Enabling poor rural people to overcome poverty in Niger

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1 Thierry Lassalle Enabling poor rural people to overcome poverty in Niger Rural poverty in Niger A landlocked country with a surface area of approximately 1.3 million square kilometres, Niger is one of the world s least developed nations. Its population of more than 16 million is growing at an annual rate of 3.3 per cent. Some 52 per cent of Nigeriens are under 15 years of age and 84 per cent live in rural areas. Less than a third of adults are literate. Niger ranked 186 th and last in the 2013 Human Development Index of the United Nations Development Programme, with 76 per cent of its people living on less than US$2 a day. Although the country has made gains in per capita GDP, infant mortality and education in recent years, poverty and social inequality have not decreased significantly. Poverty is deepest in rural areas, especially in the regions of Maradi, Dosso and Tillabéry. Rural women and girls are among those worst affected by limited access to basic social services, credit and employment. While government revenues are highly dependent on proceeds from the extraction of uranium, gold and oil, the agriculture sector generates almost half of Niger s GDP. Agriculture in Niger is based mainly on small-scale family farms that combine rainfed crops, mainly cereals and legumes, with irrigated food and cash

2 crops, including onions, sesame and cow peas. Irrigated farming accounts for about 30 per cent of the country s agricultural production and 90 per cent of its agricultural exports. The economy of Niger is vulnerable to external shocks particularly climate shocks, given the continued prevalence of rainfed crops. Nevertheless, the macroeconomic situation has improved in recent years with positive growth driven by the agriculture sector, even as domestic food production remains insufficient to meet demand. There is also potential for additional growth, since less than a third of irrigable land has been developed. Improvements in cropping techniques could bring about a significant increase in yields. Agricultural development and poverty reduction are constrained by the impact of climate change in the Sahel, however, with rural households facing recurrent droughts and food crises that jeopardize their ability to carry cereal stocks or other assets over from one year to the next. Eradicating rural poverty in Niger Niger s economy is closely linked to the mining and agropastoral sectors. The major challenge in this context is to develop effective, pro-poor strategies benefiting the most economically vulnerable populations, such as rural women and young people. The government s Economic and Social Development Plan ( ) aims to increase GDP growth, contain debt, invest in social sectors and raise living standards. The plan is built on five pillars: Creating conditions for sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth Strengthening the credibility and effectiveness of public institutions Supporting food security and sustainable agricultural development Promoting a competitive and diversified economy Advancing social development. Nigeriens Nourish Nigeriens also known as Initiative 3N is the national strategy for achieving food security and sustainable agricultural development. In fact, achieving food sovereignty through implementation of Initiative 3N is the government s top priority, as established in its June 2011 General Policy Statement. The initiative s stated objective is to strengthen national capacities for food production, supply and resilience to food crises and natural disasters. To this end, it focuses on the following areas: Growing and diversifying agricultural, forestry, livestock and fisheries production Supporting urban and rural markets for small-scale producers Boosting vulnerable groups resilience to climate change, food crises and natural disasters Improving the nutritional status of Nigeriens Maintain the momentum of reforms involving food security and sustainable agricultural development. This national effort is integrated with subregional policies on rural development and food security, including the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme and the agricultural policies of the Economic Community of West African States and the West African Economic and Monetary Union. 2

3 IFAD s strategy in Niger Since 1980, IFAD has financed 11 operations in Niger, five of which are ongoing. IFAD s interventions in the country have worked to strengthen the capacities and coping mechanisms of small-scale rural producers, with an emphasis on the most marginalized socio-economic groups. Based on a model of sustainable family farming, IFAD supports efforts to ensure food security and strengthen the resilience of rural households by intensifying and diversifying production, post-production and marketing activities. Projects: 11 Total cost: US$348.2 million Approved IFAD financing: US$148.8 million Directly benefiting: 733,200 households The country strategic opportunities programme for 2013 through 2018 targets 195,000 rural households totalling approximately 1.4 million people. The country programme s main strategic objectives are to: Sustainably increase production by small producers in the agriculture, forestry and pastoralist sectors Improve smallholders post-production and marketing activities Strengthen the social capital of poor rural people, making local institutions and commercial activities more sustainable. This approach is based on successful, participatory interventions that IFAD has supported in the past, working with smallholder farmers and pastoralists in Niger to adopt sustainable agrarian systems; secure access to land, water and other natural resources; sustainably manage those resources; and build the capacities of smallholders, implementing partners and service providers. Over time, IFAD has also integrated a range of complementary and cross-cutting themes into its country programme, including: Adaptation of smallholder agriculture to climate change Economic empowerment and social advancement of women and young people Development of inclusive financing mechanisms Support for nutrition and the prevention of food crises Marketing strategies enabling the flow of trade from centres of production to areas of consumption at competitive prices. Ado Youssouf 3

