As landlocked country in the West African Sahel, Niger is characterized 80% of its territory covered by the Sahara Desert. The two primary ecosystems are the savanna and the desert with the southern Sahelo-Sudanian part of the country is characterized by forests and wooded savannahs .
The country is home to several species of plant and animals. The flora of Niger, all groups combined, contains about 2124 species including one endemic (Rhyncosia airica) in the Aïr (Saadou,1998) and, in 2013, 487 species of algae were discovered in the country. In addition, due to its bioclimatic stratification Niger has a rich and varied fauna composed of 3200 animal species including 168 species of mammals, 512 species of birds, 150 species of reptiles and amphibians, 112 species of fish and many invertebrates (molluscs, insects, etc.) (Inezdane, 1998). Many species of fauna, in particular the Sahelo-Saharan antelopes, are endangered (case of Addax nasomaculatus and Gazela dama) while some others some others like the Scimitarhorned Oryx no longer exist in Niger .
As observed globally in the Sahel Region, Niger has witnessed an accelerated level of biodiversity degradation over the last three decades, due to drought and anthropogenic factors. Approximately 84% of the country’s population relies on the agricultural sector for employment and subsistence with this sector contributing up to 45.2% towards the GDP, in 2010 (29.5% agriculture, 11% livestock, 4.6% forestry and fishing) .
Agrobiodiversity production in Niger is dominated by cereals (e.g. millet, sorghum, rice, corn, wheat, fonio) and cash crops (e.g. cowpea, groundnut, onion, sesame, sorrel, tomato, cotton). A study completed in 2008 revealed that the export of these products represented 16% of the country’s total exports. However, threats to agrobiodiversity are leading to a decline in the production potential of agroforestry ecosystems, species and varieties. Livestock resources include cattle, sheep, goats, camels, donkeys, horses, poultry, accounting for 62% of export earnings in the rural sector and 21% of all exports. The current rate of livestock exploitation however remains considerably low (only 10%) and could be raised to a higher level with substantial opportunity for improvement in earnings. Livestock is threatened at present by habitat modification linked to, for example, the drying up of Lake Chad; nomadic pastoralism is less productive as a result of poor rainfall distribution, overgrazing, land and population pressures; and certain breeding practices have led to genetic degeneration. In spite of there being distinct improvement in protected areas coverage, the general trend for wildlife biodiversity is marked by habitat degradation and a decline in species diversity (which is also linked to revenue losses in the ecotourism sector) .
At the same time, forest biological diversity (especially forest ecosystems) is at an advanced state of degradation due to several factors, such as the advancing agricultural front, bush fires, lack of or inadequate management plans, exploitation of immature fruits and climate change. The current situation is characterized by plant regression and a decrease in plant diversity .
Niger’s waters cover an area of around 410,000 hectares and are rich in fish, crustaceans, mollusks and algae. However, droughts combined with human actions have led to a gradual impoverishment of fish resources. A reduction in flood areas and overfishing, among other factors, have led to a decline in production and made it difficult to renew stocks. Data collected at various intervals between 1970 and 2010 highlight significant fluctuations in catch size .
Threats to Niger’s biodiversity are characterized as anthropogenic and natural. Direct and indirect anthropogenic threats include poor agricultural practices, poaching, habitat degradation or destruction, overexploitation of wildlife, pollution. Natural threats are mainly related to climatic contingencies which themselves are secondary to declining rainfall levels, recurrent droughts, poor distribution of rainfall over time and space and extreme temperatures .
Key policies and governance approach
In Niger, there are a large number of legal texts which regulate the management of the environment in general, both at the national and international level. First and foremost, the Niger’s Constitution of 2010, with its articles 35, 36 and 37 gives the broad outlines on the protection and the management of the environment. It also states the obligation of the State to guarantee to each Nigerien the right to a healthy environment and of an appropriate management of natural resources. The text also stipulates that everyone is required to contribute to safeguarding and improving the environment in which they live .
Law No. 98-07 of April 29, 1998 establishes the hunting regime and the protection of wildlife as a principle of the country. It specifies the content of the practice of hunting, the different categories of permits, the right of use, the protection of wildlife and that of property and people. Moreover, it stipulates that hunting is strictly prohibited in national parks, wildlife reserves and integral reserves or sanctuaries that may be created on national territory for the needs of wildlife protection and management. In addition, it establishes a wildlife management fund and sets out the terms of its management and the distribution of revenue from wildlife-related transactions .
In 2010, Niger also adopted an Ordinance on the Water Code setting up measures aimed at better conservation and use of biodiversity itself .
Many others are the cross-cutting laws and regulations that the country has been setting up during the past years, such as the Decree on the institutionalization of Environmental Impact Studies (1997), the Decree on the Protection of Plant (1996) and a Decree promoting the use of butane gas .
In the process of applying the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which it signed and ratified on June 11, 1992 and July 25, 1995, Niger has been implementing its National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) since 1998. The last one is dated 2014. This strategy was developed on the basis of an inventory of biological diversity in Niger and targeted three specific objectives through 118 actions covering the main areas of biological diversity. The realization of these actions should allow the achievement of the global objective of "Preserving the multiple functions of biological diversity and its elements for their sustainable use in order to improve the living conditions of households" .
