Niger: Selected Issues

Abstract

Niger: Selected Issues

Preventing and Managing Natural Disasters1

Natural disasters have had a significant impact on Niger’s macroeconomic performance. Their adverse effects on wealth and food security hamper poverty reduction efforts while unexpected government spending in response to related emergency humanitarian needs is source of fiscal slippages. Natural disasters impacts are also noticeable on the price level as well as they are source of variability in most socio-economic variables, including economic growth. Thus, as natural disasters become more recurrent in Niger, their in-depth understanding becomes critical for economic program design and management.

A. Introduction

1. Niger faces recurrent natural disasters that entail significant wealth and social costs, as well as humanitarian consequences. These disasters mostly result from the country’s geographical situation and the fragile ecosystem. Climatic change and high population growth compound the impact of natural disasters and accelerate natural degradation. Their adverse impact on incomes and welfare is particularly significant given the high dependence of the economy on rain-fed agriculture (agriculture contributes over 40 percent of GDP and provides incomes to more than 80 percent of the population). Although the authorities have built a strong mitigating framework to deal with food insecurity from these disasters, Niger still faces severe food shortages in drought years and/or plague of locusts, which maintains food and nutrition insecurity. Over recent years, natural disasters have become more frequent; their impact has however been less acute due to the strengthening of institutions in charge of disaster prevention and risk management, including early warning systems, contingency plans, and resilience programs.

2. This background note profiles first natural disasters affecting Niger, then assesses its wealth and social costs before presenting the risk management framework and related policies to contain vulnerabilities.

B. Profiling Natural Disasters in Niger

3. Niger is among the 34 countries with very high natural disaster risk and the biggest hunger problem (World Risk Report, 2015). Niger’s 80 percent land area is covered by the Sahara Desert, and only 1 percent of the territory receives 600 mm of annual rainfall on average. Population density is extremely low, with communities predominantly living in the arable non-desert zone in the southern part of the country mostly on subsistence crops and livestock. Extreme climatic conditions increase vulnerability to famine, and impact severely agricultural output, thus destabilizing macroeconomic outcomes entailing important wealth effects, and hindering poverty reduction efforts in exposed rural areas. Other parts are threatened by desertification, destructive farming practices, and poor management of the flow of the Niger River.

4. The country is recurrently subject to a range of disasters. Disasters comprise droughts, locust invasions, floods, sometimes these disasters being combined. According to the National Disaster Information Management System (DESINVENTAR), the number of disasters recorded between 1973 and 2014 is estimated at 3,702, of which 1,526 epidemics (human), 765 floods, 487 epizooties (cattle), 310 wild fires, 289 droughts, and 158 ravagers and locust pilgrims. The frequency and number of natural disasters have increased over time; about 85 percent of disasters registered during 1973-2014 occurred between 2001 and 2014 (Figure 1).2

Figure 1.
Figure 1.

Niger: Number of Disasters, 1973-2014

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2017, 060; 10.5089/9781475582888.002.A002

Source: DESINVENTAR.

5. The most damaging of these disasters have been:

  • (i) Droughts. Cyclical droughts generally lead to food shortages and, in some cases, famines. Noted were the series of droughts in the 1970s and 1980s, and more recently in 2000, 2004–2005, 2009-2010 and 2012. Droughts destroy crops and cattle (particularly in the Tahoua and Tillaberi regions), and often force population to leave affected areas. The latest two droughts (2009-2010 and 2012) affected 7 million people each. However, as disaster prevention and risk management have become more effective, impacts of droughts have been contained.

  • (ii) Floods. Floods are generally associated with high rainfalls, soils with limited water infiltration, and uncontrolled occupation of flood-prone areas and river beds. Floods affect mainly desert regions of Agadez and Tahoua, killing people, and destroying road infrastructure, houses and entire herds of cattle, sheep, and camels. Floods in 2010 and 2012 affected 500,000 people, causing 60 deaths in 2012. They however have a limited negative impact on agricultural production, as they are localized and coincide with exceptional rainfalls that are generally good for crops in the country as a whole. Floods also affect constructions in flood risk zones in cities with no drainage system and along the Niger and Komandougou rivers. Without adequate risk prevention, floods continue to cause havoc; according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), more than 123,000 people were affected by floods as of September 23, 2016, with 50 deaths and about 14,000 houses destroyed, essentially in Maradi, Tahoua and Agadez.

