Thursday, June 12, 2008

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Tahoua Province

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A band across the southern third of Niger receives enough rain (250-750 mm) to sustain most of the country's rain-fed agriculture and pastoralism. This stretch of semi-arid Sahel is also where most of Niger's rapidly growing population lives. However, the Sahelian climate is quite variable and in this ecologically frail region this poses serious problems for traditional livelihoods.

In recent decades, Niger's climate and its demographic problems have negatively impacted its agricultural land by forcing agriculture onto land that had been historically used for livestock— land receiving less than 350 mm of rain per year. This intense pressure on fragile lands led to acute environmental degradation (1975 image).

More recently, a combination of various projects and farmer initiatives has led to significant revitalization of the land in large part by the planting and protection of trees. Farmers no longer clear tree saplings from their fields before planting crops. Instead they protect and nurture the trees, carefully plowing around them when sowing millet, sorghum, peanuts, and beans. A recent study revealed 10 to 20 times the number of trees across three of Niger's southern provinces than there were in the 1970s (2005 image). This transformation of the land has reduced drought vulnerability and will help people diversify their livelihoods so as not to rely solely on rain-fed crops.
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