Climate change in Niger

A community defies climate change

Niger is particularly affected by climate change: heavy rainfall alternates with droughts. This fuels hunger. But not everywhere: one region has improved its living conditions with the help of SWISSAID. And in the long term.


Country, region:
Kieché, Niger
March 2020 - May 2023
Total project budget:
CHF 327'349


The aim of the project is to help the people affected to adapt to the changed climatic conditions and to secure their food supply. Food shortages in the community are to be combated by promoting agro-ecological vegetable cultivation, extensive livestock farming, improved storage facilities and the processing and marketing of produce. Women, who bear the main burden of family nutrition, are at the centre of support. Literacy courses strengthen their position and promote their financial independence.

The following specific goals have been set:

  • Increasing the resilience of smallholder families to the effects of climate change.
  • Adequate and balanced nutrition through the introduction and application of agroecological production techniques.
  • Strengthening the political and socio-economic situation of women.

The project is financially supported by the SDC.

The green flowering gardens look like little oases in the sandy landscape. Chickens flutter around between the mud huts. The bleating of the goats mingles with the laughter of the children. Salamatou Zamnou sits in front of her mud hut. Together with other peasant women, she grinds peanuts into mush. Her colorful clothes stand out against the beige background. The scene looks almost idyllic. For once, appearances are not deceptive. Or not quite. In Kieché, in the east of Niger, not only are vegetables sprouting, but for some time now there has also been hope again.

«Poverty used to be much more noticeable and visible. In recent months, many things have changed for the better.»

Salamatou Zamnaou, peasant in Kiéché, Niger

And this despite all the adversity. Niger is one of the poorest countries in the world and occupies the sad last place in the UN’s Human Development Index. Hunger and poverty dominate everyday life. Almost half of all children under the age of five are malnourished. Life is particularly hard in the rural areas of the Sahel, such as in Kiéché. Farm work yields little. Men move away in search of a better life, food and money. Women are left behind – to look after everything, the elderly, the children, the animals and the land.

Old soils

Land that yields less and less due to climate change. Agricultural productivity has fallen by a third since 1961. Several million people in sub-Saharan countries have had to leave their homes because of climate change. If climate change is not slowed down, an additional 24 million children will suffer from malnutrition by 2050. Sub-Saharan Africa will be hit the hardest: Every year, 12 million hectares become desert here. This is according to UN studies. In Kieché, this means eating less.

«In concrete terms, we expect the harvest to fall by around 13 percent. This is confirmed by data from the United Nations.»

SWISSAID climate expert Sonja Tschirren (see interview)

Salamatou Zamnaou knows the increasingly harsh conditions first hand. «We’ve been waiting for rain for weeks», she says, looking up at the blue sky. No sign of precipitation. But the soil desperately needs it. Water. it was particularly bad in 2022. And when the water comes, it comes (too) intensely. «The seasons have changed. Heavy rainfall alternates with droughts. That makes cultivating the fields very difficult», says Sonja Tschirren.

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.

Why Kieché?

Nevertheless, Kieché has a special position in many respects. This is because the development potential in the region is favorable. The groundwater table is high. The soil is rich in nutrients. These are important foundations that SWISSAID wants to and can use together with the local population in the fight against hunger. SWISSAID is currently building 18 wells in the project area and training small farmers in sustainable farming methods. To ensure that the work continues after the end of the project, the knowledge and organization will be handed over to the local smallholder farmers’ association.

In recent months, it has networked with other communities in the region – and has now spread to over 21 villages. «More and more people want to join in!» says Zamnaou proudly. The reason is obvious: poverty has visibly decreased in recent months. Much to Zamnaou’s delight. And what is the farmer particularly proud of? «The knowledge of agroecology – we can use it to help ourselves!» She then adds an African proverb to describe SWISSAID’s work: «Instead of getting fish in our hands, we prefer to learn how to fish!»


Salamatou Zamnaou uses an African proverb to describe SWISSAID’s work: «Instead of getting fish in our hands, we prefer to learn how to fish!»