Climate change is one of the three major challenges that hamper agricultural development in the west African state of Niger. And a change in long-term weather conditions could put food security in doubt says farming experts in the country.
“Environmental crises lead to drops in production of food crops, but also in pastoral activities,” says the manager of the International Fund for Agriculture Development’s Vincenzo Galastro. “Climate change makes such crises recurrent. It is a problem we face every day.”
Galastro says farmers must adapt to climate change, and that means changes to what they plant. “We are working with farmers to determine the major varieties of food crops. Then we try to find out which of these crops are showing more resistance and adaptation to climate change.”
Drought in the region makes food security, and therefore agriculture, a focus point for Niger. The projects supported by IFAD in the state are all aimed at ensuring that producers deliver to the needs of the people, but the fund is also trying to keep workers in rural areas.
Galastro says the projects are making a difference to the citizens of Niger, with access to food improving as a direct result of the efforts made. Local communities are empowered through improved farming practice and techniques. The focus is also on crops that can improve food security, such as millet, cowpeas and farming with animals.
“We’re also working on strengthening local farmers’ associations because we believe it’s a way to introduce the notion of food security’ sustainability which is topical,” Galastro says.
Key role for women
IFAD’s says its policy is built around the role that women play in producing food. “Women are generally those in charge of managing food and ensuring food security within their households,” Galastro says.
“They think of survival strategies and then adopt them for feeding their families. As for men they’re often migrating to other places since seasonal migration is one of the strategies adopted by households.
“The women then take care of the houses and manage the food for it to remain longer. That’s why we consider they must be included in the food security project; they actually have a huge role to play.”
The approach is working, says Galastro. There are an increasing number of women found in leadership roles on farms. Women are representing the citizens of Niger on all levels; not only in the national government, but also in local communities. “Of course there is still a lot to do, but the progress is evident.”