The loan and grant agreement for the Emergency Food Security and Rural Development Programme was signed February 7, 2011, in Rome by Mireille Fatouma Ausseil, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Republic of the Niger to IFAD and Kanayo F. Nwanze, President of IFAD.
The fragile Sahel region is a narrow strip, south of the Sahara desert, that includes Burkina Faso, Chad, Eritrea, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Sudan. The droughts of the late 1960s and early 1980s led to a famine in the region that killed 1 million people and affected another 50 million.
Scant and irregular rainfall since last year has set off the latest crisis, with Niger at its centre, where it is estimated that 7.1 million people – or half of the country’s population – do not have enough food.
The Emergency Food Security and Rural Development Programme will restore the productive assets of the most food-insecure and vulnerable rural households. The programme will strengthen domestic food production systems (particularly irrigated rice and wheat production systems), improve the mobility of people and goods, and ensure adequate access to water for rural communities and livestock.
Over 121 000 vulnerable households or approximately 847 000 people in the rural areas of the regions of Maradi, Tahoua and Tillabery will benefit directly from the programme. Women and young people will represent at least 30 per cent each of the target group.
With this new programme, IFAD will have financed 10 programmes and projects in Niger for a total investment of US$310 million benefiting 725 000 households.
In 2004 severe locust attacks, aggravated by a drought in 2005, left 3.5 million people in 3000 villages facing acute food shortages. Niger was hit hard, and the Maradi region, where about 70% of the population lives below the poverty line, was hit hardest of all.
In response to the 2005 food crisis, IFAD’s Project for the Promotion of Local Initiative for Development in Aguié created a new type of food bank in Maradi. Known locally as a soudure bank, it lends food to farmers during the planting period to help them get through the ‘hunger season’ that precedes the harvest. The soudure or pre-harvest period runs from mid-July to mid-September, a time when family cereal reserves are almost empty. During these months families usually eat only one meal a day. It is also the time when farmers are planting seeds and need strength to work.
The soudure bank concept is based on exchange. Every week, poor farmers receive cereal as a credit. Farmers then pay back the loan – not with money, but with cereals, once their own crops are harvested. They add 25% interest to replace the stock and cover the cost of storage and maintenance. The villagers decided on this percentage themselves.
* The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) works with poor rural people to enable them to grow and sell more food, increase their incomes and determine the direction of their own lives. Since 1978, IFAD has invested over US$12.5 billion in grants and low-interest loans to developing countries, empowering more than 370 million people to break out of poverty. IFAD is an international financial institution and a specialized UN agency based in Rome – the UN’s food and agricultural hub. It is a unique partnership of 165 members from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), other developing countries and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
For more: www.ifad.org.
[17 February 2011]