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  • Published: 07 January 2023

Assessing impact of agroecological interventions in Niger through remotely sensed changes in vegetation

  • Vikalp Mishra 1 , 2 ,
  • Ashutosh S. Limaye 2 , 3 ,
  • Federico Doehnert 4 ,
  • Raffaella Policastro 5 ,
  • Djibril Hassan 5 ,
  • Marie Therese Yaba Ndiaye 6 ,
  • Nicole Van Abel 6 ,
  • Kiersten Johnson 6 ,
  • Joseph Grange 6 ,
  • Kevin Coffey 6 &
  • Arif Rashid 6  

Scientific Reports volume  13 , Article number:  360 ( 2023 ) Cite this article

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  • Climate-change mitigation
  • Environmental impact

Water scarcity is a major challenge in the Sahel region of West Africa. Water scarcity in combination with prevalent soil degradation has severely reduced the land productivity in the region. The decrease in resiliency of food security systems of marginalized population has huge societal implications which often leads to mass migrations and conflicts. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and development organizations have made major investments in the Sahel to improve resilience through land rehabilitation activities in recent years. To help restore degraded lands at the farm level, the World Food Programme (WFP) with assistance from USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance supported the construction of water and soil retention structures called half-moons. The vegetation growing in the half-moons is vitally important to increase agricultural productivity and feed animals, a critical element of sustainable food security in the region. This paper investigates the effectiveness of interventions at 18 WFP sites in southern Niger using vegetative greenness observations from the Landsat 7 satellite. The pre - and post-intervention analysis shows that vegetation greenness after the half-moon intervention was nearly 50% higher than in the pre-intervention years. The vegetation in the intervened area was more than 25% greener than the nearby control area. Together, the results indicate that the half-moons are effective adaptations to the traditional land management systems to increase agricultural production in arid ecosystems, which is evident through improved vegetation conditions in southern Niger. The analysis shows that the improvement brought by the interventions continue to provide the benefits. Continued application of these adaptation techniques on a larger scale will increase agricultural production and build resilience to drought for subsistence farmers in West Africa. Quantifiable increase in efficacy of local-scale land and water management techniques, and the resulting jump in large-scale investments to scale similar efforts will help farmers enhance their resiliency in a sustainable manner will lead to a reduction in food security shortages.

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Since the droughts in the 1970s and early 80s, land degradation and water scarcity are major challenges in the Sahel region of West Africa. Dry and arid lands are even more vulnerable to land degradation and eventual desertification 1 , 2 . Low annual rainfall combined with a short and distinct rainy season and overuse (such as overgrazing), makes land and vegetation susceptible to drought and degradation 3 . Sustained water availability is vital for vegetative growth while arresting the land degradation from erosion, nutrient loss etc. 4 . Climate and human activities have resulted in a significant increase in land degradation, which in turn has a significant impact on crop production and food security 5 , hydrology 6 and in some cases even results in conflicts 7 . Soil conditions can be improved through targeted local-scale land management practices and increase their resilience to drought 8 , 9 . Typical land rehabilitation includes either planting drought-resistant plant species or through soil water conservation (SWC) mechanisms 10 , 11 , 12 , 13 .

Several efforts have been made towards land restoration through SWC interventions 14 , 15 , 16 . In the Sahel region of West Africa, farmers have used an array of land management techniques for land rehabilitation including zai, half-moons, and stone bunds 17 , 18 , 19 , 20 , 21 , 22 , 23 , 24 . Half-moons, a small semi-circular pond, in particular have been used in the Sahel region for several decades to restore degraded lands 25 , 26 . The half-moons stores rainwater and provides moisture over an extended period to the vegetation grown in the excavated area and its vicinity 27 . The half-moons are critical during the rainy season because these can not only provide additional moisture to the vegetation during the dry periods 28 but can also limit surface runoff. The half-moons help with water conservation, reduce soil erosion, and help retain soil nutrients 18 , 29 .

Multiple organizations including the World Food Programme (WFP) serve as critical links between donors and local agrarian communities. Farmers, with the support of these organizations, have been involved in SWC projects in the Sahel region to improve soil fertility, control runoff, and restore degraded natural ecosystems 25 . For the past several decades, both WFP and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) have made major investments in the Sahel to improve resilience through land rehabilitation activities that improve water conservation and enhance food crops and fodder production in previously barren lands. These activities were carried out at large scales throughout southern Niger as part of USAID’s Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance Food Security Initiatives. WFP has meticulously compiled a comprehensive record of interventions in southern Niger and this study outlines a methodology to evaluate the efficacy of those interventions. It is hypothesized that the additional moisture retention by the half-moons will substantially improve vegetation growth, which can be captured in satellite measurements of greenness. A better understanding of the impact of various agricultural interventions will improve the cost efficiency of community planning in low-resource environments.

An increase in soil moisture directly leading to enhanced agricultural production has been reported at several sites 27 , 30 , 31 , 32 . However, a complete picture of intervention impacts at a wider scale is challenging due to limited access to some of the remote locations, security concerns, and costs of data collection, capacity and resource availability 8 , 33 , 34 , 35 , 36 . Furthermore, often times the baseline household and agricultural survey data were not gathered prior to the implementation of the intervention, posing a challenge to assessing the effectiveness of these interventions at the later stages 11 . Several earlier studies have raised the issue of alternate methods to mitigate some of the issues concerning ground data collections and for standardizing the evaluation efforts 37 , 38 , 39 , 40 .

One alternative to costly and time-consuming ground surveys is the use of satellite remote sensing data for impact analysis 9 , 11 , 19 , 41 , 42 , 43 , 44 . Remote sensing methods can complement other assessment methods by considering data at a landscape scale, supporting historical analysis, and producing meaningful quantitative metrics. Satellite-driven vegetative greenness conditions can be used as a proxy for improved soil and water conditions to quantify the intervention impact 1 , 9 , 11 , 45 . Normalized Difference Vegetation Index [NDVI 46 , 47 ] can measure the vegetation greenness and can quantify the nature and intensity of vegetation change across space and time over large spatial scales 48 . With the availability of long historical records, remotely sensed vegetation condition information can provide valuable insight into greenness before and after interventions, therefore avoiding the need for a baseline ground survey. Furthermore, satellite data processing can be automated therefore can reduce the risks of potential human bias in the survey and interpretation of results 49 . The aim of this study was to assess the applicability of satellite-based observations in quantifying the SWC intervention impact over small plots in southwestern Niger. In this case study, we analyzed multi-year NDVI data (2010-2019) from Landsat 7 to assess the impact of land rehabilitation activities on agricultural production and resilience to drought. We envision similar analyses will provide concrete, independent foundations for a more sustained use of local-scale land restoration methodologies, that will serve as an important bridge to increasing food security in the most vulnerable populations around the world.

Pre- and post-intervention analysis

Figure 1 shows the NDVI map for for the month of June 2013 and 2019 at two of the locations (Danja and Elkokia). These sites were intervened from 2013 to 2015, and the fig 1 . The figure clearly shows that ares surrounding the intervention sites also showed a modest increase in NDVI values (5%), the intervened sites showed significantly higher NDVI values post-intervention (>25%) in 2019 when compared to 2013 period.

figure 1

NDVI map for two locations Danja ( a - c ) and Elkokia ( d - f ) for the month of Jun before [year 2013 ( a ) and ( d )] and after [year 2019 ( b ) and ( e )] interventions. The bottom panel ( c and f ) shows the percent difference in NDVI values from Jun 2013 to Jun 2019.