  • (iii) Invasions of locusts. Locusts invade from North Africa and the Middle East and proliferate when rain falls are high (exceeding 200 mm according to IRD), therefore the appellation of “curse of good rainfalls”, destroying plantations of cereals, fruits and vegetables. In 1988, the invasion of locusts necessitated the treatment of almost 1 million hectares of infested land (Panapresse). In 2004, locusts multiplied dramatically, infesting the northern regions of Mali and Niger, in the worst locust infestation in 15 years (SSA REO October 2005). Niger was again attacked in 2009 and 2012, however with less catastrophic devastation, thanks to the work of the Locust Monitoring Center (CNLA) established in 2007 with donor assistance for early detection and pesticide treatment.

C. Social, Economic and Financial Cost of Disasters

6. Disasters’ economic and social impacts have been important. According to the DESINVENTAR database, between 1973 and 2014, disasters took 10,625 human lives, killed cattle (17 million), destroyed 71,986 houses, and ruined 2.6 million hectares of crops. The financial cost was estimated at US$3 billion, with droughts and floods’ impacts being the costliest, followed to a lesser extent by locusts’ (Fig. 2). Disasters have increased food insecurity and Niger’s economic vulnerability, complicating poverty reduction efforts. To feed Niger’s population, the government has had to purchase grain locally or abroad and rely on foreign aid. Related government spending has been fully accommodated in Niger’s IMF-supported programs (Dawson, 2005).

Figure 2.
Figure 2.

Niger: Financial Cost Per Type of Disaster

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2017, 060; 10.5089/9781475582888.002.A002

Sources: Niger authorities; and IMF staff calculations.

7. Disasters have impacted adversely macroeconomic performance, by destabilizing agriculture output, increasing food inflation volatility, and deteriorating fiscal and current account positions (Table 1). Natural disasters’ adverse impact on real economic activity and prices has generally been temporary, as drops in agricultural production were followed by fast rebounds (Fig. 3-5). Overall, price’ pressures seem to have faded over 2 years owing to food production recovery and government safety nets program in food support. Thanks to the effective food security management framework, prices stabilized since 2000 and Niger appears to have performed somewhat better than the WAEMU’s peers on the inflation front (Fig. 4). Similarly, with increased irrigation with the 3N Initiative, agriculture output has become less volatile over recent years, despite the more frequent droughts (Fig. 5). These noticeable achievements on resiliency result from increased irrigation and more effective social safety nets. Nevertheless, the increasing disasters have contributed to weakening further the structurally fragile fiscal and current account positions. The impact of agriculture output volatility on the incomes of poor households with no hedging instruments could also be persistent.3 A study conducted by the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD) on Mali, a neighbor country subject to similar disasters, found a long-term socio-economic impact of the 1987-89 locust invasion through the education channel. Reflecting the destruction of crop incomes, infant school attendance in affected areas dropped by 25 percent, the drop for girls being even higher. Generally, REO (2016) finds that infrastructure and human capital destruction by natural disasters have a significant negative in the long term on growth in Sub-Saharan African countries.

Figure 3.
Figure 3.

Niger: Food Inflation, 1999-2015

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2017, 060; 10.5089/9781475582888.002.A002

Sources: Niger authorities; and IMF staff calculations.
Figure 4.
Figure 4.

Niger: Inflation Developments, 1981-2015

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2017, 060; 10.5089/9781475582888.002.A002

Sources: Niger authorities; and IMF staff calculations.
Figure 5.
Figure 5.

Niger: Agriculture Growth, 1995-2015

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2017, 060; 10.5089/9781475582888.002.A002

Sources: Niger authorities; and IMF staff calculations.
Table 1.

Niger: The Macroeconomic Impact of Recent Major Disasters, 1997-2009

article image
Sources: DESINVENTAR; and IMF staff calculations.

The impact on prices in 1997 is blurred by inflationary effects of the 1996 coup d’état by Baré Maïnassara.

The impact on fiscal and current account balances in 2000 is masked by slippages linked to the 1999 coup d’état.

The inflationary impact, disguised in 2004 by the still unwinding high inflation of 2001, was felt in 2005.

The high inflation in t-1 reflects the increase in international food prices of 2008.

D. Framework for the Prevention and Management of Disasters

8. Niger has developed over time a strong risk prevention and management framework for natural disasters (Fig. 6). The framework for prevention and management of disasters and food crises (DNPGCCA), initially established in 1989 as the food crisis cell (CCA), has been strengthened with donor support since the early 2000s, and particularly in 2006, 2012 and 2014. As a result, the framework’s coverage has expanded, including early warning systems (EWS), prevention, social safety nets and humanitarian aid coordination. Under the Prime Minister’s Office, DNPGCCA coordinates government actions at central and regional levels in the areas of information collection and dissemination on food vulnerability disaster prevention and management, as well as monitoring and evaluation. The structure relies on the logistical support of technical ministries and public sector organizations, including Niger’s Office of Food Products (OPVN), charged with managing food reserves.4

Figure 6.
Figure 6.