4 Ado Youssouf Geography, agriculture and the economy Niger is a landlocked West African nation bordering Nigeria to the south, Chad to the east, Algeria to the north-west and Mali to the west. It also has short borders with Burkina Faso and Benin in the south-west and Libya in the north-east. As one of the poorest countries in the world, Niger is vulnerable to external shocks, notably cyclical droughts causing chronic food insecurity. Agriculture, livestock, forestry and fishing employ more than 80 per cent of its active population. Extractive industries account for a significant portion of its export earnings. Because most of Niger is composed of desert, virtually all of its cultivable land is in a 200-kilometre strip in the south. Most agricultural activity is carried out on a small-scale basis, primarily in the form of rain-fed farming. Millet and sorghum are the main food crops, along with some maize. Livestock-rearing is the main economic activity for smallholders in the more arid regions. The mining and extractive sector is centred on uranium and gold mining, as well as oil exploration. 4

5 Ongoing operations Project to Promote Local Initiatives for Development in Aguié Food Security and Development Support Project in the Maradi Region Agricultural and Rural Rehabilitation and Development Initiative Project Institutional Strengthening Component Ruwanmu Small-Scale Irrigation Project Emergency Food Security and Rural Development Programme Niamey Ruwanmu Small-Scale Irrigation Project The goal of this project is to raise the incomes and improve the food security of more than 455,000 poor rural people living in 30 communes within the Maradi, Tahoua and Zinder regions of Niger. Specifically, the project aims to contribute to: A sustainable increase in the productivity of irrigated areas, and strengthened local capacity to manage water resources Better transportation and marketing of products generated by small-scale irrigation. Total cost: US$25.7 million Approved IFAD loan: US$1.8 million Approved IFAD grant: US$1.0 million Cofinancing: Spanish Trust Fund (US$18.8 million) Duration: Directly benefiting: 65,000 households The target group includes smallholder agropastoral farmers; vulnerable households with no land and no access to valley plots; grassroots producers organizations; and rural communes implementing local development activities. The project stipulates that at least 30 per cent of direct beneficiaries should be women and 30 per cent young people involved in production or a related area, such as handicrafts, processing or marketing. Food Security and Development Support Project in the Maradi Region This project is addressing the food and nutrition security of the rural population in Maradi Region, where farming is characterized by low productivity and a fragile natural resource base. Maradi was the epicentre of food crises that followed severe droughts in 2005 and The project aims to improve the living conditions and resilience of smallholder households in the region through economic development based on the marketing of cereals, market-garden produce and livestock. It is to be implemented in 18 communes in farming and agropastoral areas, benefiting over 450,000 people primarily women and young people. Total cost: US$31.7 million Approved IFAD loan: US$22.2 million Cofinancing: World Food Programme (US$2.7 million) Duration: Directly benefiting: 65,000 households Project goals include: Increased productivity of smallholder farmers and pastoralists through improved technologies Higher household incomes allowing for better access to agricultural products Increased nutrition security for vulnerable groups Sustainable management of communal resources and land. 5

