Niger is one of the poorest countries in the world. Life expectancy there is 54 years, and it has an infant mortality rate higher than any other country except Afghanistan. It is also a country that is extremely vulnerable to climate variability and change. The livelihoods of four out of five people in Niger depend on rainfed agriculture. In other words, crops get their water only when it rains, which isn't a given in this part of the world.
Niger, like all countries in the Sahel, has one rainy season, from June to October, and the amount of precipitation can vary considerably from one year to the next. In some years, the start of the rainy season comes weeks later than normal. Sometimes the rainfall is bunched at the beginning of the season or at its end. Sometimes most of it falls during the middle months. All this causes undue hardships on farming communities already living in poverty. Last year, for example, the rainy season in Niger and its neighboring countries was both shorter and weaker than normal, and crops suffered as a result. So right now, an estimated 20 million people in the Sahel are at risk of going hungry and becoming malnourished.
A photo essay about Niger and climate issues that confront its people, and the critical role that climate forecasting plays in helping to reduce vulnerability. To get the most out of this visual piece, please view it in 'full-screen' mode after clicking on the image above
"If you ask the farmers what they want to know about the upcoming season, it isn't necessarily the amount of rainfall that will fall over the the entire season, but rather when it's likely to start," says Robertson. "The onset of the rainy season, which happens usually sometime in June, is a critical time for farmers because that's when they plant their crops."
Robertson says that the ability to predict seasonal changes in rainfall and temperatures, if effectively applied, could be one of the best adaptation strategies to climate variability and climate change in the Sahel and across sub-Saharan Africa. Mali, for example, has led the way in providing weather and climate information services to farmers in some rural communities, with positive results. Read more about this over at the CGIAR's Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security blog, and while you're there, be sure to follow its coverage of the Rio+20 conference.
The multimedia essay included here is a visual recap of the trip, with an introduction to Sahel and the climate issues that confront it, as well as more details on the workshop and its participants.To get the most out of this visual piece, please view it in "full-screen" mode.
About the IRI The IRI works on the development and implementation of strategies to manage climate related risks and opportunities. Building on a multidisciplinary core of expertise, IRI partners with research institutions and local stakeholders to best understand needs, risks and possibilities. The IRI supports sustainable development by bringing the best science to bear on managing climate risks in sectors such as agriculture, food security, water resources, and health. By providing practical advancements that enable better management of climate related risks and opportunities in the present, we are creating solutions that will increase adaptability to long term climate change.
The IRI was established as a cooperative agreement between NOAA's Climate Program Office and Columbia University. It is part of The Earth Institute, and is located at the Lamont Campus.
Follow IRI on Twitter: @climatesociety Media contact:
Telephone: 845.680.4476 or 845.680.4468