Niger: National Framework for the Prevention and Management of Disasters and Food Crises

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2017, 060; 10.5089/9781475582888.002.A002

Source: Nigerien authorities.

9. DNPGCCA also plays an advocacy role and also manages humanitarian aid. Advocacy role is targeted to civil society, non-government organizations, and donors supporting the framework. Humanitarian aid support to people displaced by conflicts and floods has recently been deployed within the Ministry of Humanitarian Action and Disaster Management (HADM) established in May 2016.

10. Donors provide support under a memorandum of understanding signed on February 28, 2005. The memorandum defines the modalities of partnership between the government and donors who support technically or contribute financially to the prevention and management of food crises in Niger. The two key modalities of intervention relate to the Common Intervention Fund (FCI), to finance prevention/alleviation actions and studies, and the National Food Reserve (SNR) with an optimal capacity of 110,000 tons.5 Signatories to this framework include multilateral organizations (European Union, World Bank, UNDP, WFP, FAO and UNICEF) and bilateral donors (France, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Canada, Luxembourg and Spain). The European Union, the biggest contributor, is the lead donor. Consultation with donors is conducted through the Mixed Concertation Committee (CMC), chaired by the Prime Minister, the Restricted Concertation Committee (CRC), chaired by the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, and the Extended Concertation Committee (CEC), chaired by the DNPGCCA’s Permanent Secretary. During 2011-2015, Niger mobilized CFAF700 billion under the agreement to finance the bulk of the Support Plan to Vulnerable Populations (PSPV).

11. The Support Plan to Vulnerable Populations (PSPV) is DNPGCCA’s central operational framework.6 The plan is translated into a document, main tool for planning, programming and implementing interventions in favor of persons vulnerable to food and nutritional crises, as well as natural disasters. The preliminary plan is established in the last quarter of each year, based on extensive, participatory and inclusive post-crop regional vulnerability assessments. The final document incorporates actual information of the vulnerability map. This map is set up based on the information collected by vulnerability monitoring observatories (OSV) and the community early warning systems for urgent responses (SCAPRU), a network of early warning cells established in villages countrywide. The support plan, which is established for the January-September period, includes the following main prevention, emergency response and resilience actions:

  • Cash for work and food for work;

  • Unconditional cash transfers;

  • Targeted free food and cash distribution;

  • Assistance in non-food products and other assets essential to survival;

  • Sale of cereals and livestock food at moderate prices;

  • Building of stock reserves of cereals and livestock food;

  • Distribution of improved seeds to farmers in vulnerable zones;

  • Prevention of locust invasions.

12. The PSPV framework has provided needed help to vulnerable populations (Table 2). During 2011-2015, this contingent financing plan supported almost a million of vulnerable households affected mainly by food insecurity and floods. Part of the funding also supported refugees and people displaced by terrorist activities in the sub-region.7 The budget of the PSPV, mainly donor-funded plan, amounted to 4-5 percent of GDP during 2013-15 executed at a 60-65 percent rate. Financial support through various cash transfer systems has amounted annually to almost 1 percent of GDP. The framework helped replenish food reserves, sell cereals and livestock food at moderate prices and distribute ameliorated seeds to farmers. These actions seem to have played a role in the success in maintaining low inflation by WAEMU regional standards in spite of the recurrent natural disasters.

Table 2.

Niger: Indicators on the Management of Food Crises, 2011-16

article image
Source: DNGPCCASource: Nigerien authorities.

13. Looking forward, efforts should focus more on strengthening resilience to disasters. Government policies so far have mainly centered on emergency actions aimed at supporting populations exposed to natural disasters. While these actions have been effective in addressing emergency situations, they should be supported by investing in programs aimed at sustainably reducing vulnerability to disasters over the medium- to long-term. In particular, there is a need to adopt a strategic framework dedicated to post-disaster recovery. Government responses to disasters and food crises have focused more on addressing urgencies associated with humanitarian needs. Actions aimed at post-disaster sustainability have received less emphasis; to correct this situation, the government is working on how to connect humanitarian-early recovery and development, with the help of the UNDP.8

