With its rapid population growth and the small amount of agriculturally usable area, Niger is increasingly confronted with major ecological problems. These are the water supply, the relative and absolute decrease in usable land area, in particular due to desertification and thus the supply of humans and animals, the deforestation and the need for wood, the damage caused by the mining of raw materials and increasingly climate change, among other things. That panic does not help, but in small ways Steps must be taken, is very clearly expressed in Toulmin’s words. For the countries of Senegal, Mali and Niger, the scientists can report positive developments; they even speak of re-greening in some regions of the Sahel. May have greenhouse gases a positive effect there. Niger is expanding its adaptation strategies and measures to establish ways of dealing with climate change. The area around the Sahelian (large) cities, however, has a bad ecological balance sheet – as does Niger’s capital Niamey: the area is more or less deforested.
Desertification is a major ecological problem in Niger. The fragile areas are being severely affected by advancing desertification. However, overgrazing – often emphasized – is not the only problem. Rather, it is a complex process that is influenced by various factors: population growth, decrease in soil fertility of the fields, shorter fallow periods, overuse of the fields and thus new fields in the agro-pastoral zone and the pastoral zone. This is further promoted by the influx of people who come from the heavily populated agricultural zone.
A relative increase in herds and animals – not infrequently provoked by changes in ownership after severe animal losses by traditional livestock owners, unfortunately also changes the responsibilities towards nature: change in the composition of the herds – more small animals that show different grazing behavior than cattle, more small-scale migration of the Herd, increasing settling down of nomadic livestock owners, increase in wood consumption, increase in water demand (better access to water increases demand for water), sinking of the water table.
The increase in the cultivation of market crops in monoculture and the decline in polycultural subsistence farming, which offered the fields a shadowy fermentation for a large part of the year, do the rest. The indicators of advancing desertification are diverse. In the organizations of development cooperation, the topic is anchored in various areas, particularly in resource protection and rural development. 2006 was the international year of deserts and desertification.
Once used for re-greening, Prosopis often overgrows the banks of the Wadi and forms impenetrable thickets. Attempts are being made to use Prosopis in animal fattening. The suitability for firewood and the calorific value of this shrub, which belongs to the group of the mimosa family (legumes) and produces small yellow flowers, is low, but can compensate for the damage caused by overgrowth. But the plant is very frugal and can also be used to stop shifting dunes.
According to aristmarketing, Niger faces major problems with solid fuel supplies for the population. The wood consumption is 300 kg / per person / year, the trees are decreasing, the population is increasing – reforestation projects are not being carried out. The improved cooking areas (Fourneaux améliorés), which reduce the wood requirement for food preparation by up to 75%, are not sufficiently widespread.
In some regions of the country, bushfires can be expected again and again, and the region of Agadez is often hit. These can arise frivolously from inadequately extinguished or unsupervised hearth fires or carelessly thrown cigarette butts. Strong winds spread these fires quickly. With the simplest means – knocking out branches or blankets to the fire – an attempt is made to get the fire under control – all people who can be mobilized in the shortest possible time help. Fire brigades are hardly to be thought of, as they are only available in larger towns, and the sufficient availability of water is an additional problem. Fire protection strips can reduce or even prevent large-scale fires and protect (grazing) animals.
Forbidden, pasture land is being mowed down by small traders who use it to supply peri-urban animal husbandry. This makes it much more difficult for the migrating herds to access more easily accessible pastures.
The main water resource and lifeline of the state of Niger is the Niger River, which offers opportunities for diverse crops in its floodplains. Again and again, however, rainfall is so heavy that the river overflows its banks and floods the agricultural areas. In 2012 there was an enormous flood. This not only destroys the income of the agricultural population, but also often destroys all their belongings and deaths. Hundreds of thousands of people are repeatedly affected by the heavy rainfall in August 2015 and June 2016. In addition, the annual flood of the Niger is always for Decemberexpected, which can lead to further problems. Due to sufficient rainfall in 2018, there was a good growth of grass and grain.
The mare (rainy season lakes or ponds) and lakes are important water resources for humans and animals. Unfortunately, they are carelessly and illegally partially fenced in to create gardens and fields on the edge. According to the Pastoral Code, however, the animals must have free access to water via wide corridors. In other open waters like here the Mare of Durum (in the pastoral zone) or the Lake of Tabalak (agropastoral zone), the creation of gardens and the watering of the animals are quite possible, as one adheres to mutually agreed regulations.
The example of Lake Chad shows how dramatic the developments in surface water resources are. The former area of 30,000 square kilometers (1953) was divided between the states of Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad. However, in 1908 the lake consisted of only 2 small lakes, as the history of Lake Chad by the CBLT (Commission du Bassin du Lac Tchad) shows. Only 10% of the expansion area (around 25,000 km²) in the 1960’s makes up the lake today. Nowadays the lake is only 1350 square kilometers on Chadian territory. This decline – mainly due to overuse – makes targeted water management necessary to prevent this supra-regional important water resource from drying out completely.
Resource protection measures are effective in some regions, but only small areas of land can be reactivated; for example re-sowing of pasture in the pastoral and agro-pastoral zones. Smaller or larger dams in the fields serve to hold back the water, prevent water erosion and ensure slower seepage into the soil. The system of crescents is used both in reforestation measures and in the re-sowing of pastureland. The crescents – small protrusions and behind them small gullies – hold back the water so that it can more slowly moisten the soil and thus also prevent water erosion – the wall also serves as protection against wind erosion.
Erosion protection barriers, which are noticeably supported by the population, are carried out in many places with “food for work” programs. Mountain slopes that are exposed to water erosion by deforestation are losing all of their fertile soil. With stone barriers, as small dams or along the slope lines, the erosion of the valuable earth can be stopped. In this way, these are again planted with grass, bushes or trees and put back into use. In the plain, small walls serve to slow the infiltration of rainwater into the ground and counteract the water erosion that pulls the topsoil with it, but crescents and the like also ensure slow water infiltration. Measures are also being carried out on the river banks.
The uranium mining, which is mostly operated in the open pit is not negligible as ecological problem. Scientists predict that in 40 years the wells in Ighazar (large pasture region north of Ingall) – in future a large uranium mining region – will have dried up. In addition, there is the uranium dust that hovers in the air everywhere in those regions.
The surrender of new uranium mining rights and the construction of new mines and the resulting increased demand for water will considerably lower the water table in those pasture regions in the shortest possible time and ultimately lead to the wells falling dry.
Another type of ecological problem, which has been known since time immemorial, is the sporadic plague of locusts, which is almost impossible to fight. Within a few hours, a swarm of locusts destroys entire fields and pastures.