Niger is a country particularly hard hit by climate change. Why is this?

For several years now, Niger has been experiencing extreme weather phenomena. Years of drought, very high temperatures and flash floods follow one another. As a result, natural resources are under severe strain. In addition, climate policy is the responsibility of the central government, which does not allow for decentralization. Climate data continue to be highly aggregated and are only available on a national scale. They do not represent local differences. Yet a local database would be needed to implement a coherent climate policy, focusing on the most vulnerable regions and population groups.

In our project region, Kiéché, is the population aware of climate change?

Yes, people are well aware of the effects of global warming, as the seasons are completely out of kilter. Farming families sometimes sow earlier, sometimes later, sometimes not at all, or the harvest is lost when rainfall is too light or too heavy. They experience this first-hand. Most people’s harvests are insufficient to prepare three meals a day for their families. As a result, men leave in search of new sources of income. Women are left to care for the elderly, children and the sick, manage the farm work and cope with hunger.

The exodus of men is a major problem in the regions where SWISSAID operates. Another problem concerns the soil.

Yes, that’s right. The area of arable land and the length of the agricultural season have declined sharply over the last thirty years. The soil is silting up. Rising temperatures and wide variations in rainfall are disrupting farming practices. The result: smaller harvests. In the worst-case scenario for climate change, yields will fall by almost 13% in Central and West Africa. However, not all cereals are affected in the same way: millet and sorghum are more resistant. On the other hand, yield declines are more significant for rice and wheat.

What strategies is SWISSAID using to support the affected populations?

Kiéché has great potential. Livestock provide a large proportion of the non-chemical fertilizer, in the form of organic matter, which makes for healthier soils. Combining livestock farming and agriculture is a good option for countering the effects of climate change. The commune also has several areas suitable for market gardening, which helps to diversify family diets. Moreover, the water table is high. Above all, irrigation systems are lacking.

Agroecology against the climate crisis

Thanks to agroecology, farmers are less dependent on external factors and more resilient in the face of extreme climatic events. Your donations provide essential support to help people in the South adapt to climate change.

Niger’s emissions amount to 0.1 tonnes per person per year. By contrast, Switzerland’s annual carbon footprint is 12 to 14 tonnes per person. What interests does SWISSAID defend at the political level here in Switzerland?

It doesn’t make sense for a country like Niger to fight alone against the disastrous consequences of climate change, for which the industrialized countries are primarily responsible. That’s why we’re campaigning for Berne to fund climate protection to the tune of one billion Swiss francs a year, a figure that’s appropriate given Switzerland’s per capita carbon footprint and economic power. At present, funding for climate protection is barely half this amount, and most of the money comes from the development aid budget. Given the other existing development policy challenges to be addressed, including hunger, poverty, migration and violence, this is not a good strategy. Paying once and counting many times is cynical given the situation. Internationally, we demand that Switzerland help agroecology to break through.