14. Over recent years, the government has taken initiatives that go beyond answers to urgencies to tackle issues related to population resilience to food and nutritional insecurity and disasters. One program expected to play a central role is the 3N (Nigeriens Nourish Nigeriens) Initiative piloted by the High Commission for the 3N Initiative established in 2011, under the President of the Republic. In addition to proposing appropriate responses to emergencies, the Initiative provides a strategic investment framework for food security and resilience to crises, with the aim of addressing the fundamental causes of food and nutritional insecurity and economic precariousness of vulnerable populations. In particular, policies under Axis 3 aim at strengthening the capacity of populations to respond to crises largely by addressing underlying agro-pastoral production gaps, through irrigation, mechanization, improved seeds and fertilizers, soil rehabilitation, dam construction, and the development downstream activities. In this regard, the increase in rehabilitated soil from 88,872 ha in 2011 to 254,536 ha in 2015 and in irrigated areas from 85,000 ha in 2011 to 120,000 ha in 2015 helped strengthen agriculture resilience. This is in line with the national strategy for 2014-18 to reduce risks of natural disasters (SNRRC). The strategy is supported by the OECD in the context of a regional initiative “Global Alliance for Resilience Initiatives” (“AGIR”), which aims at reducing in a structural and durable way food and nutritional vulnerability in the Sahel and West Africa. With the support of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the national disaster risk reduction strategy (SNRRC) is being revised in conformity with the UN Sendai Framework (2015-30) for Disaster Risk Reduction adopted in 2015.

E. Concluding Remarks

15. Niger faces large and increasing number of natural disasters, essentially droughts and floods, which heighten population and economic vulnerabilities, thereby complicating poverty reduction efforts. The government has responded by implementing a strong framework for crisis prevention and management, which has benefited from the coordinated support of the donor community. This framework has proven also to be effective in containing disasters risks and contributed to the achievements to stable price level, and thus to maintaining a macro-framework. However, though the contingent financing plan under the framework has helped alleviate the suffering of populations, it has largely focused on addressing emergencies, with less emphasis on prevention, and post-disaster recovery and sustainability.

16. The reduced variability of agriculture growth and food inflation over recent years shows the effectiveness of the risk management framework, but more needs to be done going forward. In particular, in spite of the support received from donors (UN agencies, bilateral and NGOs) resources and skills in decentralized communities (communes) are inadequate to efficiently implement the EWS. Also, while Niger has a good experience in risk assessment, detection, monitoring and prediction with regard to locusts and droughts, such a system lacks for floods, which continue to cause significant damages. In this regard, the current hazard analysis and mapping needs to be supplemented by a vulnerability analysis and a mapping of the main assets at risk, and spatial flooding risk analysis and assessment should be extended to other highly exposed areas including the city of Niamey. With donor support, including the recently signed Millennium Corporation Niger compact, the government should pursue efforts underway to strengthen resilience to disasters through increased irrigation and soil retention, in the context of a full-fledged national strategy of disaster prevention and management.

17. In this regard, the existing framework could be improved. Improvement could be done through streamlining and reducing possible redundancies between the DNPGCCA, 3N Initiative and the HADM Ministry, by strengthening the current early warning systems, by forbidding construction in flood-prone zones, by improving the collection and dissemination of information by the early warning system, and by strengthening regional cooperation. These issues, together with the one of the sustainability of the donor-funded contingency financing plans, should be addressed under the national disaster risk reduction strategy (SNRRC) under revision. Sustained progress in disaster risk reduction will be instrumental in reaching Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and in ensuring that the government meets fiscal and macroeconomic objectives under the new ECF program.

References

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1

This note was prepared by Joseph Ntamatungiro with the support of Chayabou Abdou. The note benefitted from reviews by Fode Ndiaye, UN Resident Coordinator and Diawoye Konte of the local UNDP office.

2

The increase in the number over time may reflect a statistics bias due to improvements in recording disasters.

3

Because of limited access to bank credit, 40-50 percent households in food insecurity situation are reported heavily indebted through informal channels, which puts them into a vicious over-indebtedness circle that perpetuates vulnerability (DNPGCCA, 2016).

4

For 2016, the UN Humanitarian Response Plan has identified 174 actors involved in crisis prevention and management activities on the ground.

5

The SNR includes a physical cereal stock (millet, sorghum and corn) with an optimal capacity of 50,000 tons, the national security stock (SNS) and a financial stock, the food security fund (FSA), with a purchasing capacity of 60,000 tons.

6

Niger subscribed to African Risk Capacity (ARC), which has been providing drought sovereign insurance to African Union member countries since 2013. For a premium of CFAF 1.5 billion, Niger recently received from ARC CFAF 1.9 billion that was used to cover activities under the framework in drought-hit regions.

7

Greater synergies between the PSPV and OCHA’s Humanitarian Response Plan would be useful.

8

At the UN World Humanitarian Summit that took place in Istanbul on May 23-24, the President asked the international community to complement Niger’s current institutional framework for crisis prevention and management by setting up a national emergency fund that would help respond rapidly to humanitarian crises.

Niger: Selected Issues
Author: International Monetary Fund. African Dept.