Niger, one of the world’s poorest countries, experiences repeated droughts. At the end of 2023, long months of heat were followed by heavy rains. Arid soils were unable to absorb the water, causing flooding. The Dosso and Tillabéry regions in the south of the country were particularly hard hit. With serious consequences for the harvests: the millet granaries that were supposed to feed the inhabitants until March were already empty in January.

Fragile context

The meagre harvest promises to be catastrophic for the 21 million Nigeriens already suffering from malnutrition. Added to this is a tense political context. The borders with Benin and Nigeria, the country’s main suppliers of staple foods, are closed due to international sanctions following the coup d’état in July 2023. Foodstuffs have to be transported from Togo via Burkina Faso. A complicated and costly route that further increases the price of staple foods; a kilo of millet has risen from 150 FCFA (20 cts) in good harvest years to 280 FCFA (40 cts) in October 2023.

In addition, the current political transition prompted many humanitarian and multilateral organizations to recall their staff. What little humanitarian aid the population received during previous droughts has been further eroded.

Food crisis in Niger

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Emergency aid launched

SWISSAID launches an emergency project to support the population of the Dosso and Tillabéry regions. Thanks to its local roots and experience over the last few years, the SWISSAID team in Niger is able to provide rapid, targeted aid to help the population survive until the next market gardening harvest in April. In February, a project combining the delivery of food parcels and the distribution of vouchers to be exchanged for seeds was set up.

In 20 villages, 1,750 of the most vulnerable families will receive food parcels containing 50 kilos of rice, 25 kilos of beans, 5 liters of oil, 1 kilo of salt and food supplements for young children. One parcel guarantees the survival of a family of seven for two months.

For seed distribution, the project is further improving its efficiency by setting up a mobile seed distribution market. Selected seed merchants, accompanied by SWISSAID, will visit the villages and offer their seeds. In this way, farmers do not have to travel to distant markets, which often entail high costs. The seeds enable them to grow vegetables and, what’s more, to harvest a second crop in September. In addition, farming families are trained and supported to adopt agro-ecological practices, enabling them to become more resilient to the effects of climate change.

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SWISSAID, pioneer and expert

SWISSAID’s commitment at this time of crisis is of paramount importance to the population. The mechanisms put in place ensure that aid goes directly to those most in need and particularly vulnerable to this government crisis, as well as to the freezing of international aid funds.

“To collectively ensure food security, we need to build food resilience projects on a national scale. SWISSAID, through its emergency projects, gives hope to the most vulnerable”, said Djenab Touré, from SWISSAID Niger.