According to FAO data from 2015, forest land covers in Niger equals to 1.14 million ha, with primary forest occupying 0.17% of the country . The forestry sector contributes up to 17% of the GDP of the country and provides numerous ecosystem services that contribute in building a resilient socio-ecological system in the Sahel amongst which they serve as safety nets during times of drought. Despite all these and other important functions of these forests, they are facing acute degradation and deforestation problems .
In fact, between 1990 and 2000, the country lost an average of 62,000 Ha of forest per year, with an average annual deforestation rate of 3.74%. During the period between 2000 and 2005, the rate of forest loss fell to 12,000 Ha per year and between 2005 and 2010, the forest loss remained stable at 12,000 Ha per year with an annual loss rate of 1%. The high forest loss between 1990 and 2000 is attributed to the Sahel drought which peaked in the mid-1980s to the early 1990s. The forest loss decreased with renewed farmer-managed forest restoration in Niger after the drought years. In total, between 1990 and 2010, Niger lost more than 50% of its main forest cover (740,000 Ha). Measuring the total rate of habitat conversion (defined as change in forest area plus change in woodland area minus net plantation expansion) for the 1990-2005 intervals, Niger lost 25.7% of its forest and woodland habitat .
The drivers for forest degradation in Niger include the (i) rapid expansion of agriculture into forest lands, (ii) uncertain land tenure, land speculation, unauthorized encroachment of forest lands, (iii) unsustainable harvesting of forest and non-timber products, (iv) lack of state land registration and forest estate demarcation, (v) population increase and demand for agricultural land and (vi) rural poverty and lack of alternative livelihood .
One of the causes of the forest regression is poverty, as indicated in the context section of the Niger National Forest Plan which states as follows: “in addition to climatic hazards, high demographic pressure and the level of poverty of the population (83% rural) all combine to maintain and accentuate the regressive trend of natural resources in general and forest resources in particular”. Despite the continuous loss of forest resources and their reducing percentage of contribution to the national economy of Niger as a result of diversification, there is a tendency to exploit them even further .
Climate change is adding to the existing stresses, contributing to decreased productivity of trees as a result of drought and temperature stress, and increased wind and water erosion leading to a decrease in forest potential; low forest productivity; high forest species mortality rate and fragmentation, and reduction in forest formation .
Key policies and governance approach
There is a large arsenal of legislative and regulatory texts on the forest domain in Niger.
Starting from the country’s Constitution (2010), article 35 paragraph 1, states the right of every person to have a healthy environment and obliges the State to protect the environment in the interest of present and future generations .
At the same time Law n° 2004-040 of 2004 confirms the State's desire to transfer to decentralised local authorities and communities the management of forest resources in the prospect of their preservation and the fight against poverty. It also considers forest resources as a common heritage of the nation, and invites "everyone to respect it and to contribute to its conservation and its regeneration” .
Degradation of tropical forest is a major concern in environmental policies. To face this problem, Niger have developed policies to redistribute forest management from the State to local stakeholders. This strategy postulates that local management and an appropriation of forest resource by local stakeholders ensure sustainable management. In Niger, during 1980’s, the State became aware of the failure of policies that aim to exclude rural stakeholders from forests. This acknowledgement of failure favored the emergence of community forestry (Bertrand, et al., 2006, Montagne, et al., 2006). Community forestry in Niger resulted in the creation of forest cooperative since 1981, and then the creation of firewood Rural Markets (RM) since 1992. The creation of Rural Markets (RM) aims sustainable management of forest ecosystems and sustainable supplying of towns with firewood. Devolution of forest management rests on acknowledgement of the rural stakeholders’ capacities to manage their resources (Montagne, et al., 1997) .
Moreover, the country, with assistance from development partners, set up appropriate policies and strategies under form of Plans and Programs which focused essentially on the fight against desertification (National Plan to Combat Desertification, PNLCD 1985, revised in 1991), and natural resource management (National Resource Management Program natural) .
The Ministry of the Environment of Niger has the duty to oversee the forestry services through structures created within it, in particular the Technical Departments including the General Directorate of the Environment and Water and Forests (DGE/EF) and the attached Services including the Office of Studies and Environmental and Impact Assessment (BEEEI), the National Center for Ecological and Environmental Monitoring (CNSEE) and the National Center for Forest Seeds (CNSF). At the decentralized levels, these directorates are represented by Regional, Departmental and Communal Services Directorates .
