Maradi region, Niger, from October 22rd to November 2ndOver the last few years, climate change has emerged as a priority and strategic topic in the context of rural development processes. Its effects must be understood, analyzed and evaluated in order to reinforce societies’abilities to identify and seize opportunities and build resilience capacities to face the new challenges generated by these phenomenon at regional, national and local levels.
In West and Central Africa, climate change has produced significant effects due to irregular periods of rainfall, violent winds, droughts, and floods. In the future, it’s expected that these negative effects will worsen with the rising of temperatures, spreading of desertification and land erosion and increase in the severity and frequency of climate events becoming more and more unpredictable, putting the access and availability of natural resources at increased risk.
Specifically in the Sahel, a region thats extreme arid conditions make it one of the most vulnerable ecologic areas of the world in relation to climate variations, thousands of farming, pastoralist and fish-ing communities have suffered the impacts of climate change, experiencing worsening humanitarian crises and chronic food insecurity conditions.
Cyclical climate shocks have led to food crises in the sub-region. Food insecurity has occurred repeat-edly in recent years (2005, 2008, 2010 and 2012), heightening the vulnerability of populations. The last food and nutritional crisis (2012) was severe, affecting nearly 18 million people, including the exposure of one million children to substantial nutritional risks including long term development issues1. These crises are in part related to climate change, involving long cycles of drought, sometimes followed by floods or unpredictable rainfall, that comes too late, ends too soon, leaves too long of spacing between rains or floods fields with too much rain at one time.
To cope with the changing climate shocks, it is crucial and urgent to develop adaptation strategies and disaster risk reduction practices based on local approaches, to guarantee the living conditions of the poorest and most vulnerable populations.
Effective adaptation to climate variability is dependent on several factors: (i) change/adoption of smart agricultural practices, (ii) capacity-building on adaptive strategies and practices enabling deci-sion-making for the present and the future; (iii) access to climate information for the coming seasons; (iv) enabling socio-economic and financial environment; (v) access to climate resilient infrastructure and technologies and (vi) access to market.
In the Sahel region, Niger is among the countries that the development of the agricultural sector is endangered by the variations resulting from climate change. Niger, where the agricultural sector repre-sents about 50% of the country’ GDP, is highly vulnerable to climate change induced variations, such as increasing desertification, drought and flooding. With only 15% of arable land, any additional expansion of the Sahara will be highly detrimental to the country’s economy and the population’s livelihoods.
Niger counts many experiences focused on building the population’s resilience capacities to face the accruing challenges posed by climate shocks: it is therefore a “laboratory” of innovative solutions for climate change adaptation.
Since 1998, in Niger within a context characterized by a high pressure on land due to an extreme-ly high demographic growth rate, IFAD-funded projects have improved soil health and agricultural yields through Assisted Natural Regeneration–RNA and land restoration activities. RNA is a simple and economic technology, which improves soil health and biodiversity, which encourage the Ministry of Environment to incorporate to its strategy the RNA practice and scaled it up at a national level.
In September 2012, the Adaptation to Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP) was launched by the International Fund of Agricultural Development (IFAD) and it is currently the largest adaptation programme targeting smallholder farmers enabling them to improve their food security and nutrition, raise their incomes, and strengthen their resilience towards climate change’s negative effects. In Niger the ASAP supports the “Family Farming Development Programme in Maradi, Tahoua and Zinder Re-gions” (ProDAF) to guarantee the durability of productive systems by assuring their climate resilience.
The Adaptation Leaning Program for Africa, implemented by Care International in Niger, Ghana, Kenya, and Mozambique through its Community Based Adaptation (CBA) approaches and strategies with farming and pastoralist communities, is helping vulnerable communities to become more resilient to climate extremes.
These initiatives have been evolving over the last few years, initiating a number of local innovations reinforc-ing the technical, economic and social capacity of households, local communities and local governments to face climate change and its consequences, contributing to the reinforcement of the resilience capacities of rural communities and improving their productive activities to enhance sustainable life conditions.
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The Procasur WCA team