A conversation on the climate crisis in Niger

The climate crisis means that the world is unsafe, uncertain, and unpredictable for billions of people. It is undermining energy, water, and food security and threatens to reverse gains made in ending hunger, poverty, and malnutrition. But what does that mean for the world’s most fragile contexts?

We spoke with SNV’s Country Director in Niger, Mamadou Diallo, to understand the challenges and opportunities he sees when it comes to climate action.

Let’s begin by discussing the impact of the climate crisis on Niger. What’s the situation there?

In Niger, the climate crisis is having profound implications for those who call this country home. From irregular rainfall to the alarming rise in temperatures – recent findings reveal that temperatures in our region are rising at a rate 1.5 times faster than the rest of the world.

Its effects ripple through every aspect of daily life – it goes beyond the environmental impact as the climate crisis is a catalyst for conflict, often triggered by resource scarcity. Around 80% of our population relies on rain-fed agriculture, which makes both food quality and quantity challenging to secure. The same goes for water; it is scarce, and the effects of climate change exacerbate the problem.

This, in turn, has led to migration and people displacement as people move away from conflict or in pursuit of more sustainable resources.

With the interplay between climate change and conflict you described, how does this affect the daily lives and security of local communities?

As I mentioned, food security is a significant worry as many people in Niger still depend on rainwater for food production. The irregularity of water spawns two extremes: periods of drought and occasional flooding, and both of these affect the capacity of smallholder farmers to produce food that is both enough and nutritious.

When it comes to water security, given the scarcity of safe drinking water in some areas, communities often have to figure out who gets to use the water – whether it’s for people or animals.

And from this comes conflict. It can be particularly challenging for both agriculturalists and pastoralists who need the same land and resources, particularly when pastoralists require more water to support their animals.

We know that Niger ranks among the top three most vulnerable countries, alongside Chad and Sudan, who are battling with similar issues. But the situation in Niger is not isolated; it mirrors similar problems encountered in places near the Sahel and beyond.

How is SNV addressing these challenges?

SNV addresses these challenges in two distinct ways – through our programmatic approach and capacity building.

Through our programmatic approach, our aim is to create programmes that are deeply rooted in the local context. We conduct a rigorous analysis before implementing them to understand this better, ensuring that SNV’s programmes are relevant and effective at addressing the problems faced by the local population.

Capacity forms the second pillar of our commitment to addressing climate-related challenges. This approach centres on harnessing local knowledge while strengthening partnerships with the community, local governments, and other international contributors. It is reflective of our efforts to connect local expertise with best practices from a global perspective.

We’re committed to exploring ways in which we can go beyond merely delivering services by delving into the transformation of entire systems, particularly within the agri-food sector. And by prioritising climate action in fragile contexts and leveraging strategic partnerships, we direct resources to where they are most needed, empowering communities.

Our goal is not just to provide access to food but to bring about lasting change. This may involve policy adjustments, changes in institutional structures, or the creation of an enabling environment to support the longevity and impact of our work. Using Locally Led Adaptation principles, solutions, and systems approaches, we can help address the structural causes of poverty in communities most affected by the climate crisis.

Can you give us an example of how this is working in Niger?

We’re proud to be working on several impactful initiatives. Our €1OO million Pro-ARIDES programme is dedicated to bolstering the resilience, food security, and incomes of nearly 2.1 million people across the Sahel, including farmers and (agro)pastoralist households.

In Niger, we have made significant progress, providing support to 32,000 households. Our ultimate goal across the project as a whole is to reach a total of 140,000 households by the end of 2026.

Furthermore, we are actively supporting small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) operating in the region. In Niger, we have already offered financial and non-financial support to approximately 51 SMEs in the agriculture sector.

Another example where we are working to enable people to adapt quickly is through our digital programme for pastoralists – IDAN. It is designed to increase the resilience and food security by providing reliable information which enables agro-pastoral households to take better-informed decisions and improve their business outcomes. For example, we provide information on weather forecasts to help farmers determine when to start planting their crops. And we give them better access to online markets.

And finally, what would be your message for COP28? What is your vision for Niger?

It’s time that we address climate injustice – everything we’ve spoken about here is so crucial for the future of Niger. We’ve worked to support communities in Niger for a very long time, and yet most of the gains we have made in the past 40 years are still so fragile. If we fail to address the climate crisis adequately, those gains will simply be lost.

Our vision as SNV is to see a world where all people live with dignity and have equal opportunities to thrive sustainably – and that is incredibly relevant in these fragile situations.

We need to see a greater focus on making things more balanced, more just, by providing the investment where it’s most needed. Conflict is escalating, but the sooner we can address these issues and move from promise to concrete action, the more we will be able to help our communities.

When it comes to my personal vision, I want to see a future where we can visit any community and confidently say, ‘This community is fully equipped with the knowledge and the foundation they need to quickly address climate action efficiently.’

In that future, these communities can anticipate and adapt, and when that’s not possible, they will be prepared to absorb the impact and recover effectively. People will live harmoniously with access to ample food and clean water.

While it may sound simple, universal access to food and water in a fragile context such as Niger would be remarkable – we would think, WOW, we made it!

Together, I truly believe we can drive change and make a substantial difference in our fight against the climate crisis. The time is now for us to contribute to climate justice through transformative action and systems change.

To learn more about SNV's climate action initiatives, see our climate brochure.