This case study looks at the reliability and efficiency of Nigerien systems for warning of potential food supply crises and reviews the country's strategy for reducing the fundamental insecurity of food supplies and rural incomes.
In 2012, the Sahel region of West Africa once again struggled to cope with the effects of a major drought. Disappointing rains in 2011 left communities facing the long months of the dry lean season desperately short of both food and other sources of livelihood.
The impact of poor weather was compounded by conflict, security crises and political developments – the flight home to Sahelian states of hundreds of thousands of migrant workers who had been working in Libya; the takeover of northern Mali by Tuareg and militant Islamist rebels; the overthrow of the Malian government in a military coup; Nigeria's closure of the central and eastern sections of the border with Niger in an effort to curb the activities of Boko Haram militants; pre-electoral tensions in Senegal.
Good rainfall in the 2012 wet season has created scope for some recovery in food supply pressures, cereal stocks and rural living standards during 2013. But in some places, such as Niger, heavy rain has brought its own problems, with extensive flood damage in the Niger river valley. And in northern Mali the risks of food insecurity remain high, because of the conflict between jihadist militant groups and the forces of the government and France and their African allies.
Moreover, the fundamental long-term problem remains: the Sahel is always food-insecure, even when harvests are good. The risk of drought and harvest failure is a fact of life, a potential threat that hangs over the region each year.
For the foreseeable future, therefore, the region will need to pursue a sustained drive to enhance household and community resilience and strengthen underlying economic capacity and development structures.