Climate change and desertification in Niger / Désertification au Niger

Ce matin j’ai reçu un message de <>, me demandant des information supplémentaires sur le projet du Rotary belge au Niger (voir mon message antérieur sur ce sujet).

J’étais invité à voir aussi


et j’y ai trouvé la contribution suivante:


This morning I received a message from <>, asking for more information on the Belgian Rotary project in Niger (see my former posting on that subject).

I was invited to have a look at the


and found the following interesting contribution :
Source: International Federation of Red Cross And Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)

Date: 21 Mar 2007

Climate change and desertification compounds water and sanitation needs in Niger

by Robert Fraser, Senior Officer, Water and Sanitation Unit, Geneva

“The vast landlocked West African country of Niger faces an increasing demand upon its scarce water resources, the lack of which – when added to poor sanitation and hygiene – results in high levels of death and disease among its 13 million inhabitants. Many of them subsist on less than a dollar a day following traditional farming and livestock rearing in this harsh and uncompromising climate. Niger is one of the countries that form the Sahel Region which has seen recurring drought, food insecurity, and increased desertification over the last 30 years, a result – at least partly – of global climate change and overuse of scant natural resources.

During the last two years, food insecurity and drought reached abnormally high levels, prompting a response from the international community and an intensive food security operation undertaken by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

The International Federation provided food, livelihood inputs, health and logistics support to the Niger Red Cross Society to avert a greater disaster, reducing death and disease and restoring dignity to the most affected communities.

As the situation stabilised, the medium to longer term needs of those affected were considered and a very important water, sanitation and hygiene promotion programme was established. This was part of the International Federation’s ten-year Global Water and Sanitation Initiative (GWSI), which aims to contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals by scaling-up existing capacities.

More than 250,000 people in some of Niger’s poorest communities will benefit from this project, supported by the Qatar Red Crescent Society and implemented by the Niger Red Cross and an International Federation technical support team based in Niger and Senegal.

The Niger project joins 15 other large-scale water, sanitation and hygiene promotion projects being established by the Federation Global Water and Sanitation Initiative in some of the poorest countries in the Caribbean, Africa and Asia – with the objective of improving the lives of more than five million people by 2015.

The particular challenge in Niger is to ensure that the project will not increase desertification – but carefully use existing resources wisely and to their best advantage – while increasing sustainability at community level, with full Government participation, and contributing at the same time to further capacity building within the Niger Red Cross Society.

Existing water points should be rehabilitated, this to ensure that already established water sources are used as much as possible – preserving unused sources for the future. Only where there are no other options should new water sources be developed.

Appropriate and simple technologies will be used, so that communities can operate and maintain water supplies at village level, and at low and affordable costs.

Community buy-in and participation will be maximised – a ‘felt need’ among the population is a prerequisite to intervention. A special focus on behavioural change and hygiene promotion has as much importance as the engineering and construction aspects.

Also, there is a need for school latrines to convince children to change their hygiene habits, and to integrate parents and pupils in the construction and maintenance of the latrines.

As the project develops and its benefits become apparent, the ever-present threat of cholera, which is endemic in Niger – and numbers of deaths and disease cases, especially among young children will also be reduced significantly.

The first results show that after sensitization within communities, no cholera cases have been reported in the Maggia Valley, where the disease usually occurs every year.”


We all appreciate the efforts produced to provide more water to the rural people in the drylands. It is nice to have more and more wells constructed, taking into account that the sustainability of these wells has to be guaranteed.

More wells deliver more drinking water to people and animals, but it also means more irrigation water for agriculture and horticulture and hence the danger of dropping water tables.

It would be nice if efficient measures are taken to obtain:

  • A maximum of water harvesting (conservation) initiatives.
  • A maximum of water use efficiency.

I have been working with the Ministry of the Environment of Niger in 1997-1998 to show the efficiency of a technology developed at my laboratory of the University of Ghent (Belgium). It was clearly shown that mixing the soil conditioner TerraCottem with the soil in the neighbourhood of Niamey conducted at:

  • A significant saving of water.
  • A swift improvement of soil quality.
  • A spectacular enhancement of biomass production with a minimum of irrigation water.

These results were obtained at the Station for Seed Production (vegetables: tomatoes, cabbages, lettuce), at the Green Belt (Ceinture Verte) with tree revitalisation and at a nearby primary school, where mango trees and a school garden showed the success of this method.

It would be nice if we could continue this excellent and very promising cooperation.



Nous apprécions tous les efforts produits pour offrir plus d’eau à la population rurale dans les pays secs. C’est très bien d’avoir de plus en plus de sources, tout en garantissant la durabilité de ces sources.

Un plus grand nombre des sources offrent plus d’eau potable aux gens et aux animaux, mais ceci signifie aussi plus d’eau pour l’irrigation dans l’agriculture et l’horticulture, et donc un plus grand danger pour une baisse des nappes aquifères.

Il est important de prendre des mesures efficaces pour avoir:

  • Un maximum d’initiatives pour le stockage d’eau (conservation).
  • Un maximum d’efficacité dans l’utilisation de l’eau.

J’ai travaillé avec le Ministère de l’Environnement du Niger en 1997-1998 pour démontrer l’efficacité d’une technologie développée à mon laboratoire à l’Université de Gand (Belgique). Il a été prouvé clairement qu’en mélangeant le conditionneur de sol TerraCottem au sol à proximité de Niamey menait à:

  • Un gain significatif en eau.
  • Une amélioration en qualité du sol.
  • Une augmentation spectaculaire en production de biomasse avec un minimum d’eau d’arrosage.

Ces résultats ont été obtenus à la Station de Production de Semences (légumes: tomates, choux, laitues), à la Ceinture Verte avec revitalisation d’arbres et à une école primaire voisine, où des manguiers et un jardin scolaire montraient le succès de cette méthode. Il serait bien de pouvoir continuer cette coopération excellente et très prometteuse.

1998-02 Niger1998-02 Niger1998-02 Niger

1998-02 : Three successes booked with TerraCottem in Niger (TC-DIALOGUE Foundation project) : vegetable production, tree revitalisation and a school garden, all with a minimum of water.

1998-02 : Trois succès enregistrés avec le TerraCottem (projet Fondation TC-DIALOGUE): production de légumes, revitalisation d’arbres et un jardin scolaire, tous avec un minimum d’eau.

Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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