By Rakiatou Gazibo and Frank van Schoubroeck
Last autumn, Niger faced a drought and about half of the country´s people now rely on food aid for survival. With seasonal rains, grasses grow fresh again to the relief of badly affected pastoralists and their cattle. Unfortunately, apparently heavy rain up in the watershed of the Niger (possibly in Burkina Faso) caused floods along the river bed in Niamey. Particularly Commune 4 - where settled pastoralists grow horticulture crops by the river side - is heavily affected. The vegetable gardens of 350 households are flooded and (mud) houses collapse when walls get soaked. Water is still on the rise; and possibly many more people are affected along the river.
Says Mr Amadou Ousmane, Secretary of a local NGO working on horticulture development: "Only in 1968 and 1998 similar water levels occurred. We get such floods because in the Niger watershed, forest and bushes have been massively cleared. Even if a tree grows naturally, someone will cut it down to sell the wood - because there is no recognised ownership system. Seasonal rains then flood tributes to the Niger with sand; and at the same time water comes in floods."
For local farmers, this is bad news. Ramadan is due in a few days and during this period traditionally vegetable prices are high. Peri-urban farmers badly needed the money to buy food to make up for last year´s bad harvest. A Minister visited the area and disaster relief agencies have been informed about the incident.
Rakiatou Gazibo is officer for the AgriProFocus programme in Niger based at the Oxfam office
Frank van Schoubroeck is free-lance editor for Farming Matters