Besides immediate emergency aid, the people of Niger need above all long-term help in order to escape from the drought cycle. For this reason, GTZ has been committed since 2004 to the poverty reduction programme in rural areas of Niger, acting on behalf of the BMZ and in collaboration with the KfW Development Bank and the German Development Service (DED). Activities are concentrated on four areas: the farming region north-west of the capital, Niamey, and along the Niger River; the land surrounding the provincial capital, Tahoua; the pasture lands in the semi-arid North around Agadez; and the cultivated oases of the Air mountains.
GTZ supports the people in the communities, especially in the area of decentralisation and local development. Specifically, this means investigating together with the local inhabitants what is most urgently needed, such as a new school or a water supply system. Implementation of the various development measures adopted takes place with a high degree of participation by local stakeholders. "When people have made their own contribution and been involved from start to finish, a development initiative is guaranteed to endure for a long time: that is, to be sustainable," says Michael Lossner, who heads the programme.
The project has already had success: just recently, in the Foulaji valley near Tahoua, the erosion of arable land has been curbed and advancing desertification stopped by construction of walls and barrages for irrigation and afforestation. This has regained valuable farmland that can now be effectively used. Besides cultivation of basic food crops such as millet, vegetables like onions and tomatoes can be grown even in the dry season for sale in local markets. The larger harvests have improved the food situation substantially. "Although people here still suffer from the drought, at least they aren't facing acute starvation," Lossner says. One further aspect is that farmers can subsist on their work and feed their families all year long. They are no longer forced as they have been in the past to hire themselves out as migrant labourers. "German development aid has restored a future to the people of the Foulaji valley," is how Lossner sums up the situation. Already thousands of hectares of farm and pasture lands and forested tracts in the Tillabéri district and around Tahoua have been rehabilitated with the help of the GTZ programme.