The peak NDVI value during the peak growing season (Aug–Oct) for each of the sites showed a significant improvement post-intervention as seen by Landsat 7 (Fig. 2 ). On average, the peak NDVI value increased by 49.7% (from 0.217 to 0.325) across all sites after the interventions (Table 1 ). NDVI increased at four sites by more than 60%, with the maximum enhancement of 81.1% observed for Kafat (NDVI increased from 0.185 to 0.335). We observed the smallest NDVI increase of 29.7% (from 0.202 to 0.262) for Boussarague; however, the difference in NDVI is also positive and statistically significant using two-tailed t-test ( p <0.001).

figure 2

Mean peak NDVI across all sub-polygons for all sites intervened before and after intervention. The error bars represent the standard error in mean NDVI values from different sub-polygons within a site. [Danja, Koona and Raffa are single polygon sites, hence no error bars].

The rainfall during months preceding the peak growing season is expected to have a significant impact on vegetation conditions. Therefore, in this analysis, we considered the total rainfall data for two months prior to the peak growing season. Table 1 shows the annual peak NDVI values (Aug–Oct) before and after the interventions for each of the sites, in addition to the average total rainfall from two months before the peak NDVI season June to August. The table shows that the total rainfall post-intervention is higher (12.3% on average) for all sites, which can be attributed to the above-average precipitation in recent years (2018–2020). Although rainfall is one of the primary drivers of vegetative growth, the table clearly indicates that the change in peak NDVI values is not linearly related to the differences in total rainfall before and after the intervention. Even though the rainfall increased by 12%, the NDVI jumped by nearly 50% at these sites after the intervention, as compared to the vegetation before the intervention.

Figure 3 (a) shows the scatter plot between the peak NDVI and total rainfall before and after the intervention. The results show that there was some, although weak, relationship between the NDVI and rainfall before the intervention ( \(R^2\) = 0.24). Interestingly, the relationship between the two variables was reduced by 36% ( \(R^2\) = 0.15) after the intervention. This confirms the assumption that there are factors other than total rainfall that contributed to the vegetative growth in the region and that these external factors seem to play an even greater role post-intervention period, with the construction of half-moons being the obvious change between the pre-and post-intervention NDVI estimates. Despite above-normal rainfall during the later stages of the study years (2018–2020, Fig. 9 a), the scatter plot (Fig. 3 b) between the percent difference in total rainfall and NDVI peak shows that there is no linear relationship between these two variables. The analysis indicates that the impact of increased rainfall in increasing vegetative growth is negligible after the interventions.

figure 3

Scatter plots ( a ) showing relationship between the mean peak NDVI and total rainfall before (red) and after the intervention (blue) and ( b ) scatter plot between percent differences in NDVI and rainfall before and after intervention for each of the sites.

Examining the monthly NDVI values give insights into the natural vegetative growth cycle before and after the intervention. For instance, monthly NDVI values across Kafat and Danja are shown in Fig. 4 . The shaded portion represents the standard deviation of mean NDVI values across multiple polygons at the same site (4 in the case of Kafat). WFP built half-moons in two of the sites in 2018 and the rest in 2019. Figures show that during the months of January–July (pre-rainy season), NDVI values before and after interventions were similar. However, for months during and after the rainfall season, the mean monthly NDVI values begin to deviate. The post-intervention NDVI values (blue lines in Fig. 4 ) are substantially higher than pre-intervention (red lines in Fig. 4 ) from August through December. The increase is consistent across all polygons as evident by the standard deviations. The Danja site has only one polygon ( \(\sim\) 42 ha) that was developed in 2015. Danja allows us to analyze and compare a few years of data both before and after interventions. Moreover, the post-intervention period contains at least three years of below-normal rainfall, with 2017 as one of the most significant rainfall deficit years (deficit of more than 100 mm from the long-term average), thus providing a good mix of rainfall distributions to assess the impact of interventions using NDVI. Similarly, the mean monthly NDVI values were close (although post-intervention values were consistently slightly higher) in the relatively dry months. The difference became even more pronounced during the wet months, with the mean peak rising from 0.27 to 0.33.

figure 4

Average monthly NDVI values for two sites, Kafat and Danja, from Landsat 7 before and after the intervention. The shaded areas on the left side panels represent one standard deviation computed from multiple polygons at each site.

All intervention sites showed similar trends where NDVI values after intervention were consistently higher than the NDVI values before intervention. This higher difference in NDVI value is also observed for a couple of months after the rainy season, indicating prolonged greenness. Overall, for dry months the NDVI differences before and after interventions were in the range of 0.015–0.03, which more than doubled to 0.044–0.063 during the months when NDVI values peaked. When analyzed together, Table 1 and Figure 4 show that the half-moons at all sites were associated with a statistically significant 49.7% increase in the peak vegetation as compared to the pre-intervention period, even after accounting for differences in rainfall during the time periods.

Control analysis

During the planning and implementation of these interventions, no control site was specifically identified. Therefore, for this analysis, we have taken an indirect approach where a pair of polygons from the same site that were developed a few years apart were used as an experiment (or intervened) and control sites. This approach ensured that the later-intervened area was suitable for the intervention, and hence is an appropriate comparator. A total of 7 pairs (Table 2 ) across multiple sites were found that were used for control analysis.

Figure 5 shows the NDVI time series for Dargue and Karkara at the intervention and control sites. The baseline NDVI values for both intervention and control sites were similar or in some cases less than the control sites. During the experiment period, as hypothesized, the NDVI values in the intervention site significantly increased compared to the control sites. After the end of the experiment period (when both sites were developed), the NDVI values of the control sites began to match the NDVI values from the intervention site due to the increased greenness. The analysis shows that interventions have a clear positive impact on vegetative greenness in the region. The analysis shows that the NDVI values during the baseline period for both experimental and control sites were similar. The p -value was found to be 0.4, therefore, the null hypothesis (that the means are statistically similar) cannot be rejected. However, during the experiment period, the average difference in mean NDVI between the control and experimental site was statistically significant (0.028) with a p <0.05. The increase in vegetation brought by the interventions sustained till date, which illustrates the sustainability of the interventions to provide the positive results for years to come. That is particularly notable, given the increasing threat of erratic rainfall brought by climate change.

figure 5

NDVI values at the control and intervention sites from 2010 to 2020 for Dargue and Karkara. The vertical lines show the beginning and end of control/experiment periods.

Overall, the NDVI analysis shows that the vegetation during the baseline period was comparable between the two sets of polygons. During the experiment period, the vegetation increased more than 25% in the polygons with half-moon interventions compared to control polygons (Fig. 6 ).

figure 6

Difference in mean NDVI during the baseline and experiment period for control and intervened sites.

BACI analysis

We performed the Before-After Control-Impact (BACI) 50 , 51 analysis to further quantify the impact of interventions during the experiment period. 51 suggested a random sampling of control and experiment sites over space and time. However, due to limited number of sample pairs, we used a randomized bootstrap (with 50 iterations) to select a combinations of the control and experiment site with varied area and intervention periods as proxy of true random sampling model design. The analysis shows that there was a BACI contrast of −0.061 with nearly 56% of relative contrast in NDVI value. The negative value of BACI contrast (in the units of NDVI) indicates that greenness has increased in the experimental site with respect to the control site, relative to NDVI values during the baseline period. The relative contrast (a ratio of BACI contrast to mean baseline NDVI from the experiment site) is a unitless normalized value used to express the impact of intervention as a percentage.

