Access to climate forecasts are helping to improve the resilience of herders in Niger © Thomson Reuters Foundation/Kieran Guilbert
In the mosque in the village of Tokobinkani, around 30 km from Niamey, Niger, villagers gather to listen to a trainer from the Association for the Revitalisation of Livestock in Niger (AREN) as he discusses the year’s seasonal forecasts.
“Everyone from the village is here; our survival depends on it,” states agropastoralist, Boube Amadou. “There’s so much uncertainty around the seasons that we’ve always farmed crops and livestock here without access to the information we need.” He continues, “We don’t know whether the winter period will begin early or late, whether to expect plentiful and widespread rainfall, or whether we’ll have enough grazing land and water to keep our cattle alive.” In the past, this uncertainty has created resource management conflicts with sedentary populations.
However, since April 2015, the BRACED-PRESENCES initiative – a 3-year environmental and social resilience project for around 103 vulnerable communities (304,000 people) in Niger’s Tillabéri region – has better equipped agropastoralists to adapt to climate fluctuations. The programme is funded by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) and covers 13 countries in Asia, Eastern Africa and the Sahel. In Niger, the project aims to improve the quality and access to climatic data for agropastoral populations.
Manzo Issoufou, pastoralism expert at AREN explains, “The climate data come from the National Meteorology Department and from Agrhymet (a branch of the Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel) and the information is then translated into a format that agropastoralists can understand and use to make the right decisions at the right time.”
In each village, kits composed of radios, solar mobile telephones and rain gauges are made available to a committee to provide daily rainfall forecasts to inform the communities. Issoufou continues, “These new technologies, which are an innovation in the project, have helped increase agricultural production, improve animal well-being and reduce natural resource management conflicts in our target areas.”
For Issoufou Ouma Kaltoume, knowledge and learning manager at the NGO, CARE, which is implementing the project in Niger, explains, “With this information system, we can broadcast information about climate hazards on community radio stations. Rural farmers, who face uncertainty from the varying climate, can then choose which strategy to adopt.”
Agropastoralist, Abdourahamane Salifou, affirms the change brought about by the information, especially regarding when to move their livestock, where the best grazing grounds and water supplies are located, and what type of seeds to plant. “Before, our decisions were based solely on empirical knowledge which made our journey extremely risky,” he says. Like others, he is delighted with the training he has received on agriculture, livestock farming and sustainable natural resource management. He continues, “With access to information about seasonal trends, we now have a better grip on our environment. When a situation now arises, we know when to take that all-important decision, and how to make more money from farming.”
Many of the agropastoralists are now demanding an extension of the initiative to neighbouring countries where they move with their cattle.