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Posted by African Press International on November 15, 2013

NEW YORK, November 13, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived in Niamey, from Mali early in the morning of Wednesday, 6 November. This was the second leg of a four-country joint visit to the Sahel region with the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma; the President of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim; the Commissioner for Development of the European Union, Andris Piebalgs; and the President of the African Development Bank, Donald Kaberuka.

That morning, the delegation had a meeting with the President of Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou, and inspected the Guard of Honour. They then held a larger meeting with the President, the Prime Minister, Brigi Raffini, as well as members of the Cabinet. Speaking at the meeting, the Secretary-General said that the delegation was in Niger and the region to show its solidarity and to coordinate its actions with the countries of the Sahel. The Secretary-General also underlined Niger’s contribution to peacekeeping, including in Mali, and noted the assistance given by the country to the thousands of Malian refugees in Niger during the presidential elections. S

After briefly speaking to reporters in a joint press briefing, the Secretary-General and the President of the World Bank answered a “Call for Action” for improvements in women’s reproductive health and girls’ education by President Issoufou. The Secretary-General said that throughout his visit to the Sahel, he was calling on leaders to listen to girls and women, to hear their needs and concerns and give women a voice in decision-making. He also asked men to speak out for gender equality. (See Press Release SG/SM/15445.)


After attending a State lunch hosted by the Government, the Secretary-General met in the afternoon with the Speaker of the National Assembly, Hama Amadou, and then addressed a plenary session of the National Assembly. He told the Parliamentarians that the United Nations was in the country to help Niger in its efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and underlined Niger’s role in addressing the challenges of the Sahel. He also offered his condolences to the families of the migrants who died in the Sahara a few days before, saying we must bring their traffickers to justice and address the problems that pushed them to leave.

The Secretary-General left Niamey, Niger, for Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, the third leg of his trip to the Sahel, in the early evening of 6 November.





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Posted by African Press International on November 10, 2013

NEW YORK, November 7, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks to the National Assembly of Niger, in Niamey, 6 November:

It is a distinct privilege to address the Members of the National Assembly of Niger. It is particularly meaningful to do so with Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, and Dr. Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group. We are joined by Donald Kaberuka, President of the African Development Bank, Andris Piebalgs, Commissioner for Development of the European Union, and my Special Envoy for the Sahel, Romano Prodi.

Together, we are on a journey of solidarity with the people of the Sahel. We are here to listen — and we are here to act.

Our message is simple and clear. It is drawn from many years of experience around the world. Peace is not sustainable without development. Development is not sustainable without peace. The two challenges must go hand in hand. And so, we have come to Niger to join hands with you.

The United Nations is proud to have worked with the people of Niger over the years to forge sustainable solutions. We are teaming up to accelerate progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals — including through the ambitious agricultural transformation plan, the 3N Initiative — Nigeriens Feeding Nigeriens.

We are committed to assisting in your efforts to advance good governance and build effective, trustworthy institutions. We are partnering to support your initiatives to expand opportunities and sustainable livelihoods, particularly for young people. We are resolved to do all we can to open doors for the women and girls of Niger — to quality schools, good jobs, safe communities, decent health care and greater political participation, including here in this parliament.

Earlier today, I was pleased to join President [Mahamadou] Issoufou’s call to action on demographic issues. I am doing my part at the United Nations to empower women. For the first time in history, five UN peacekeeping operations are led by women. I selected a distinguished daughter of Niger, Aïchatou Mindaoudou Souleymane, to head our mission in Côte d’Ivoire — one of the largest in the world. She is doing an outstanding job. I am proud of her and I know you are, too.

Niger is contributing to global peace and security in so many other ways. I pay tribute to the almost 2,000 brave Nigerien citizens serving in United Nations peacekeeping operations — from Mali to Haiti, from the Democratic Republic of Congo and beyond. I honour the memory of the 19 who lost their lives serving under the UN flag. I also appreciate Niger’s continued assistance to thousands of Malians who have taken refuge in your country.