The satellite-derived vegetative greenness can be used to assess the impact of intervention activities. However, certain limitations must be considered when interpreting the results. In this preliminary study, we assume that precipitation, and thus the available moisture content in the soil, play the most prominent role in natural vegetative growth (most of the restoration sites being pastoral) and can explain some of the variances in annual vegetative growth conditions. It must be noted that soil moisture (or precipitation) alone may not be the only influencing factor. Further, the satellite data used in this analysis are based on visible and near-infrared bands that cannot penetrate through clouds. Therefore, under cloudy conditions, there could be significant data gaps. We mitigated this challenge by using Landsat data from 2010 only, ensuring data availability of more than 74% for months when NDVI values peaked. In this analysis, we analyzed relatively larger-sized polygons, however, Landsat’s spatial resolution of 30 m may not be appropriate for smaller (<1 ha, approx.) intervention sites. The use of harmonized multi-sensor data products including more recent Landsat 8 and 9 data along with Sentinel-2 data has the potential to mitigate some of these limitations 52 , 53 . The inclusion of data from cloud-penetrating synthetic aperture radar (SAR) onboard Sentinel-1 can further minimize data gaps.

Another gap in this analysis is testing the robustness of the interventions under drought conditions. For most of the sites, the rainfall during the post-intervention was higher than the long-term mean. Therefore, we could not assess the efficacy of the interventions under drought conditions. Continuous monitoring of these sites for longer periods of time will give better insight into the effectiveness of the interventions in a sustainable manner.

The results from this case study clearly shows that satellite observations can be used for impact analysis while addressing some of the challenges laid out by 8 , 11 and others. Although, this study focused on the vegetative conditions as a proxy of intervention impact assessment, other satellite derived environmental variables such as the evapotranspiration 54 , 55 , 56 , soil moisture 57 , 58 etc. can also provide critical information related to the interventions, however such observations are derived using either thermal or microwave bands and therefore are of relatively coarser resolution than visible band driven NDVI. Several attempts have been made to downscale the coarser scale soil moisture 59 , 60 and evapotranspiration 61 , 62 to field scales that can be utilized for such applications.

This analysis covers 18 sites, and multiple polygons at each site, in southern Niger where WFP assisted to develop half-moons between 2013 and 2020 using a pre/post assessment approach. The satellite-based NDVI measurements were used to assess the impact of the half-moons on vegetative conditions. Using Landsat 7 imagery, our analysis showed a statistically significant increase in the peak NDVI values of nearly 50% after the half-moons were constructed compared to pre-intervention years, an indication of improved grazing land for pastoralists and cropland for farmers. Analysis of vegetation at a smaller set of 7 intervention sites and nearby control sites suggests that the interventions had a significant impact on NDVI values, whereas the control sites showed modest improvement in vegetation conditions. An increase in vegetation greenness of more than 25% was found at the intervention sites, as compared to the control sites. Overall, the analysis shows that the half-moons contribute to a substantial improvement in the greenness of landscapes. Additional work is needed to link the increased greenness to crop productivity analysis; however, these results provide actionable evidence to support scaling up half-moon interventions as an effective land management practice to increase agricultural production in arid ecosystems and build resilience to drought for subsistence farmers.

WFP is working on more than 300 sites for SWC interventions in southern Niger and has recorded specific geographic outlines of half-moons at 18 sites (Fig. 7 ) from four regions - Maradi, Zinder, Tahoua, and Tillaberi. Each site has several areas in which half-moons are concentrated (termed as intervention polygons hereon) that were either developed as pastoral or agricultural half-moons (Fig. 7 ). Some of the sites had only one polygon (e.g. Koona, Raffa and Danja) whereas Karkara had 14 polygons (Fig. 8 c). However, it should be noted that not all of the polygons from a given site were intervened simultaneously. Most polygons were intervened during 2015 (24) and 2018 (26), while relatively few were intervened in 2016 (4) and 2017 (6) (Fig. 8 a). These 18 sites include 101 intervention polygons and cover approximately 4400 ha of the total area developed with an average of nearly 42 ha per site. Only 14 sites had an area greater than 100 ha while 62 sites covered less than 25 ha of area. Figure 8 b shows the area distribution for all the sites.

figure 7

WFP intervention sites in southern Niger include interventions intended for agricultural (blue) and pastoral (yellow) uses. The figure was created using ArcGIS Pro 3 (www.arcgis.come).

figure 8

( a ) shows the number of polygons intervened every year between 2013 and 2020. ( b ) is the histogram of the area in hectares for each of the polygons showing the distribution of polygon sizes. ( c ) elatively few were intervene represents the number of polygons at each of the sites that were intervened during the study period in the region.

Most of the fields in southern Niger are rainfed making farmers vulnerable to climate conditions and variable rainfall patterns. On average, in the last 40 years (1982–2021) southwestern Niger has experienced nearly 450 mm of rainfall annually. However, total rainfall can vary significantly annually (standard deviation of 70 mm, approx.) with as low as 270 mm (1984) to more than 630 mm (2020) in a single year. Figure 9 a shows standardized anomalies of annual rainfall in southern Niger. In general, rainfall has been either normal (less than ± 0.5 deviations from normal) or above average. In particular, the years 2018–020 showed significantly higher than normal rainfall in the region. Furthermore, the region has a very distinct rainy season (Jun–Sept) when more than 90% of the total annual rainfall is observed (Fig. 9 b). Therefore, the SWC measures in the region can provide much-needed moisture availability for longer duration.

figure 9

( a ) standard rainfall anomaly for southern Niger over the last 40 years (1982–2021). The shaded portion highlights the time period analyzed in this study. ( b ) shows the percent monthly distribution of long-term rainfall in the region, indicating a clear distinct rainy season and long summer months.

Satellite data

With a repeat cycle of 16 days and moderately high spatial resolution (30 m), the historical record of Landsat data extends to the 1980s. Several vegetation indexes have been developed to quantify vegetation health, including the NDVI, Enhanced Vegetation Index (EVI 63 ), and Soil Adjusted Vegetation Index (SAVI 64 ) etc. Vegetation changes are slow (spanning over several days) and Landsat’s 16-day revisit frequency can capture the natural vegetative cycle. However, frequent cloud cover poses a challenge to the use of visible and near-infrared band-based indexes such as NDVI. That is particularly true for data collected before 2010 when relatively fewer satellite overpasses are available for analysis. In this study, we used Landsat 7 data from Google Earth Engine image collection after accounting for quality flags, clouds, and cloud shadows 65 . Moreover, the rainfall data for contextual assessment was available from Climate Hazards Infrared Precipitation with Station Data (CHIRPS 66 ). CHIRPS is a satellite-driven rainfall product that has been corrected using ground observations from across the globe. A 5 day (pentad) CHIRPS product (1982–2021) at 5 km spatial resolution was used in this study. Gridded CHRIPS precipitation data has been extensively evaluated and applied across the globe 66 , 67 , 68 , 69 .

Temporal analysis

Although, the study period includes the year 2020, any site that were developed in the year 2020 were not included in this analysis due to limited post-intervention sample size. Therefore, out of 108 possible polygons from 18 sites, only 101 were examined in this study. The average size of the polygons is approximately 42 ha, equivalent to about 450 Landsat pixels. Cloud and cloud shadow masked Landsat imageries were used to compute NDVI for each pixel within each polygon and then aggregated over the polygon for temporal analysis. In this study, the NDVI values were analyzed at monthly and annual scales. The annual peak (95 th ) percentile data were analyzed to assess the variability in polygons’ average NDVI values over the years. Since this study was designed retrospectively, we could not randomly assign matching control sites. It is possible that despite being from close proximity and similar agro-ecological classifications, the physical characteristics could vary, thereby influencing the results. To address this challenge, we leveraged the longitudinal characteristics of the Landsat record to establish a retrospective “baseline” using the preceding years of the sites that were developed at a later stage (after 2017) as controls for the treatment sites that were developed between 2013-2015 from the same region.

