Niger Climate Change Overview

Submitted by Sukaina Bharwani | published 25th Mar 2011 | last updated 30th Mar 2011

Current Climate and Trends

Map of Niger, source CIA factbook 2009

Map of Niger, source CIA factbook 2009

Niger has a Sahelian climate with rainfall that varies greatly both on an inter-annual basis, and also spatially throughout the country, from less than 100mm/year in the desert regions of the north, to over 600mm/year in a small zone in the south. Rainfall occurs almost exclusively during the June-September wet season and is dependent on the W. African monsoon and the movement of the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone, which accounts for much of the inter-annual variability. The vast majority of Niger is very arid with 77% of the country receiving less than 150mm/year . Temperatures are high throughout the year and range from averages of 18-31°C in the dry season to 28-31.7°C during the wet season. Extremes of 49.5°C have been recorded.

Niger, along with other countries in the Sahel experienced decreasing rainfall throughout the 1960s, 70s and 80s which caused severe drought and led to catastrophic failure of harvests, malnutrition and starvation. Particularly severe droughts occurred in 1966-1967, 1973-1974 and 1983-1984 (Prolinova 2008). Rainfall has recovered slightly since the late 1980s, however is still well below the pre-1960s level, and the drought of 2004-2005 shows that Niger is still very vulnerable to weak rains (Danida 2008). The variability of the rains is compounded by the fact that only 12% of Niger's soils are suitable for agricultural production, the majority (over 60%) of the population live on less than $1/day and high population growth is putting increasing pressure on already fragile ecosystems and leading to problems of desertification (Danida 2008, CNEDD 2006). Many pastoral communities have been forced to become semi-agricultural because of the prolonged droughts, thus losing their way of life (Prolinova 2008).

Floods cause less widespread damage than droughts, but can destroy crops and livelihoods in certain areas of the country, and are associated with an increase in Malaria and diarrhoeal diseases (Danida 2008). 87% of the population rely on agricultural or pastoral activities for their livelihoods, both of which are highly dependent on good climatic conditions, so any climatic shocks have a direct impact on livelihoods (CNEDD 2006).

In addition to the changes in rainfall and temperatures noted above from analysis of the historical climate data, communities in Niger report that there is less water available than there used to be, meaning that wells have to be dug deeper and deeper, and that the onset and cessation of the rainy season are less predictable (Prolinova 2008). Community observations that are related to climate but also have other causes include:

Reduction in agricultural production Increase in food insecurity and malnutrition Desertification and degradation of natural resources Erosion of community solidarity Drying up of surface water points Reduction in the quality of pasture Appearance of new parasites and diseases Increased conflicts between pastoralists and agriculturalists Taken together it can be said that due to a combination of climatic and non-climatic factors natural resources are becoming increasingly scarce, and this is damaging community cohesion and making it harder and harder to support livelihoods.

Climate Projections

As in other countries in W. Africa, climate projections are uncertain regarding the change in rainfall that will occur. There is also a certain amount of confusion regarding exact changes in temperature, although it is clear that temperatures are expected to increase. The NAPA relies on the MAGICC/SCENGEN model and reports that maximum temperatures could increase by 2.9C in July in Maradi by 2025 (CNEDD 2006). This seems high compared to the results of downscaled models for Maradi for the period 2046-2065, which give changes in the range of +1-3C for July. Using a range of models provides a more robust estimate of change, so in this document it is estimated that both minimum and maximum temperatures in Niger will rise in the range of 1-4C for the period 2046-2065, when compared to the period 1960-1990.

Projections for precipitation change in W. Africa should be 'treated with caution' (IPCC 2007) due to the range of results given by different models, and the inability of many models to accurately reproduce many elements of the region's climate, such as the recurring droughts of the 1970s. Model projections range from a large decrease to a large increase in precipitation over Niger, and it is difficult to draw robust conclusions from these projections. Station-level results for Maradi in the south of the country are discussed below, and illustrate the uncertainty in projections of precipitation. Given the uncertainty the best course of action is to plan for activities which reduce vulnerability to current climate variability, such as water harvesting techniques, and which will be useful in the future regardless of the direction of change.

 

Precipitation anomalies for Maradi for 2046-2065, source Climate Change Explorer

Precipitation anomalies for Maradi for 2046-2065, source Climate Change Explorer

Projections for Maradi, southern Niger Average monthly maximum temperatures will increase by 1-4C for the period 2046-2065 according to downscaled results from 8 climate models to provide data for Maradi. The range is due to differences between the models, and also between the months in the year, with the maximum increase shown from March-May.

Precipitation at Maradi shows the same uncertainty as in the wider region, as shown by the figure below, where it is evident that during the rainy season the models disagree about the direction of change. The range of possible changes is large during the rainy season, and at the onset and cessation of rains, making it difficult to draw conclusions as to type of change expected.

Possible adaptation measures

Climate change has the potential to seriously impact livelihoods and poverty reduction in Niger, and adaptation measures will be needed in order to allow communities to cope with climate change and climate variability. Despite the uncertainties associated with climate projections, the priorities in Niger must be on water management and plans to protect communities and agriculture from the impacts of drought. Possible adaptation options identified in the NAPA and by local communities during fieldwork include many good suggestions for adapting to climate variability and short-medium term change, however may need to be added to for adaptation to longer-term change. Listed below are some possible adaptation options identified by communities in the south of Niger, many of which are already being practised as coping mechanisms for climatic variability (Prolinova 2008):

  • Using indigenous fertilisers and pesticides
  • Growing hedges and using trees as wind-breaks to reduce erosion
  • Agreements between agriculturalists and pastoralists to provide fodder for livestock in return for remuneration have been shown to work well, and benefit both parties.
  • Replacement of cows with goats and camels that are better adapted to drier conditions.
  • Community forestry and management of woodland
  • Consumption of non-traditional food plants
  • Faster-maturing crop varieties
  • Inter-cropping and crop rotation.
  • Water harvesting techniques such as digging pits to encourage infiltration into soil.
  • Improving seasonal forecasts so that the population could be informed as to what changes.

References

  • CNEDD (2000) Premiere Communication National de Niger au Convention Cadre des Nations Unis sur les Changements Climatiques.
  • CNEDD (2006) National Adaptation Programme of Action of the Republic of Niger.
  • Danida (2008) Appréciation des impacts des changements climatiques sur les programmes de développement de la coopération avec le Niger.
  • IPCC (2007): Regional Climate Projections. In: Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Solomon, S., D. Qin, M. Manning, Z. Chen, M. Marquis, K.B. Averyt, M. Tignor and H.L. Miller (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA.
  • Prolniova (2008) Etude des adaptations aux changements climatiques au Niger. Rapport mi-parcours.