameworks to address employment for young people, women and vulnerable populations so they can participate in the economic recovery of their communities, build savings and provide for their families. This helps promote stability, social cohesion and resilience in the region.
AN INCLUSIVE PROGRAM ADAPTED TO EACH VILLAGE
The village of Adebour is an example of how the RESILIAC project is helping build a more sustainable future. The local economy is focused on rainfed crop production and raising livestock in communal pasture areas, as well as small-scale trade. It also benefits from fertile valleys suitable for market gardening. Here, RESILIAC teams performed analyses to identify the natural resources that are subject to demographic and environmental pressures.
Armed with the results of these analyses, local farmers groups mobilized to restore the land. They constructed fences and permanent water points, stabilized sand dunes with vegetative cover, and planted prosopis plants to slow the advance of the desert. “This site is important to us,” says Soumaila Malam Awari, a member of the site’s management committee. “Not only will it protect our valley from sand encroachment, it will also allow our animals to graze right next to the village.”
The RESILIAC project promotes equitable access to land on restored sites. In one of the village’s community market gardening sites, 12 of the 48 heads of household designated for land management are women, representing real progress toward gender equality in the region. This initiative has ushered in new opportunities for women like Gaptia Mai Wandara, a young farmer and mother of three. “I now benefit from a plot of 200 m², where I grow potatoes, tomatoes, moringa and lettuce,” she says. “Before, it was my husband, alone, who provided for our household by working as a labourer and selling charcoal. Now, with access to these market garden products, the nutritional security of our family has improved. As a woman, having access to land is a pride and an opportunity.”
INNOVATIVE TECHNIQUES to respond to climate change
Soil fertility in the region is declining due to ill-adapted agricultural practices, erosion and silting. To help find solutions, project teams are conducting experimental studies in partnership with the University of Diffa and testing innovative new farming techniques. Twenty leading agricultural producers in the village of Yambal, half of whom are women, participated in the studies. Alongside university students, the farmers experimented with plant spacing, the addition of compost to the soil, and using natural deterrents such as neem juice and herbs to combat insect pressure. When effective practices are identified, the knowledge is shared with the local community through Farmer Field Schools.
In addition to providing farmers with practical techniques to improve their yields, protect their crops, and ensure the sustainability of their lands, the project engages local state technical services. Last year, training on Climate-Smart Agriculture (AIC) was organized with the Regional Directorate of Agriculture and the agents of the RESILAC project, in collaboration with the International Institute for Research on Crops in Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT).
“RESILAC’s community approach responds to our specific local needs,” says the president of a civil society organization in Diffa. “Before carrying out any activity, the team always asks if it’s in line with our needs and our way of life.”
Join Our Community
Want to join the fight against hunger? Join our mailing list to stay up to date on all the latest news and events from Action Against Hunger.