During the planning and implementation of these interventions, no control site was specifically identified. Therefore, for this analysis, we have taken an indirect approach where a pair of polygons from the same site that were developed a few years apart were used as an experiment (or intervened) and control sites. This approach ensured that the later-intervened area was suitable for the intervention, and hence is an appropriate comparator. We applied three criteria for selecting the control and intervention pairs by ensuring:

that the polygons were nearby (as part of the same larger site)

that the sites are from the same livelihood zones (agricultural or pastoral)

that the polygons have interventions at least 3 years apart.

The first criterion ensures that both sites have similar weather patterns and cropping/grazing practices. The second ensures the similarity in vegetation types and patterns, and the final criterion ensures that the evaluation can focus on those years where the intervention sites are expected to increase in vegetation, whereas the control sites are anticipated to follow the pre-intervention vegetation patterns. Effectively, the site that was developed earlier becomes the intervention site or experimental site, whereas a site with a later intervention date can be used as control site until an intervention happens at that polygon. Using this approach, a total of 7 pairs (Table 2) across multiple sites were found that can be used for control analysis. The duration of control years ranged from 3 to 6 depending upon the site and intervention years. The minimum area selected in either control or intervention was 13 ha, (150 Landsat pixels) to ensure a statistically substantial pixel count for estimating NDVI. We divided NDVI data into two time periods:

Baseline period – Years 2010 to the intervention year on experimental sites, pre-intervention baseline years.

Experiment period – From intervention on the experimental site to the intervention on the control site.

For example, polygon 1 at Dan Goudau site was developed in 2013, whereas polygon 0 was developed in 2018. Therefore, polygon 1 becomes an experimental polygon whereas polygon 0 can be used as a control until 2018. The years 2010–2013 are termed as the baseline period; 2014–2018 as the experiment period; and 2019–2020 as the post-experiment years, which are excluded from this current analysis, due to the short length of time available to make any statistical inferences.

Data Availability

Model codes and sample data are publicly available at . Further data/analysis used in this study also available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

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We would like to thank all the implementors of the half-moons including farmers, agricultural extension workers, and USAID and WFP staff – without them, this initiative would not be possible. We would also like to thank Ms. Skyler Edward for helping us with data cleaning and formatting. Support for this work was provided through the joint US Agency for International Development (USAID) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) initiative SERVIR, particularly through the NASA Applied Sciences Capacity Building Program, NASA Cooperative Agreement 80MSFC22M001.

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Vikalp Mishra

NASA-SERVIR Science Coordination Office, Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL, USA

Vikalp Mishra & Ashutosh S. Limaye

NASA Earth Science Branch, Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL, USA

Ashutosh S. Limaye

World Food Programme Regional Bureau for Western Africa, Dakar, Senegal

Federico Doehnert

World Food Programme Niger Country Office, Niamey, Niger

Raffaella Policastro & Djibril Hassan

Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Washington DC, USA

Marie Therese Yaba Ndiaye, Nicole Van Abel, Kiersten Johnson, Joseph Grange, Kevin Coffey & Arif Rashid

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V.M. developed the concept, analyzed the data and wrote the manuscript with inputs from all the authors. A.S.L. helped designing the concept and research. F.D., R.P. and D.H. helped design and implement the interventions on the ground, collected ground data. M.T.N., N.V.A., K.J., J.G., K.C. and A.R. directed the intervention, provided financial and logistical support and contributed in the development experiment design and concept. All authors reviewed the manuscript.

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niger desertification case study

Action Against Desertification

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Niger has struggled with desertification, land degradation, drought and loss of biodiversity for many years. Large-scale restoration is needed to improve food security and livelihoods in rural areas and help people adapt to climate change.

Action Against Desertification supports the implementation of the Great Green Wall initiative in Niger, strengthening the resilience and productivity of drylands, while stimulating economic growth. The project is undertaking the following action:

Land restoration : 16 147 hectares of degraded land restored. A total of 57 615 kg of seeds and 45 080 seedlings were produced. Five woody and five herbaceous fodder species were planted.

Diversification of economic activities : development of seven high-potential non-timber forest products value chains, including balanites oil, gum arabic, fodder, forest seeds, nursery seedlings, honey, and baobab and gao tree fruits and leaves. An estimated USD 21 967 was generated from these products.

Capacity development: training 469 small-scale farmers in natural assisted regeneration, forest and fodder seed collection and the production of seedlings in village nurseries.

niger desertification case study

Action Against Desertification in Niger [ read more ]

  • Intervention area: 35 villages in the regions of Tillaberi, Tahoua and Dosso
  • Population : 116 000 inhabitants
  • Surface: 2 623 000 hectares
  • Restoration potential : 1 446 000 hectares (56% of total area)

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Desertification - Sahel case study

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Desertification in the Sahel region is a pressing environmental issue with far-reaching consequences. In this article, we will explore the causes, effects, and potential solutions to combat desertification, using a case study from the Sahel region. By examining the unique challenges faced in this area, we can gain insights into the broader fight against desertification and the importance of sustainable land management practices. The Sahel is a semi-arid zone stretching from the Atlantic Ocean in West Africa to the Red Sea in the East, through northern Senegal, southern Mauritania, the great bend of the Niger River in Mali, Burkina Faso, southern Niger, northeastern Nigeria, south-central Chad, and into Sudan ( Brittanica ).

It is a biogeographical transition between the arid Sahara Desert to the North and the more humid savanna systems on its Southern side.

Desertification - Sahel case study

Desertification in the Sahel has increased over the last number of years.  It has been increasingly impacted by desertification, especially during the second half of the twentieth century. The whole Sahel region in Africa has been affected by devastating droughts, bordering the Sahara Desert and the Savannas.

During this period, the Sahara desert area grew by roughly 10% , most of which in the Southward direction into the semi-arid steppes of the Sahel. 

Understanding desertification in the Sahel

The Sahel region, stretching across Africa from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea, is characterized by fragile ecosystems and vulnerable communities. The combination of climate change, overgrazing, deforestation , and improper agricultural practices has resulted in extensive land degradation and desertification. The consequences of desertification in the Sahel are severe, including food insecurity, loss of biodiversity, and displacement of communities.

in the region, for around 8 months of the year, the weather is dry. The rainy season only happens for a few short months and only produces around 4-8 inches of water. The population growth over the years has caused illegal farming to take place over the last few years and has resulted in major soil erosion and desertification to take place. 

Examining a specific case study in the Sahel region sheds light on the complexities and impacts of desertification. In a particular community, unsustainable farming methods and drought have led to soil erosion and degradation. The once-fertile land has turned into arid, unproductive soil, forcing farmers to abandon their livelihoods and seek alternative means of survival. This case study highlights the urgent need for intervention and sustainable land management practices in the region.

Addressing the challenges

To combat desertification effectively, a multi-faceted approach is necessary. First and foremost, raising awareness about the issue and its consequences is crucial. Governments, NGOs, and local communities must collaborate to implement sustainable land management practices. This involves promoting agroforestry, conservation farming, and reforestation initiatives to restore degraded land and improve soil health. Additionally, supporting alternative income-generating activities and providing access to water resources can help alleviate pressure on the land and reduce vulnerability to drought.

Read more: Preventing desertification: Top 5 success stories

The impact of humans on the Sahel

The impact of humans on the Sahel region is a critical factor contributing to its current challenges and environmental changes. Human activities, including armed violence, climate change, deforestation, and overgrazing, have had significant consequences for both the ecosystem and the local communities. While the area of the Sahel region is already considered to be a dry place, the impact of the human population in the area has really affected how the area continues to evolve. Towns are popping up all over the place, and because of this, more land is being used than ever before. The ground that they are building their lives on quickly began to die and became extremely unhealthy for any type of growth. This has made headlines everywhere and even caught the attention of the United Nations. In 1994, the United Nations declared that June 17th would be known as the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought. . This was a result of the large-scale droughts and famines that had been taking place and were at their height between 1968 and 1974.