Successes and remaining challenges
Niger has achieved good progress in regard to raising awareness of biodiversity issues, to which the NGO community has contributed significantly. Modules on biodiversity information and awareness-raising for teachers and students have been developed and administered as well as training has been provided on assessing the economic value of biodiversity, and an information-sharing workshop was held on environmental evaluation and accounting. Niger has also taken efforts to increase awareness about the Law on Pastoralism (2010) and has operationalized its National Clearing House Mechanism (CHM). Furthemore, a network of environmental journalists has also been created .
Human resource capacity and infrastructure have been improved with regard to fisheries and aquaculture, with the participation of the population in the management of water and aquatic resources being promoted nowadays .
Seven protected areas exist today comprising 14.29% of the national territory. Management units have been created for all protected areas and a co-management approach for five protected areas has been implemented as has a management plan for Park W. Additionally, a management agreement has been adopted for the Aïr and Ténéré National Nature Reserve and management plans for wetlands developed. Furthermore, the National Nature Reserve of Termit and Tin Toumma has been established. There are also 12 designated Ramar sites in Niger. Regarding urban and peri-urban forestry, many plantations (including the Niamey Green Belt comprising 2,500 hectares) have been established by the State, communities, projects (including private) and often with local populations .
Despite the country’s progress, lack of political will is still identified as possible risk for reaching the objectives set out in the NBSAP, as well as insufficient financial, technical and organizational capacities .
Initiatives and Development Plans
In general, Niger has developed a ten-year plan on methods for sustainable consumption and production. Microfinance institutions have been created in the agricultural sector. The private sector is being encouraged to invest in ex situ conservation (conventional breeding). In addition, the development of market chains for gum Arabic and palm leaves, among other products, is being promoted. Niger has established a National Forest Seed Centre, and possesses a gene bank containing over 5000 entries with 4000 accessions of major crops (e.g. millet, sorghum, cowpea). A strategy and action plan for sustainable livestock development has been adopted, and local livestock breeds are being genetically improved through the implementation of a national improvement program .
Niger has undertaken measures to mainstream biodiversity, integrally or partially, in several planning frameworks, including the National Environmental Plan for Sustainable Development, which constituted the national agenda 2021, and the Economic and Social Development Plan 2012-2015 which identified 5 strategic areas to meet the challenges of economic and social development: (i) consolidation of the credibility and effectiveness of public institutions; ii) sustainability conditions for balanced and inclusive development iii) food security and sustainable agricultural development; iv) promotion of a competitive and diversified economy for accelerated and inclusive growth; and v) promotion of social development .
In 2012, the Government also developed the National Strategy and Action Plan for the Conservation and Development of Wildlife in Niger to ensure the conservation, development and sustainable management of wildlife in order to improve the well-being of populations .
The country has also implemented its Master Plan for Traditional Medicine and conducted phytochemical analyses on medicinal plant species. Traditional knowledge is being taken into consideration in national policies and strategies, notably in the National Sanitation Plan (2011-2015), which envisions the integration of traditional medicine in the health system. Niger is a signatory to the Nagoya Protocol and is currently engaged in activities regarding its ratification .
Niger is also part of the Great Green Wall (GGW) Initiative, a project with the ambition of restoring 100 million ha of currently degraded land, sequestering 250 million tons of carbon and creating 10 million green jobs. Several achievements have been already recorded in most of the GGW member states. In Niger, The intervention zone of the GGW is between the isohyets 100 mm in the North and 500 mm in the South and spreads over three climate zones from North to South: the Saharan zone, the Sahel-Saharan zone and the Sahelian zone. It covers the regions of Diffa, Zinder, Maradi, Tahoua, Agadez, Dosso, Tillaberi and Niamey and 228 municipalities. In the country, since the start of the project, 146 million plants and seedlings have been produced, 364,615 ha of lands have been reforested, 363,928 ha of lands have been restored, 310 ha of ANR, 80,040 ha of dune fixing and 1,200 people have been trained on food and energy security. Moreover, the maintenance of biodiversity has created 21,487 jobs .
Goals and Ambitions
Under the Aichi Biodiversity targets and its National Plan for Social and Economic Development (2012-2015), Niger has developed an updated National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plan (NBSAP) in 2014 with 5 strategic objectives: i) conserve and sustainably exploit ecosystems, species and genetic resources; ii) reduce various forms of pollution; iii) improve and develop tools for managing protected areas; iv) take into account biodiversity in policies and strategies; v) address the effects of climate change. Eighty actions have been formulated, along with associated responsible actors, indicators, verification sources, costs per year (including funding gaps), hypotheses and risks . The total estimated cost of NBSAP implementation in 2020 is FCFA 420,647,660,000. Niger intends to adopt a system for monitoring and evaluation based on the principles of Results-Based Management (RBM) .
- Niger is confronted with problems of capacity building and use of technologies necessary for the implementation of environmental management actions, particularly those related to biodiversity. Strengthen those could help the implementation of biodiversity protection and conservation.
- It is recommended to; integrate local knowledge in biodiversity conservation policies and plans;
- diversify the economy beyond agriculture and dependence on the exploitation of natural resources;
- strengthen the capacities of institutions for the planning and implementation of biodiversity and ecosystem management and improve conservation efforts beyond protected areas
- the weakness of investments in science and technology is very evident, which explains the deficiency of the quality of interventions in the field of environment in general and for the benefit of biological diversity in particular.