6 The project also works to build the capacities of producers organizations, such as cooperatives, unions and federations, as well as rural action groups, including village committees and women s associations. Emergency Food Security and Rural Development Programme Total cost: US$35.7 million Approved IFAD loan: US$6.5 million Approved DSF grant: US$6.5 million Cofinancing: OPEC Fund for International Development (US$6.4 million), World Bank/IDA (US$15.0 million) Duration: Directly benefiting: 121,000 households This programme directly targets nearly 847,000 people in the most food-insecure rural areas of Tahoua, Maradi and Tillabéry regions. A joint initiative of IFAD, the OPEC Fund for International Development and the World Bank s Global Food Crisis Response Program, it was launched to support efforts by the Government of Niger to mitigate the impacts of a major food and pastoral crisis. That crisis was brought on by a severe drought in the country in The emergency programme focuses on: Restoring productive assets for food-insecure and other highly vulnerable households Strengthening irrigated rice production systems Supporting the development of rural infrastructure. In line with IFAD s country strategic opportunities programme in Niger, the programme focuses on reducing vulnerability, helping rural households achieve food security, and restoring and developing their production capacity. Several programme activities replicate innovative experiences developed by other IFAD-supported projects in Niger, notably the Project for the Promotion of Local Initiative for Development in Aguié. Agricultural and Rural Rehabilitation and Development Initiative Project Institutional Strengthening Component Total cost: US$61.5 million Approved IFAD loan: US$8.0 million Approved DSF grant: US$8.0 million Cofinancing: World Bank/IDA (US$30.0 million), Global Environmental Facility (US$4.7 million) Duration: Directly benefiting: 68,000 households This project is part of the decentralization process launched by the Government of Niger to reduce poverty by improving access to local governance and services. It works on strengthening the ability of 56 rural communes, mainly in Maradi Region, to manage local affairs competently and improve households food security and living conditions. The target group comprises poor rural people, including women and members of vulnerable groups, whose development is blocked by weak governance and lack of access to basic services. The project aims to build up local capacities for action, with an emphasis on participation and inclusion. To facilitate capacity-building, it seeks to strengthen decentralized public departments and producers organizations, as well as fostering an enabling legal and institutional environment at the national level. The project also encourages members of its target group to participate actively in identifying, planning and making pro-poor local investments in social and economic infrastructure and food security. In this way, communal development and annual investment plans can reflect priorities and proposals developed at the village level. Moreover, the project forges linkages between communes, their constituencies and public institutions involved in the delivery of essential services. 6

7 Ado Youssouf Project to Promote Local Initiatives for Development in Aguié The goal of this project is to improve incomes, food security and living conditions for poor rural communities in Aguié Department and the neighbouring communes of Saé Saboua and Giratawa. To that end, the project has introduced cereal and food banks run by local women to help ensure that food is available year-round. It also supports the adoption of new technologies to raise the productivity of staple crops. Other project activities include: Total cost: US$37.6 million Approved IFAD loan: US$10.0 million Duration: Directly benefiting: 30,000 households Cofinancing: Belgian Fund for Food Security (US$3.8 million) Constructing and equipping health centres and schools Training community workers in household health and nutrition Providing new safe-water points. In addition, the project helps to build the capacity of grassroots rural organizations, enabling them to conceive and implement local development initiatives. To better assess community needs, it uses an innovative approach in which villagers themselves gather information on household size, assets and vulnerability. Besides generating more reliable local information, this approach helps the target group participate in identifying and formulating solutions to local problems. 7

8 Completed operations Agricultural and Rural Rehabilitation and Development Initiative Project Total cost: US$36.3 million Approved IFAD loan: US$15.2 million Approved IFAD grant: US$400,000 Duration: Directly benefiting: 68,000 households Rural Financial Services Development Programme Total cost: US$26.8 million Approved IFAD loan: US$11.8 million Duration: Directly benefiting: 220,000 households Special Country Programme Phase II Total cost: US$20.0 million Approved IFAD loan: US$12.4 million Duration: Directly benefiting: 15,000 households Aguié Rural Development Project Total cost: US$17.0 million Approved IFAD loan: US$11.3 million Duration: Directly benefiting: 8,900 households Special Country Programme Total cost: US$21.9 million Duration: Directly benefiting: 6,700 households Second Maradi Rural Development Project Total cost: US$34.0 million Approved IFAD loan: US$12.0 million Duration: Directly benefiting: 65,600 households Building a povertyfree world The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) works with poor rural people to enable them to grow and sell more food, increase their incomes and determine the direction of their own lives. Since 1978, IFAD has invested about US$14.9 billion in grants and low-interest loans to developing countries through projects empowering over 410 million people to break out of poverty, thereby helping to create vibrant rural communities. IFAD is an international financial institution and a specialized UN agency based in Rome the United Nations food and agriculture hub. It is a unique partnership of 172 members from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), other developing countries and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Contact: Vincenzo Galastro Country Programme Manager IFAD Via Paolo di Dono, Rome, Italy Tel: Fax: For further information on rural poverty in Niger visit the Rural Poverty Portal: Ado Youssouf International Fund for Agricultural Development Via Paolo di Dono, Rome, Italy Tel: Fax: ifad-un.blogspot.com June 2013

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