Throughout the Sahel, we see instability and unrest, more people being displaced, rising food and fuel prices, severe drought and people sacrificing everything to migrate for greater opportunity.

I extend my deepest sympathies to the families of those who so tragically perished in the Sahara last week. Even had they survived the desert crossing, we know their journey would have remained treacherous. Their hopes for a better life may have remained simply a mirage.

Our debt to them must be a solemn commitment to prosecute the human smugglers who stole their lives, to address the food crises that plague Niger, to improve conditions in the communities from which they came so that others do not feel compelled to leave, and to create safe opportunities for willing migrants to work abroad. The United Nations is devoted to protecting human rights, and the rights of migrants are of urgent concern to me.

Across these complex and difficult challenges, the people of Niger and the Sahel are teaching the world something very important. You are proving that problems can no longer be confined within borders, and so solutions must also rise above dividing lines — across borders and bureaucracies, across communities and cultures, across politics and parties.

This is our twenty-first century test. We must dig deeper to get at the root causes of conflict. In the Sahel, those roots can be traced to scarcities of water and food, pressures on land, the lack of development and rampant insecurity. We must deal with these issues in a comprehensive way — not merely as isolated, unrelated problems of armed conflict, political instability or economic development.

That is why our United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel is based on identifying crucial connections — and supporting your efforts to drive hard at them with well-coordinated solutions.

As representatives closest to the people of Niger, you are essential to success. You are the crucial link between the local and global. As part of our strategy, we are working to establish a regional platform of parliamentary committees to share experiences, discuss common challenges and define common priorities. We want to help strengthen parliaments and empower all political parties to build a culture of peace across the Sahel. We invite your active engagement.

No country or organization can do it alone. We must work together so that we hear all voices, take in all political views and build peace and stability that lasts. That is the twenty-first century test that Niger and the Sahel are putting forward to the world. Together, let us join forces and pass this test. Together, let us take strength from your great country’s motto: “Fraternité, Travail, Progrès”. Thank you.





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Posted by African Press International on November 7, 2013

NEW YORK, November 7, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, at the launch of the call to action on demographic issues in the Sahel region, in Niamey, Niger, 6 November:

Good afternoon. Thank you for coming together today. This call to action on demographic issues is based on sound statistics. But it is not about numbers. It is about people. When we give women the education they deserve, society becomes stronger. When we protect women’s human rights, society becomes more just. And when we allow women to determine their own future, they will advance development for all. Throughout my visit to the Sahel, I am calling on leaders to listen to girls and women. Hear their needs and concerns. Give women a voice in decision-making.

I also have a special message for the men: speak out for gender equality. To benefit from the demographic dividend, we need many concrete steps. We need to invest in young people to unleash their full potential. We need better health care for women and girls. We need to increase access to family planning. We need to raise the marriage age. We need more girls in school. We need to address HIV/AIDS.

These steps are important — but they are not enough. We also need to change mindsets. Women should be able to demand their rights. But I also want men to join this call. Help us create conditions where your daughters, your sisters and your wives have full equality. Help us create a society where women never have to fear violence at the hands of men. Help us create families where mothers and fathers decide together how many children they want to have. The time to do this is now.

I have full confidence that the men of Niger and the Sahel can support the women here, and that together you can open a new future. The United Nations is your dedicated partner as you advance along this path to progress. Thank you.





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Niamey has been working to bolster its security strategy – Mali’s 2012 crisis put its neighbours on the alert

Posted by African Press International on September 15, 2013

Mali’s 2012 crisis put its neighbours on the alert

NIAMEY, – The takeover of northern Mali by Islamist rebels after a 2012 coup, and the subsequent French-led intervention, have widened fears of a spill-over of insurgency in the region. Niger, which has socio-political problems comparable to those of Mali, is battling to secure its territory from militants still operating in Sahel’s remote wilderness.

Insecurity is an ever-present threat. The country suffered twin attacks on 23 May, when assailants struck a military base and a French-run uranium mine in the north, killing dozens.

Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a prominent and long-time Sahel jihadist who had claimed responsibility for the Algerian gas plant attack in January, said his fighters were behind the strikes. The Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), which had operated in northern Mali before being dislodged by the French military, also claimed responsibility.

Bolstering security

Niamey has been working to bolster its security strategy.

In October 2012, it launched a five-year US$2.5 billion plan to secure and develop its northern region, whose residents, especially the Tuareg, say they have been marginalized. As in neighbouring Mali, the Tuareg in northern Niger have carried out a series of rebellions demanding autonomy, social and political inclusion, and the development of their homeland.

The country has also introduced legal reforms, enacting anti-terrorism legislation, setting up a special team of lawyers and security officers to work with the government on terrorism matters, upgrading military hardware, and cooperating with France and the US on security. US drones began operating in Niger in December 2012. Nigerien troops are also being trained by their American and French counterparts.

“Niger has shown not only political commitment, but a certain level of coherence in dealing with the threat of terrorism,” David Zounmenou, senior researcher on West Africa at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), told IRIN.

Niger, an impoverished Sahel nation prone to droughts and food scarcity, also faces additional threats from Boko Haram insurgents in Nigeria to the south and from militias in the north suspected to be operating in southern Libya, analysts say.

Politically, Niger has worked to improve the inclusion of its Tuareg population to end the cycles of insurgency.

Failed unity coalition

During Niger’s 3 August independence day celebration, President Issoufou Mahamadou called for the formation of a national unity government, part of a political cohesion plan he sees as crucial to dealing with the country’s security threats. However, a subsequent cabinet shake-up has cost his ruling coalition the support of its main ally, who quit in protest of the seats it was allocated in the new government set-up.

“In terms of security plans, it certainly weakens the national consensus that has prevailed thus far in Niger. Institutional consensus has been the backbone of the response mechanism to offset the spill-over of the insurgency in Mali and to manage successive attacks,” said Zounmenou.

But West Africa political analyst Kamissa Camara says the political disagreements have little bearing on Niger’s security worries.

“The risk is that [expenditure] on social assistance programmes could increasingly be adjusted depending on security concerns, and it is doubtful that this will be to the benefit of the Nigerien population as a whole.”

“The political fall-out is more indicative of the superficial political arrangements made before the second round of the 2011 presidential elections and the ensuing struggle for influence between two complementary but oxymoronic political figures,” Camara said, referring to the president and Hama Amadou, the leader of his coalition’s main ally.

Other threats

In addition to its security worries, Mahamdou’s government, which came to power in 2011 after a brief period of instability, is struggling to better the lives of citizens, the bulk of whom are living in extreme poverty. The country sits at the bottom of the UN Human Development Index.

Although the government is making improvements in sectors such as health, education and agriculture, some 85 percent of Nigeriens survive on less than US$2 a day. Around 2.9 million people currently face food shortages.

Natural disasters and recurrent food shortages are greater threats to many Nigeriens than security fears, say analysts. The country recently appealed for help following devastation by floods that have killed two dozen people and left some 75,000 others homeless.

Niger has the world’s largest uranium reserves, but receipts from uranium mining have made little impact on the lives of many Nigeriens. And while the country began pumping its first oil in early 2011, it was later was forced to cut back its budget due to poor revenue. The shortfalls could impact Niger’s security budget.

“An intense focus on security could affect Niger’s budget spending on other strategic sectors. The defence budget more than doubled in 2012, although it’s still behind the health and education expenditure,” said Jean-Hervé Jezequel, a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group.

“The risk is that [expenditure] on social assistance programmes could increasingly be adjusted depending on security concerns, and it is doubtful that this will be to the benefit of the Nigerien population as a whole,” Jezequel told IRIN.


When Islamist rebels began advancing on Mali’s capital in January this year, Niger supported the French intervention. It has also sent some 900 soldiers as part of the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali. However, there are concerns that its stance in the Mali crisis and its security cooperation with Western countries could stoke extremist militia threats.

“As Islam is dominant in our country, it is easy for these forces of evil to infiltrate Nigerien youths,” noted Zarami Abba Kiari, the ruling party’s deputy spokesman, who argued that the national unity government could forestall such risks.