In conclusion, the impact of humans on the Sahel is a multifaceted issue. The region faces a humanitarian crisis alongside security concerns, with climate change and human activities playing significant roles. Desertification caused by climate change, deforestation, and overgrazing has resulted in land degradation, loss of vegetation, and increased vulnerability to droughts and food insecurity. Implementing sustainable land management strategies is essential to mitigate the impact and promote the resilience of the Sahel's ecosystems and communities.

Droughts, grazing, and recharging aquifers

The Sahel’s natural climate cycles make it vulnerable to droughts throughout the year. But, during the second half of the twentieth century, the region also experienced significant increases in human population and resulting in increases in the exploitation of the lands through (cattle) grazing, wood- and bush consumption for firewood, and crop growth where possible.

These anthropogenic processes accelerated during the 1960s when relatively high rainfall amounts were recorded in the region for short periods of time, and grazing and agricultural expansion were promoted by the governments of the Sahel countries, seeing a good opportunity to use the region’s ecosystem for maximizing economic returns.

This resulted in the removal of large parts of the natural vegetation, including shrubs, grasses, and trees, and replacing them with crops and grass types that were suitable for (short-term) grazing.

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The world effort for the Sahel:

Natural aquifers, which were previously able to replenish their groundwater stocks during the natural climate cycles, were no longer able to do so, and the regions closest to the Sahara desert were increasingly desertified.

Removing the natural vegetation removed plant roots that bound the soil together, with over-exploitation by grazing eating away much of the grass.

Agricultural activity disrupted the natural system, forcing significant parts of the Sahel region to become dry and barren. Before the particularly bad famine of 1984, desertification was solely put down to climatic causes.

As the Sahel dries, the Sahara advances : and it is estimated to advance with a rate of 60 kilometres the Sahel lost and the Sahara desert gained per year.  Human influence is an important factor in the Sahel’s desertification, but not all can be attributed to human behaviour, says Sumant Nigam, a climate scientist at the University of Maryland.

'There is an important anthropogenic influence there, but it is also being met with natural cycles of climate variability that add and subtract in different periods', Nigam said. 'Understanding both is important for both attribution and prediction.' Ecologists have been meeting all over the world to discuss the desertification of the Sahel at length. While many possible solutions have been proposed, a few goals have been established and are being worked on. The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations has not become involved and is working to create a long-lasting impact on the Sahel Region. However, after the mid-1980s , human-caused contributions were identified and taken seriously by the United Nations and many non-governmental organizations. Severe and long-lasting droughts followed throughout the 1960s-1980s, and impacted the human settlements in the forms of famine and starvation, allowing the Sahara desert to continue to expand southward. As a result, a barren and waterless landscape has emerged, with the northernmost sections of the Sahel transformed into new sections of the Sahara Desert. Even though the levels of drought have decreased since the 1990s, other significant reductions in rainfall have been recorded in the region, including a severe drought in 2012. It is estimated that over 23 million people in the Sahel region are facing severe food insecurity in 2022, and the European Commission projects that the crisis will worsen further amidst rising social security struggles. Now, the goal is to see change take place by   2063,  a year that seems far away but is a start in the efforts to rebuild the Sahel Region. 

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A field with mid-moon dams used to save water in the coming rainy season in Burkina Faso.

Bringing dry land in the Sahel back to life

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Millions of hectares of farmland are lost to the desert each year in Africa’s Sahel region, but the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is showing that traditional knowledge, combined with the latest technology, can turn arid ground back into fertile soil.

Those trying to grow crops in the Sahel region are often faced with poor soil, erratic rainfail and long periods of drought. However, the introduction of a state-of-the art heavy digger, the Delfino plough, is proving to be, literally, a breakthrough.

As part of its Action Against Desertification (AAD) programme, the FAO has brought the Delfino to four countries in the Sahel region – Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal – to cut through impacted, bone-dry soil to a depth of more than half a metre.

The Delfino plough is extremely efficient: one hundred farmers digging irrigation ditches by hand can cover a hectare a day, but when the Delfino is hooked to a tractor, it can cover 15 to 20 hectares in a day.

Once an area is ploughed, the seeds of woody and herbaceous native species are then sown directly, and inoculated seedlings planted. These species are very resilient and work well in degraded land, providing vegetation cover and improving the productivity of previously barren lands. 

In Burkina Faso and Niger, the target number of hectares for immediate restoration has already been met and extended thanks to the Delfino plough. In Nigeria and Senegal, it is working to scale up the restoration of degraded land.

Workers preparing tractors to start ploughing in Burkina Faso.

Farming seen through a half-moon lens

This technology, whilst impressive, is proving to be successful because it is being used in tandem with traditional farming techniques.

“In the end the Delfino is just a plough. A very good and suitable plough, but a plough all the same,” says Moctar Sacande, Coordinator of FAO’s Action Against Desertification programme. “It is when we use it appropriately and in consultation and cooperation that we see such progress.”

The half-moon is a traditional Sahel planting method which creates contours to stop rainwater runoff, improving water infiltration and keeping the soil moist for longer. This creates favourable micro-climate conditions allowing seeds and seedlings to flourish.

The Delfino creates large half-moon catchments ready for planting seeds and seedlings, boosting rainwater harvesting tenfold and making soil more permeable for planting than the traditional - and backbreaking – method of digging by hand.

“The whole community is involved and has benefitted from fodder crops such as hay as high as their knees within just two years”, says Mr. Sacande. “They can feed their livestock and sell the surplus, and move on to gathering products such as edible fruits, natural oils for soaps, wild honey and plants for traditional medicine”.

Women dig mid-moon dams to save water in Niger.

Women taking the lead

According to Nora Berrahmouni, who was FAO’s Senior Forestry Officer for the African Regional Office when the Delfino was deployed, the plough will also reduce the burden on women.

“The season for the very hard work of hand-digging the half-moon irrigation dams comes when the men of the community have had to move with the animals. So, the work falls on the women,” says Ms. Berrahmouni.

Because the Delfino plough significantly speeds up the ploughing process and reduces the physical labour needed, it gives women extra time to manage their multitude of other tasks.

The project also aims to boost women’s participation in local land restoration on a bigger scale, offering them leadership roles through the village committees that plan the work of restoring land. Under the AAD programme, each site selected for restoration is encouraged to set up a village committee to manage the resources, so as to take ownership right from the beginning.

“Many women are running the local village committees which organise these activities and they are telling us they feel more empowered and respected,” offers Mr. Sacande.

Respecting local knowledge and traditional skills is another key to success. Communities have long understood that half-moon dams are the best way of harvesting rainwater for the long dry season. The mighty Delfino is just making the job more efficient and less physically demanding.

Tractors at work to prepare the land for plantation in Burkina Faso.

Millions of hectares lost to the desert, forests under threat

And it is urgent that progress is made. Land loss is a driver of many other problems such as hunger, poverty, unemployment, forced migration, conflict and an increased risk of extreme weather events related to climate change.

In Burkina Faso, for example, a third of the landscape is degraded. This means that over nine million hectares of land, once used for agriculture, is no longer viable for farming.

It is projected that degradation will continue to expand at 360 000 hectares per year. If the situation is not reversed, forests are at risk of being cleared to make way for productive agricultural land.

Africa is currently losing four million hectares of forest every year for this reason, yet has more than 700 million hectares of degraded land viable for restoration. By bringing degraded land back to life, farmers do not have to clear additional forest land to turn into cropland for Africa’s rising population and growing food demands.

When Mr. Sacande talks about restoring land in Africa, the passion in his voice is evident. “Restoring degraded land back to productive good health is a huge opportunity for Africa. It brings big social and economic benefits to rural farming communities,” he says. “It’s a bulwark against climate change and it brings technology to enhance traditional knowledge.”