Successes and remaining challenges
The forest productivity of natural formations remains poorly known despite the efforts to improve knowledge. Several research works have been carried out by projects that have taken place in the field of forest management buut these work remains very limited in time and space .
Initiatives and Development Plans
In 2012, the Government of Niger developed Niger National Forest Plan 2012-2021 which has as global objective to contribute to the national economic growth through the improvement of forest resources and their adaptation to climate change.
Following the efforts of the Government of Niger policies for forest resources management, a “Project to Support Sustainable Forest Management and the Strengthening of the Role of Forests in Combating Climate Change in Niger (GDFCC – Niger)” started in 2019, funded by the Green Climate Fund. The GDFCC Project is a forestry and land-use initiative started in 2020 and designed to reduce forest loss and improve the health and wellbeing, and food and water security of the most vulnerable people and communities in Niger. It also targets ecosystems and ecosystem services to reduce deforestation, and boost forest-based production in Niger. The project will contribute towards reduction in GHG emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and promote sustainable management of forests, forest ecosystems and watersheds, leading to emission reductions and the protection of ecosystem services. The interventions will be undertaken in the: Koulou; Bana; Foghabéri; Goroubassounga forests (Dosso region) and the Say; Faira; Tera and Guésselbodi forests (Tillaberi region), on an estimated 77,000 ha of medium to highly degraded forests . The project includes three components i) improving knowledge and governance of forest resources; ii) Sustainable Forest management and diversification under climate change and iii) project management. Several are the outcomes expected, among those: (i) the improvement of the management of forest landscapes contributing to emissions reductions (6,626,000 Ha), (ii) the reduction of emissions from land use, deforestation, and forest degradation, and through sustainable management of forests and conservation and enhancement of forest carbon stocks (55,000,000 tCO2eq reduction) (iii) and the strengthening of institutional and regulatory systems for low-emission growth in the forestry sectors .
Furthermore, under the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative (AFR100), Niger has committed to restore 3.2 million ha by 2029 as a contribution to the African Union resolution to restore 100 million ha by 2030 and targets to support National Sustainable Land Management Strategy (SNGDT) within the framework of improving food security and promoting rural development (3N Initiative).
Goals and Ambitions
- Six hundred thousand (600,000) ha of classified forests, protected areas and gum plantations are preserved and secured within the framework of the conservation of biological diversity and forest cover;
- Two hundred (200,000) ha of additional natural forests are put under management and 990,000 ha of forests already under management will be monitored in the framework of the revitalization of the participatory approach and the process of decentralization of forest resource management;
- Five (5) forestry sectors have been developed to better promote the different timber and non-timber forest products with particular emphasis on forest species with food value;
- Two hundred and seventy (270,000) ha of degraded lands are recovered in the framework of the intensification of actions for ecological rehabilitation and protection of degraded ecosystems;
- The legal and regulatory framework is revised in order to secure the interventions of various actors;
- Forestry research for adaptation of the forest sector to changes climate is developed;
- The partnership between the various actors of the forestry sub-sector is strengthened;
- A communication strategy for the development of the forestry sub-sector is developed and implemented;
- Financial resources to implement the NFP and strengthen the means of intervention of advisory support services and local communities are mobilized.
- National government is committed to slow land degradation and to accelerate the scaling up of forest landscape restoration and sustainable land management to contribute to multiple sustainable development goals, including improved food security, reduction of rural poverty, sustainable production of fuelwoods, expansion of irrigated agriculture and increased resilience to climate change.
- Barriers identified by Niger forest policy documents to the sustainable management of the country’s forest resources include: (a) insufficient management and technical capacity, (b) lack of knowledge /absence of data on the forest resource and insufficient planning tools (c) weak local economy and inadequate forest investment capacity; (d) non mastery of the factors of forest degradation, (e) human related threats and pressures, and (f) climate change.
- The urgent restoration of degraded forests and landscapes is essential if Niger is to meet the challenges posed by desertification, food insecurity and climate change among other negative trends.
- An estimated US$ 2.5 billion is required through to 2030 for Niger to implement priority actions, including to: (i) Reduce emissions of GHG from deforestation and land-use change and (ii) Adapt to the impacts of climate change in the agriculture/livestock sector.