Insurgent groups have used Niger for their cross-border activities in Mali, Nigeria and Libya, and with light government presence in certain regions of Niger, the country risks becoming a safe haven and rear base for militant groups targeting other countries, like Chad and Algeria, that have largely expelled these groups from their territories, ISS reckons.

“The structural complexities of Niger, illustrated by its vast desert, its arid territory, and the borders it shares with Algeria, Libya and Chad, are certainly contributing factors to these [security] threats,” Camara told IRIN.

Weak governance, underdevelopment and poverty have created a breeding ground for militancy in West Africa and the Sahel, academics argue.

“There is need for concrete response to [Niger’s] socio-economic problems. Young people are looking for jobs, effective health care, education… If they are not satisfied, this can provide them with a reason to join jihadist movements,” said ISS’s Zounmenou.

bb/ob/rz  source

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Voters faced frustration before the voting day in Mali

Posted by African Press International on July 29, 2013

Photo: IRIN
Timbuktu in northern Mali. (file photo)

BAMAKO,  – Malians voted yesterday on 28 July in the first ever polls since a military coup and an insurgency 16 months ago, but complaints of missing voting cards and worries that the elections are rushed marred the run-up to the ballot.

Some 6.8 million Malians have been registered to vote. Two days to the poll, electoral officials scrambled to issue voting cards amid complaints of disorganization. Other voters nonetheless looked to the elections hoping they will set the country back on the path to recovery.

“Mali has suffered political and military instability these past months,” said Aboubacar Hamidine, a refugee in neighbouring Niger. “I am going to vote to end this instability.”, he said before the voting day.

Forty-year old Hamadikane Maiga, who was also forced to seek refuge in Niger told IRIN: “We hope that these presidential elections will bring lasting peace to our country. This will usher a new era in Mali.”

According to Mariam Sangaré, a teacher in the Malian capital, Bamako, “The top priority for the new president must be the reconciliation between all Malians, because we are divided, south versus north and vice versa.”

While Bamako shop-keeper, Oumar Oulk Mammouny, stressed the economy must come first. “The economy is in pieces. Everything has stopped…the new president has to give us confidence that we’ll be able to eat three times a day.”

Malian authorities have made plans for refugees in next-door Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger to take part in the election. However, only 19,000 registered to vote out of 73,000 refugees of voting age, said the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), which is helping with voting in the camps. The delay in issuing voters cards has affected many within Mali as well.

“I was here two weeks ago. I waited for two hours, before I gave up,” said Mariam Guindo, who had gone to Bamako to pick up her card. “I hope I will have my card today so I don’t have to come back a third time.”

France, which sent troops in January to beat back Islamist militants who threatened to march onto Bamako from Mali’s north, pressed for the vote to be held. Observers have raised concern over the timing of the elections, arguing that while they are important in helping Mali back on its feet, their credibility were as equally critical.

A UN peacekeeping force is currently rolling out in Mali, taking up from African troops who have been in the country for some months, but have largely been off the combat scene.

“Disastrous” process

Tiébilé Dramé, a former minister and chief negotiator between Mali’s interim government and Tuareg rebels, termed the elections preparations “disastrous”. He withdrew from the presidential race after his attempt to have the courts move the election date was rejected.

“Organizing elections without the full participation of the population in the [northern] region of Kidal, and possibly Gao and Timbuktu will only deepen the divide between the north and the south and possibly lead to new rebellions,” he said.

“What other country would accept an imperfect vote. If this is only to have an elected government in Bamako, why not wait two, three months until the situation has stabilized,” said Ousmane Maiga, who was displaced from his home in Mali’s northern Gao region and is now living in Bamako.

Disgruntled troops overthrew then president Amadu Toumani Touré in March 2012 on charges that his government had failed to tackle a Tuareg rebellion in the north. The coup however, eased the way for the Tuaregs to seize swathes of territory before being ousted by Islamist rebels, some linked to Al-Qaeda, who imposed strict Islamic law during their occupation of the northern half of the country.