A version of this story first appeared on the FAO website .

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Economics of Land Degradation and Improvement in Niger

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Niger’s colonial and post-independence natural resource management policies contributed to land degradation. The country also experienced a prolonged drought that amplified the suffering of the people who are heavily dependent on natural resources. The country learnt hard lessons from its past mistakes and changed its policies and strategies. This study shows a strong association of the policy changes and improved human welfare demonstrating that even poor countries could achieve sustainable development. Enhancing government effectiveness by giving communities mandate to manage natural resources and by giving incentives to land users to benefit from their investment played a key role in realizing simultaneous improvement in land management and human welfare in Niger. Given these achievements, Niger was picked as a case study to showcase its achievement and what other countries could learn from the country’s mistakes and achievements. The analytical approach used focuses on estimation of cost of land degradation, ground-truthing of satellite data and drivers of adoption of sustainable land management practices. Land use/cover change (LUCC) analysis shows that a total of 6.12 million ha experienced LUCC and shrublands and grassland accounted for the largest change. Excluding the desert, 19 % of the land area experienced LUCC. Cropland expansion accounted for about 57 % of deforestation followed by grassland expansion. The cost of land degradation due to LUCC is about 2007 US$0.75 billion, which is 11 % of the 2007 GDP of US$6.773 billion and 1 % of the 2001 value of ecosystem services (ES) in Niger. Every US dollar invested in taking action returns about $6—a level that is quite attractive. Ground-truthing showed high level of agreement between satellite data and communities perception on degraded lands but poor agreement in areas for which satellite data showed land improvement. Communities also reported that tree planting and protection were the most common actions against land degradation. Tree planting was done mainly on bare lands to fix sand dunes. In summary, this study shows that severe land degradation and the consequent negative impacts on human welfare is a low-hanging fruit that needs to be utilized by countries as they address land degradation. This implies that instead of abandoning severely degraded lands, strategies should be used to rehabilitate such lands using low-cost organic soil fertility management practices and progressively followed by using high cost inputs as soil fertility improves. Improvement of access to rural services and facilitation of non-farm activities will also lead to faster and greater impacts on adoption of SLM practices and increasing resilience to agricultural production shocks in Niger. As Niger continues to improve sustainable land management, it faces daunting challenges to alleviate the high cost of land degradation. Niger serves as a success story to the world in addressing land degradation. Both the national and international communities need to learn from the achievement of Niger and help land users to sustainably manage their natural resources.

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With a population of only 18 million people over a land area of 1.27 million km 2 , Niger’s population density of 14 people per km 2 is one of the 30 most sparsely populated countries in the world. About 77 % of the land area is in the Sahara desert, where rainfall is only 150 mm per year (CNEDD 2005 ). The remaining 23 % of the land area in the Southern part of the country is home to a majority of the people, 87 % of whom depend on rainfed agriculture. The arid and semiarid lands (ASAL) under which the farmers live are prone to drought risks which lead to calamities. The drought in 1977–1985 led to loss of 50 % of the livestock population (RoN 2006 ). Since 1900, there have been 13 drought events, each leading to death of about 6500 people and affecting more than 2 million people (CRED 2014 ). About 60 % of the population live below the poverty line and since the 1990s Niger has been classified among the poorest countries in the world. Its human development index —an index of measuring longevity and healthy life, knowledge and a decent standard of living has been below 0.4 (UNDP 2014 ). Footnote 1

Despite this gloomy picture, the sun is rising in Niger ! The country has made significant progress in reducing poverty and deprivation. The country has also witnessed an improvement in governance and more sustainable management of its natural resources, upon which the majority of the poor depend. This chapter discusses land degradation and improvement and the government land-based policies and strategies implemented with an objective of reducing rural poverty and improve human welfare. The country’s significant achievement in addressing land degradation serves as a good example for other low income countries. The chapter first begins with discussion of the natural resource management policies and strategies and their impacts on human welfare. To set the stage for land degradation and improvement analysis, this section is followed by a discussion on land management practices and productivity. This is followed by a discussion on methodological approach used in the study. A discussion on the economics of land degradation then follows. The chapter ends with lessons learnt and policy implications for Niger’s natural resource policies and their impacts on human development.

Historical Context of Nigerien Natural Resource Management Policies

Niger’s economic development serves a powerful case study on how policies and institutions Footnote 2 could lead to land degradation and how they could incentivize farmers to practice sustainable land management (SLM). Our definition of SLM has been contested (e.g. see Kaphengst 2014 ). For the purpose of this study, we define SLM as land management that maintains or improves ecosystem services for human wellbeing, as negotiated by all stakeholders (Winslow et al. 2011 ). However, we will refer to land management as SLM if it is an improvement over the commonly used land degrading management practices even when such practice does not maintain or improve terrestrial ecosystems. Before colonialism, Niger had customary unwritten right of axe law—which stipulated that a farmer who clears land owns it (Gnoumou and Bloch 2003 ). The Law of the Axe was made worse by the French colonial laws ‘Aubreville Decree’ of 1935, which made all vegetation the property of the government and farmers were required to purchase permits to cut and use wood—even when such trees were on their own farms (Brough and Kimenyi 2002 ; Montagne and Amadou 2012 ). Another decree given in the same year stipulated that all lands not occupied or used for more than 10 years becomes state property—even when such land belonged to a farmer but lying fallow (Boffa 1999 ). Both laws served as disincentives for farmers to invest in tree planting or protection. After independence in 1960, the Nigerien government slightly changed the French law as it maintained ownership of most economically valuable tree species on both protected areas and private lands (Boffa 1999 ). For example, its 1974 Forest code listed most economically valuable trees as ‘protected species’ (Boffa 1999 ; Rinaudo 2005 ). Due to weak enforcement of the forest code, naturally occurring trees were cut without replacement and this led to severe loss of tree cover.

Matters were made worse by the prolonged drought that led to loss of vegetation and decimated over 50 % of the existing livestock (RoN 2006 ). Firewood collection—done mainly by women—became a one day task. The natural resource scarcity also led to intensification of conflicts between transhumant pastoralists and sedentary farmers over water and terrestrial biomes (trees, croplands, and grazing lands). Tree scarcity and the massive loss of livestock and other impacts of land degradation required the Nigerien government to reconsider its natural resource management policies and strategies. The section below discusses the policy reforms.

Natural Resources and Agricultural Policy Reforms

Consistent with Cooke et al. ( 2008 ), the dire scarcity of trees and tree products changed the community’s perception from tree cutting to clear land to tree planting and protection. The tree scarcity also affected the livestock sector, especially in the central part of Niger, where trees are used as fodder during the dry season. The government also responded to this land degradation by promoting tree planting. As part of the decentralization process in the 1990s (Mohamadou 2009 ), the Nigerien government passed the Rural Code (Principe d’Orientational du Code Rural Ordinance) in 1993. This law was developed after a consultative process initiated in 1986, and was intended to establish a framework for synthesizing and ultimately replacing the complex and sometimes overlapping set of tenure rights existing under customary, Islamic, colonial and state laws and rules (Toulmin and Quan 2000 ). The goal of the Rural Code was to integrate customary systems into formal law, drawing upon in-depth studies of local farming, pastoral and forestry practices (Lavigne et al. 2002 ). It sought to provide land tenure security, to organize and manage rural lands, and to plan and manage natural resources (Gnoumou and Bloch 2003 ). The Rural Code recognized private land rights only when they are acquired through customary law or written contracts (République du Niger 2003 ). The Rural Code also gives customary leaders the role of resolving land conflicts and enacting natural resource management (NRM) by-laws (Toulmin and Quan 2000 ; Lavigne and Delville 2002 ).

