LoCAL aids better response systems protecting farms and food in Niger

  • April 24, 2017

  • Dosso, Niger

Niger is the 8th country that joined LoCAL mid-2015, and within less than a year, it has caught up really fast with the earlier countries by incorporating early lessons and already committing US$ 40,000 for the second year.

Sophie De Coninck, the Programme Manager of LoCAL in Africa

Many of us can’t imagine living without an arm’s reach of water, but for a number of Niger’s rural people, it is a reality they have to face daily.

Confronted with the rising concerns over climate change, the locals attest to strange weather patterns. Recently, numerous locals have noticed the rainy season has started earlier than the usual time.

Many might think that this is great news for such a country straddling the unforgiving heat of the Sahara, however, the locals fear this phenomenon, as a rainy season that starts early could mean one that ends early, which is detrimental to the crops. Not being able to grow crops, as bad as it is, saves water, time and hard work that could be used for other tasks. Having the crops die, after a whole season’s effort, can drain a community of much-needed water, resources and money.

In Dogonkiria the water is so scarce, it is directly linked to one’s living standards. If one lives closer to a well, they are more likely, not only to ensure that thirst is quenched, but that the livestock is kept fed and the crops remain green. The more access to water there is, the better life one leads.

Formerly, the increased unpredictability of the rainy season mentioned by the locals brought different variables for farmers. The untimely incidence of rain is not only an indicator of the future availability of water, but it is a precursor for worse things to happen. This includes flooding waterways, disease outbreak, pest management issues, sudden droughts, the possibility of wildfires, soaring market prices for food, among other factors. Niger’s rural plains are in need of monitoring and assessment at all times, in order to ensure food security to the population that live in Niger’s ‘last mile.’

This is why the Local Climate Adaptive Facility (LoCAL) of UNCDF has supported some necessary projects in terms of the Dosso district’s climate adaptation aspirations. One of which is expanding on a project that equips communes with early warning systems for emergency response.

These systems are networks that rapidly provide information to local governments. According to the Mayor of Dogonkiria, Mr Mamane Tourba, “the system has helped us deal with responsiveness on the ground much faster. It allowed us to deal directly with the farmer without having to go to other officials who are usually tending to other issues.”

He explained further: “It is a committee that is democratically chosen by locals to represent the communes to send monthly information from the farms to the local government. This information is then collected and used as data for what these areas need and how the situation can be improved when adapting to climate change.

The committee members do this via standardized forms that are designed for communes to express their concern and needs with their agricultural livelihood. Also, it is a chance for them to describe the weather changes that are rarely documented in these vulnerable areas, specifically in the least developed countries (LDCs).

The early warning systems not only serve as data collection teams but are also fit for emergency response for farmers in need. This is fulfilled by another complementary project by LoCAL in the district – one that provides assistance to farmers experiencing agricultural hurdles. The project trained 50 environmental brigadiers, on how to use the phytosanitary equipment. These brigadiers are equipped with farm-guard sprayers, some agricultural expertise and are within close distances.

Formerly, farmers would have to reach out to the district government for emergencies and, even then, it was difficult for support to reach as they are far away and often overbooked. This gives the farmer direct access to the local government’s services and expedites the response. Moreover, the area under the mayor’s supervision had only 10 of these systems— LoCAL supported the establishment of 5 more.

The Mayor said: “Instead of waiting, this immediate intervention increases the yield from the crops – even if some of it has already gone bad. Before, they needed higher-level government assistance, but they are dedicated to a larger area, which means the requested will have to be queued.”

“The harvest for millet and sorghum, which are the main crop in this area, are usually in late September or October, however, the rain hasn’t been as consistent and it is the end of May. This has substantially changed the way people farm and threatened local people’s source of income,” Mr Oumarou added.

Sophie De Coninck, the Programme Manager of LoCAL in Africa, explained: “Niger is the 8th country that joined LoCAL mid-2015. Within less than a year, it has caught up really fast with the earlier countries, it is incorporating early lessons in the mechanism and it has committed a government contribution of US$ 40,000 for the second year, allowing the addition of a third pilot commune. The adaptation measures already implemented that range from community early warning systems, to wells rehabilitation; land restoration and training illustrate well the cross-sectorial nature of climate change and of the LoCAL mechanism. Financial resources allowing, Niger is getting ready to move to phase II, enabling more and more communes and people to benefit from climate finance.”

LoCAL has several projects in the Dosso district, concentrating on climate adaptation while addressing food security. However, the situation in rural Niger needs much more attention and planning in the face of the changing weather.

UNCDF’s LoCAL programme provides a mechanism to increase awareness and response to climate change at the local level, integrate climate change adaptation into local governments’ planning and budgeting systems, and increase the amount of finance available to local governments for climate change adaptation. LoCAL combines performance-based climate resilience grants (PBCRGs), with technical and capacity building support. It uses the demonstration effect to trigger further flows for local adaptation, including global climate finance for local authorities, through their central governments. LoCAL is supported by the European Union Global Climate Change Alliance, and the governments of Belgium, Liechtenstein and Sweden.

For more information, please contact:

Sophie De Coninck
Programme Manager of LoCAL in Africa