The violence and insecurity has left more than 175,000 Malians living across the borders and 353,455 others displaced within the country, according to UNHCR.

In Mauritania and Burkina Faso only about five percent of the refugees had received voting cards by voting day.

“We made lists of all refugees who are eligible to vote and sent them Bamako. Out of 4,161 names on our list, the authorities could only identify 932 people,” said UNHCR’s Charlotte Arnaud.

“We were registered in Bamako in 2010 and I should be having my card, but I don’t,” said Ousmane Ag Dalla, the head of Tuareg refugees in Burkina Faso. “Things have been rushed and people are not ready.

“Mali is not ready to hold proper elections, but it’s better to do it because we will never be ready as there are so many problems. We from the north are hoping to have a president so that the underlying problems can be tackled by a legitimate president,” he said before the voting day.

The Malians expect results on Friday, a week after the vote..

kh/bb/bo/ob/aj/oa source



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On guard: Cholera down but officials vigilant

Posted by African Press International on July 28, 2013

DAKAR,  – Some 1,700 people in West Africa have contracted cholera since mid-June, a significant decline compared to the same seven-week period in 2012 when 11,834 were affected.

Overall, 50,439 people contracted cholera in West and Central Africa in 2012, according to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Sierra Leone and Guinea saw 30,000 people infected and 400 deaths.

This year, most of the cases are in Guinea Bissau (652), Sierra Leone (367) and Niger (354).

“It seems we are winning the fight thus far, but we must strictly monitor the West African coastal countries [Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Sierra Leone] since they were so affected by cholera last year,” said François Bellet, West Africa cholera focal point for UNICEF.

Cholera often follows two-year cycles, with immunity building following an epidemic.

In Guinea-Bissau between 11 March and 8 July, 158 cases were confirmed and 18 people died of cholera. Despite fatality rates of 11 percent, Guinea’s health minister declared on 11 July “there is no scientific evidence about a cholera outbreak.”

In Mali, where no new cases have been reported in the past five weeks, the government and aid agencies launched aggressive prevention actions when cholera broke out across the border in Niger.

Guinean health officials have worked with Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) and UNICEF to vaccinate 3,740 people in the Mènyingbé Islands, near Conakry, to prevent cholera from spreading. Last year MSF launched the vaccine in Guinea for the first time. Guinea has registered 115 cases and seven deaths since 19 March.

The cholera caseload may be higher than reported, said Bellet. “Some deaths are not reported in order to avoid high fatality rates or for political reasons. But if they’re not identified, we can’t provide adequate response,” he told IRIN.

Further, the caseload usually peaks towards the end of the rainy season (in September) so health workers must remain alert, said Bruno Ngandu Kazadi, information focal point for cholera for the West Africa office of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). “If rains are as strong as in 2012, we risk similar outbreak spikes,” he said.

Correctly diagnosing transmission contexts, reinforcing risk reduction strategies in the most affected zones, national planning, and promoting an intersectoral approach are also essential for prevention and treatment, say aid agencies and health officials.

cr/aj/cb source

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Kenya: Piracy is a threat – inmates in prison raise alarm

Posted by African Press International on June 6, 2013


Inmates at the Naivasha Maximum Prison have expressed their fear that they are loosing thousands of shillings due to piracy.

According to them, they are not enjoying the benefits of their music after production as they are normally pirated in the backstreet market and sold.

They are now urging The Music Society of Kenya to protect their songs from piracy, saying they had rights to be protected and enjoy the benefits of their music.

The over two thousands inmates are now urging the relevant bodies to curb the vice so as to protect the local music industry.

Speaking to press separately Naivasha MP John Kihagi, urged the society to accept the inmates once they were through with their jail term as they had reformed.

He urged the employers to stop discriminating former prison inmates when conducting their recruitment exercises.

The MP said discrimination was one of the many reason that the ex-prisoners were committing back their crimes as were unable to cope with the current life.