The Rural Code addressed four main issues: protection of the rights of rural operators, conservation and management of natural resources, organization of rural peoples (farmers, herders) and regional land use planning. To complement the Rural Code, the 2004 forestry law also gave tree tenure—i.e., a farmer who plants trees or protects trees on her farm owns it and could use it in any way she wanted (Adam et al. 2006 ; Stickler 2012 ).

The Nigerien institutional changes implemented in the 1990s to 2011 had a favorable impact of government effectiveness —quality of public services, civil service and the degree of its independence from political pressures, the quality of policy formulation and implementation, and the credibility of the government’s commitment to such policies (Kaufman et al. 2010 ). Figure  17.1 shows that the government effectiveness (GE) index rose in Niger by about 43 % while it fell in SSA and Western Africa sub-region. The Nigerien GE index in 2009–12 period was greater than the corresponding average in both SSA and Western Africa. This reveals the significant progress the country made in the two decades.

Trend of government effectiveness, SSA and Niger. Source Calculated from

Improvement in government effectiveness and community perception of natural resources showed a significant impact on natural resources. In addition to allowing communities to own and benefit from trees—thus incentivizing them to plant and protect trees—the Rural Code and other institutional reforms received strong support of civil society that provided significant technical support (Sendzimir et al. 2011 ). In collaboration with NGOs and international donors, the government initiated tree planting and protection (Reij et al. 2009 ). Since then, communities and farmers felt much greater ownership over the trees on their land. It is estimated that at least 3 million hectares of land has been reforested since the early 1980s in Niger , largely as a result of community tree planting and natural regeneration of trees (Adam et al. 2006 ). This is about 2.5 times the forest area of 1.2 million ha in 2012 (FAOSTAT 2014 ). The tree planting and protection programs contributed to what is known as the regreening of the Sahel (Anyamba et al. 2014 ; Sendzimir et al. 2011 ). There was significant increase in rainfall in the Sahelian region that explained the increased vegetation from 1994 to 2012 (Anyamba et al. 2014 ). However, after controlling for wetter conditions, Herrmann et al. ( 2005 ) observed residual increase in greenness that was not explained by increased precipitation. The residual greenness was concentrated in the Projet Intégré Keita (PIK), and where other tree planting and protection programs operated (Reij et al. 2009 ; Pender et al. 2009 ).

As Fig.  17.2 shows, the Nigerien forest area declined rapidly in the 1990s, but the rate of loss slowed down beginning in 2001. Such a slowdown could be linked to the lagged impact of the policy changes discussed above.

Niger forest area trend, Note FAO’s forest data available only from 1990. Source FAO ( 2012 )

Illustrating the Nigerien success story that resulted from policy and institutional changes that provided incentives for land operators to plant and protect trees, the area of planted forest as a percent of the total forest area in Niger was greater than the corresponding percent in three other countries (Fig.  17.3 ).

Deforestation rate and planted forest as share of total forest area in selected countries. Source Calculated from FAO ( 2012 )

A large area of degraded land has been rehabilitated through a presidential program on land rehabilitation and several donor funded projects. According to Adam et al. ( 2006 ), at least 250,000 ha of land have been rehabilitated using tree planting and soil and water conservation (SWC) measures since the mid-1980s. The rehabilitated land is about 16 % of the 16 million ha cropland in 2012 (FAOSTAT 2014 ).

The 1997 Memorandum for Orientation for Livestock Policy, and the 1998 Strategic Orientation Document (DOS) for the agricultural sector specify that sustainable land management (SLM) is a precondition for sustainable agricultural development. This policy framework gives a clear mandate for mainstreaming SLM in all ministries that affect land management significantly. Niger is also one of the 37 countries in the world that have revised their national forest policy (NFP) to include sustainable forest management (SFM) (FAO 2014 ). Niger’s NFP also specifically links SFM and ecosystem services (Ibid).

Consistent with DOS, Niger formulated its Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS) in 2002, in which SLM is one of the key strategies for poverty reduction. To address risky production in the mainly rainfed agriculture, the PRS promotes diversification and intensification as key elements of agricultural development. The PRS is supported by the 2003 Rural Development Strategy (RDS), in which promotion of sustainable natural resource management, profitable agricultural production and food security are among its main objectives (République du Niger 2003 ). To achieve its goals sustainably, the RDS aims at decentralization of natural resource management (NRM) by building the capacity of the rural institutions to manage natural resources and rural development in general.

Niger has ratified all three Earth Summit conventions—United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC). Accordingly, Niger created Termit and Tin Toumma National Nature and Cultural Reserve in 2007, which covers 97,000 km 2 or 14 % of the land area (Sahara Conservation Fund 2007 ). To address desertification and land degradation in general, the government adopted the UNCCD convention in 2000 and prepared its national Action Plan (NAP). The NAP sets short-term and long-term plans to address land degradation through promotion of sustainable pasture management, water harvesting, tree planting, developing livestock markets, and other strategies.

Niger designed the national adaptation plan of action (NAPA) in 2006, which identified 14 climate change adaptation action strategies with the broad objectives of food security, sustainable resource management, and poverty reduction. The 14 strategic activities are achieved through the following broad activities: (1) pasture and rangeland improvement; (2) increasing livestock productivity by improving local livestock breeds; (3) development and protection of water resources for domestic use, irrigation, and livestock; (4) promotion of sustainable land and water management (SLWM) practices that enhance adaptation to climate change; (5) promoting peri-urban agriculture and nonfarm activities; (6) building the capacity and organizational skills of rural community development groups; (7) preventing and fighting against climate-related pests and diseases; and (8) dissemination of climate information.

As is the case in other countries however, the total budget set for Niger’s NAPA is small and its implementation is short-term (two to three years). Investment in the NAPA has also been largely funded by donors, with limited contribution by the government. This reveals the weak political will of the government to put the NAPA into the sustainable and long-term operation required for effectiveness. However, NAPA has spurred country-level policy awareness of climate change and the need to design policies and strategies to enhance adaptation and mitigation.

Niger has formulated a national plan on soil fertility and water management, whose objective is to promote the use of appropriate technologies for SLWM (RoN 2006 ). This policy further shows government’s sustainable development and its commitment to SLWM. In 2006, the government also adopted a national strategy for sustainable input supply to farmers (SIAD). The inputs being promoted under the SIAD include seed, fertilizers, pesticides, feed, and others. The objectives of SIAD are to ensure regular access to agricultural inputs at a competitive price; to regulate production, marketing and use of agricultural inputs and to strengthen the capacity of farmer organizations to produce and market their products. It is too early to evaluate the SIAD performance. However, if fully implemented SIAD will help in increasing agricultural productivity and will support the national plan on soil fertility and water management and other NRM and agricultural policies. The policy also sets a stage for supporting the growth of the private input sector, which is weak.

Niger subsidizes fertilizer and some donors distribute fertilizer as part of the emergency aid. The government does not involve the private sector in the distribution of donor fertilizer. Instead, it distributes the donated fertilizer through the “central d’approvisionement”, the National government agency for input distribution. The government has justified its participation in input distribution as necessary because of the weak private input marketing sector and to ensure regional equity. Footnote 3 However, this approach works against other efforts to promote growth of the private sector. For example, the “IARBIC project” and other projects are helping to establish a private sector for fertilizers and other input distribution. These efforts are being undermined by the free fertilizer distribution.

After trade liberalization in Niger, the government removed most imports and exports taxes on agricultural input and output. The move was aimed at facilitating food imports to address the food deficiency that affects the country frequently. Footnote 4 The move was also aimed at increasing domestic production. This made Niger one of the most liberalized economies in West Africa. Niger is also one of the West African Monetary and Economic Union (UMEOA) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The objective of both economic unions is to remove all tax and barriers among member states. Niger agricultural exports go mainly within the region (ECOWAS and UMEOA).

