• Jun 20, 2019

Niger: Fertile Ground for Resilience

CIF Action 

What gets Ganda Sebcheini out of bed in the morning?

“A personal conviction,” he beams. “It’s all about passion.” A project manager with micro-irrigation company Netafim, Sebcheini is on a mission to combat a threat imperiling millions in his native Niger.

Across the country, the grip of climate change is tightening.

Rivers are drying up, rainfall is growing scarcer, and natural disasters like desertification and droughts are mounting in intensity and frequency. All told, these developments are depriving this resource-poor nation of its remaining arable land—currently little more than 13% of its territory—and threatening food and water supplies.

Worse still, experts say these trends are on track to intensify, with temperatures in Africa’s Sahel region rising 1.5 times faster than the global average. By some estimates, 32 million people are at risk of food insecurity nationwide.

“This is an arid country. The rainy season lasts a maximum of four months and is characterized by irregular rainfall in space and time,” Sebcheini said. “We have seen the effects of climate change here as the water table has decreased [and] water resources have begun to dwindle.”

In response, together with the Climate Investment Funds (CIF) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), Netafim is introducing a technology that allows farmers to produce more cash crops, use less water, and build resilience against sweeping climate impacts. It’s called solar-powered drip irrigation, and it’s giving new meaning to climate-smart agriculture.

Running entirely on renewable energy, this technology slowly channels water to the base of a plant—as the name suggests, drip by drip—as a way of reducing water waste. Solar-powered drip irrigation systems are up to 95% more efficient than traditional irrigation methods, and estimated to improve crop yields by as much as 40%. So far, Netafim has trained over 100 farmers, including 40 women, to operate them.

All signs suggest that this is the beginning of something big. Speaking from an irrigation site near the rural village of Tagazar, Sebcheini said Niger’s market for solar-powered drip irrigation is expanding. More and more farmers are showing interest in this technology and the benefits it brings to climate-vulnerable contexts.

Additionally, a drip-irrigation ecosystem is now emerging, linking different market players such as solar equipment providers, small-scale infrastructure companies, and maintenance firms. By demonstrating the viability of the technology, Netafim is clearing a path for other companies to participate in the sector. “In Niger today, things are changing. The business climate is improving,” Sebcheini reported.  

Investments supporting drip irrigation development are part of a broader $110 million CIF partnership to help build climate resilience across all levels of Niger’s economy and society. As a result of CIF-supported programs, nationwide crop yields are increasing by nearly 83% in target areas, 650 hectares of degraded agricultural land are now under restoration, and critical infrastructure like rain gauges and social protection facilities are being installed or rehabilitated.

Maison du Paysan

Meanwhile, in Dosso Province, CIF and the World Bank have joined forces to support a community-led effort to ensure farmers and their families are better equipped to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

The Farmer’s House—known in French as la Maison du Paysan—is a community center managed by the community for the community. Serving an area spanning 80 square kilometers, the Maison helps train men, women, and children to adopt climate-smart trades and practices, diversify their livelihoods, sell their wares on the local market, and access vital resources for confronting climate change. Among other amenities here, there are three warehouses containing livestock and agricultural product reserves for future crises.

Just past the woodworking training facility is the Farmer’s House radio station, which airs daily programming for the social good. Disie Anomangou is a broadcaster at the station who grew up in nearby Socorbé. “I like being a radio host. I like it very much because I’m able to help others,” he said, pointing to the phones that he uses to field questions from listeners. “Thanks to these broadcasts, our community is made aware of topics that concern them.”

Day in, day out, Disie’s show addresses hot-button issues like healthcare, underage marriage, education, and critically, climate change. Recently, his program featured a report on the role of women in climate action, sparking a lively two-way dialogue with those tuning in. Such a response is common. “After the broadcasts, we read and discuss some of the best questions submitted by our listeners. They love that part of the program. They often call us to share their thoughts about environmental broadcasts,” he said.

Even more importantly, he is seeing that listeners are adopting the climate-smart practices they learn on air. “Our listeners are very interested in climate change. Often we see [behavioral] changes about one to two months after the airing of the program.”

The race against climate change impacts will not be easily won. But communities, families, and individuals throughout Niger are already leading their country toward a more resilient future. Their stories will continue to inspire hope and ignite change at home in Niger, the surrounding region, and the entire world.