Kihagi said most of the inmates had shown a lot of changes and other had learnt skills while at Prison and had been warded with certificates in various fields.

He said due to fear most employers do not recognize their certificates in fear of them attacking and robbing after employment.

He revealed that everyone was already aware that the Prison Department had started rehabilitation programmes for the inmates who were serving their jail terms.




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Ending cycle of hunger

Posted by African Press International on April 6, 2013

Agricultural transformation is part of Niger’s bid to end chronic food scarcity

NIAMEY, – Niger is seeking to end its chronic food shortages through an ambitious agricultural transformation plan – but the plan will have to meet the demands of a fast-growing population living in a mostly desert country that also faces threats to is security.

When he came to power in 2011, President Issoufou Mahamadou said: “As evidenced in the last election, our people have gained political freedom; now it remains to attain freedom from hunger.” Some 6.4 million Nigeriens faced hunger during the 2011-2012 Sahel food crisis.

A year later, Mahamdou’s government launched the so-called 3N Initiative – Les Nigériens Nourissent les Nigériens [Nigeriens Feeding Nigeriens] – a broad strategy touching on food, the environment, energy and industrial transformation, estimated to cost $2 billion in the initial 2012-2015 phase of the project.

Humanitarian groups active in Niger point out the proactive approach taken by the new administration aims to combat both food insecurity and malnutrition, heralding it as an example to other crisis-prone Sahel countries.

Mahamadou’s predecessor, Mamadou Tandja, who was ousted in a February 2010 coup, had come under intense criticism over his handling of food crises in the 2000s. Some critics said he refused to accept that there were serious food shortages due to pride and a deep mistrust of NGOs.

“Niger faces drought once in every two years. Even in a good year, there is a part of the population that still remains vulnerable. Drought is the main threat to agriculture in our country. It’s responsible for 80 percent of losses in terms of agricultural output,” said Amadou Allahoury Diallo, the high commissioner of the 3N Initiative.

A tall order

Only 12 percent of Niger’s territory can sustain farming. But with a growth rate of 3.3 percent, it has one of the world’s fastest growing populations. The population doubled between 1988 and 2010, rising from around seven million to some 15 million, according to official statistics. Just 1 percent of the territory – in the extreme west – receives more than 600mm of rain per year.

“The output from the 3-4 months of the rainy season is what feeds the population for the 12 months of the year. This should change,” Diallo told IRIN. “Eighty percent of the population depends on agriculture. We have no choice but to develop agriculture.”

Some observers say it will be impossible for Niger to attain food security given the harsh climate, poverty and population pressure. The 3N Initiative’s to-do list ranges from introducing modern technology and equipping farmers with better seeds and implements to improving agricultural financing and market management.

The latest scheme is hardly unprecedented; previous Nigerien governments initiated self-sustenance strategies. However, Diallo argued that strong political will by Mahamadou’s administration and better government coordination set the 3N initiative apart from its precursors.

“In the past, food security was spearheaded by development partners rather than the ruling party, and each ministry worked with different partners. There was no centralized leadership,” he noted.

Niger fell from growing enough food, and even being an exporter of cereals, in the 1960s, to a state of chronic shortages due to recurrent droughts that became more frequent in the last decade.

Locust invasions, unstable food prices and political instability have also gnawed away at the country’s food security. In Niger – and across much of the Sahel – staple cereal prices are above the five-year average. Prices of millet, the staple for Nigerien households, is at 30 percent above the five-year average, said the Famine Early Warning System Network, attributing the rise to strong demand by institutions and other private buyers.

“Good harvests do not necessarily mean food security. There is the question of accessibility. Poor families spend much of their income on buying food, and when the prices go up they suffer a huge impact,” said Wim Fransen, the Niger head of office for the European Commission’s humanitarian aid arm (ECHO).

“There should be a diversification and improvement of food production, management of natural resources, especially water, and an improvement the market system for better food distribution,” said Vincenzo Galastro, the International Fund for Agricultural Development’s programme manager for West and Central Africa.

“The Niger government has made food security a priority. We think it’s a very positive step,” he added.


But Niger has also had to respond to the crisis in neighbouring Mali, sending troops there as part of a West African stabilization force and stepping up internal security – moves with budgetary repercussions on its food security strategy.

“The government had pledged to use most of the resources from uranium and oil [receipts] to finance the agricultural sector. Unfortunately, Niger also faces insecurity problems owing to the Mali crisis, which diverted some of the resources to security,” said Diallo. “Insecurity and food security are the government’s main priorities.”

As with Niger’s previous strategies, the 3N Initiative could last only as long as the regime that created it, but Diallo said the government was working on legislation to ensure the self-sustenance aims are spared the vagaries of politics.

“We are going to develop an agriculture policy to be adopted as a law that would be enforceable even after this government,” he said.

The Food and Agriculture Organization representative in Niger, Aboubakar Doualé Waïss, argued that food security is an unavoidable issue for any government in the Sahel, meaning Mahamdaou’s involvement in the 3N Initiative would not have to limit the programme to the duration of his administration.

“There must be a strong engagement at the highest level of government. Moreover, it’s one of the policies for which the president was elected. It’s natural that he be at the heart of his strategy,” Waïss told IRIN.

“We are convinced that this programme will continue under whatever name it will be given. In any Sahel country, food security is vital. Whoever comes to power, food and nutritional security will remain part of their problem.”

ob/rz  source

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Farmers must prepare for more flooding

Posted by African Press International on November 1, 2012

Photo: OCHA
Up to half a million Nigeriens were displaced by flooding this year (file photo)

DAKAR,  – Elderly Nigerien rice-farmer Adamou Sambeye shows IRIN his rice plot on the banks of the River Niger near the capital Niamey: water lilies fill his still-flooded field. In one corner of it naked children are having fun trying to catch the fish that now swim in it.

“I put everything I had into this field to produce a good harvest this year,” he told IRIN, adding that he had used two 50kg bags of fertilizer, but the field was flooded soon after he planted his seedlings.

An inter-ministerial committee set up to assess and help manage flood damage estimates 700 fields in the Tillabéri region where Niamey is located, were flooded this year. Ayouba Hassane, director-general of the Federation of Rice Producer Cooperatives, said 14,000 tons of paddy rice have been destroyed since July.

Rice farmers usually produce 80,000 tons of the country’s annual 130,000 ton production during the rainy season, while a further 200,000-300,000 tons of rice is imported each year.

The Niger Basin Authority (ABN) predicts further flooding from mid-November based on the annual rising of the River Niger which occurs both during the rainy season and as river water from neighbouring countries such as Guinea and Mali eventually reaches Niger in mid-November to January.

According to ABN, the swell will be bigger this year than in recent years.

Residents along the river say it is already rising again, despite there having been no rain in a month. “This is a normal phenomenon, but excessive rise can cause new floods,” said Valerie Batselaere, head of NGO Oxfam in Niger.

Flooding between July and October killed 81 people and affected 520,000 – hundreds of thousands of them displaced – according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The government called it the worst flooding in decades.

“A few weeks ago, this whole area [surrounding Niamey] was occupied by water,” recalls Sambeye.

Drainage ditches and flood barriers are urgently needed to protect farmers along the river, said a September 2012 study by NGOs ACTED and Oxfam, and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

The same study revealed that among Nigeriens displaced by floods, by far the most vulnerable were the 18 percent who were farmers or market gardeners relying solely on agriculture to get by.

Given their need for cash – half of displaced families have become further indebted, borrowing up to US$100, according to the survey – and the need for flood protection, the study recommends these farmers be paid to rebuild flood barriers and drainage ditches as soon as possible.

Oxfam is currently submitting proposals to do this. To date the government and aid agencies have given emergency aid, but no help to rebuild livelihoods.

Sambeye said he had received nothing thus far. “We need help in repairing the ditches around our paddies if we are to have any hope of feeding our families,” he told IRIN.

Floods have displaced or damaged the property or crops of at least 3 million people across West and Central Africa this season, according to the latest official figures.




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