The discussion reveals that Niger has designed a number of policies aimed at correcting the old programs that contributed to land degradation and to respond to new global and national changes. The section below discusses the trends and patterns of human welfare in order to understand the potential impact which such changes could have made. The discussion is not meant to attribute the changes directly to policy changes, but rather to establish an association that could help to better understand the environment-human welfare linkage (Reynolds et al. 2011 ).

Trends of Human Welfare Indicators and Their Relationship with Policy and Institutional Changes

The Nigerien human development index (HDI)—a statistical indicator of a country’s social and economic development that is calculated using life expectancy at birth, mean years of schooling, expected years of schooling and gross national income per capita—has been improving in the past three decades along with other low human development countries (Fig.  17.4 ). Despite this development however, Niger remains well below the average of the HDI of other low development index countries.

Nigerien human development index trend, 1980–2012, Note HDI ranges from 0 = lowest human development to 1 = highest human development. Source UNDP ( 2013 )

The Nigerien HDI improvement is strongly correlated with the agricultural sector development and important rural development programs. Microdosing—which involves placing seeds in planting basin systems, i.e., planting holes made to harvest water, in which a small amount of organic inputs and inorganic fertilizer are placed (Tabo et al. 2009 ) Footnote 5 —has been increasing in Niger due to promotion by government extension agents, international research organizations, and civil societies (Pender et al. 2009 ). Accordingly, the rate of nitrogen fertilizer application rate in Niger increased by over 60 % from its average level 2002–05 to 2009–12 (Fig.  17.5 ). This was the largest increase in West Africa—though the average application rate in Niger is lower than the rate in Western Africa and SSA. The low application rate in Niger is due to the semi-arid conditions, high cost of fertilizer and limited access to credit (Pender et al. 2008 ). Accordingly, increase in inorganic fertilizer application in Niger is strongly associated with an exponential increase in the crop production index from 1996 to 2012 (Fig.  17.5 b). Milk and beef production per capita also increased significantly after the devastating decline during prolonged drought in 1977–1985 (Fig.  17.6 ). The regreening of the Sahel could have improved pasture and consequently livestock productivity.

Trend of Nitrogen fertilizer application rates and agricultural, 1990–2012, a Fertilizer application rate. b Trend of agricultural productivity, Niger. Note Percent N application rate calculated as follows: \( \Delta \% = \frac{{y_{2} - y_{1} }}{{y_{1} }} \times 100 \) , where y 1  = average application rate, 2002–05, y 2  = average application rate, 2009–12. Source Calculated from FAOSTAT ( 2014 )

Per capita milk and beef production in Niger

Figure  17.7 shows that the percent of the population with malnutrition in 2012–14 Niger fell by about 60 % compared to its level in 1990–92. The corresponding change in Western Africa and SSA was 43 and 25 % respectively. Accordingly, the global hunger index (GHI)—a multidimensional statistical index depicting severity of hunger in a country (Von Grebmer et al. 2013 ) and infant mortality rate (IMR)—number of children under five years who die per 1000 live births (WHO 2014 ) have both been falling (Fig.  17.7 ).

The sun is rising in Niger: trend of infant mortality rate, hunger, and population with malnutrition, \( {\text{Percent change }} = \frac{{y_{2} - y_{1} }}{{y_{1} }}*100 \) , where y 2  = Percent of population with malnutrition in year i, i = 2000–02, 2005–07 to 2012–14, y 1  = percent of population with malnutrition in year 1990–92. Sources Malnutrition and IMR: World Bank poverty database ; GHI: Grebmer et al. ( 2013 ). Photo credit © Jamie Geysbeek “Niger River in the Morning”

Even though there may be no direct connection between the improving human development indicators and the government policy and institutional changes, the two have a strong correlation that suggest a causal relationship. Indeed, the sun is rising in Niger.

To set the stage for the methodological analysis of the economics of land degradation, the next section discusses land degradation and improvement and livestock and crop productivity in Niger.

Land Use/Cover Change, Livestock and Cropland Management and Production in Niger

As noted in the analytical methods in Chap.  2 and cost of land degradation in Chap.  6 , our analysis will examine the change in the ecosystem services due to land use/cover change (LUCC) and use of land degrading or improving management practices on static cropland and grazing lands (grasslands).

Land Use/Cover Change (LUCC), 2001–09

Using year 2001–05 and 2006–09 as baseline and endline respectively, average cropland area increased by 5 % while grazing lands increased by 15 % (Table  17.1 ). The large increase of the pasture is also due to the regreening of the Sahel (Ouedraogo et al. 2013 ). Forest extent fell by 56,000 ha or 4.3 %. This is not contrary to the tree planting and protection success story discussed earlier because such programs were implemented on private lands that may not lead to forest biomes.

Livestock Production

Livestock contributes 35 % of Nigerien agricultural GDP (Kamuanga et al. 2008 ). Niger has a population of 9.214 million heads of cattle or about one head of cattle for each two people. A livestock production system is predominantly pastoral with 26 and 38 % of the household engaged in pastoral and agropastoral production systems respectively (Table  17.2 ). The average herdsize is 11 and the maximum size is 122. Cows account for 40 % of the herdsize. However, livestock productivity is low. The average daily milk production per cow in Niger is only 1.4 l, a level which is comparable with overall average of 1.6 l per day per local breed cow in the Sahelian region (Desta 2002 ). Footnote 6 This is due to the low rainfall, poor rangeland management, and poor livestock breeds. Only about 4 % used improved pasture management—suggesting that degraded grasslands dominate the production systems. Milk off-take per lactation is 185 kg in the ASAL and 750 kg in the sub-humid and humid areas (Otte and Chilonda 2002 ). As individual animal productivity has remained unchanged, changes in production over time has largely been determined by livestock density, as observed by Otte and Chilonda ( 2011 ).

Millet, cowpeas and sorghum are the three most important crops accounting for 94 % of cropland area (Table  17.3 ). Other crops, namely maize and rice are not widely grown due to their high water requirements. However, maize and rice consumption and consequently net import have been increasing. For example, per capita net rice import increased from 8 kg in 2000 to 11 kg in 2011 (FAOSTAT 2014 ). Actual yield achieved by farmers is quite low—especially for cowpea, sorghum and maize, whose farmer yields are less than 50 % of the potential (Table  17.3 ). This shows the large potential that Niger enjoys in increasing yield and food security. Microdosing and moisture conservation technologies are among the agronomic practices that could be used to simultaneously increase yield and reduce high risk production in the Sahelian region (Tabo et al. 2009 ).

Building on the discussion above and on Chaps. 2 and 6 , the discussion below focuses on the analytical approach. The discussion gives more details on aspects that are specific to Niger and to data used in this chapter.

Analytical Approach

Our analytical approach focuses on estimation of cost of land degradation , groundtruthing of satellite data and drivers of adoption of sustainable land management practices. To take into account the high production risks in Niger, we also estimate the Just-Pope mean-variance model to determine the land management practices that farmers could use to reduce production risks (Just and Pope 1979 , 2003 ).

Cost of Land Degradation

The approach used for assessing land degradation is discussed in Chap.  6 . There few differences in the approach, which are briefly discussed below.

Land Degradation on Static Cropland

We add millet—the most important staple crop in Niger and drop wheat, which is not a common crop in the country. However, we use the same crop simulation approach to determine the impact of land degradation on static cropland.

Land Degradation on Grazing Lands

Impact of land degradation or improvement on livestock productivity.

We assess livestock productivity using beef and milk offtake only. This approach ignores other effects of pasture degradation such as parturition and mortality rate. Parturition could increase while mortality rate could fall due to better pasture intake. Rufino et al. ( 2009 ) find that adding supplements to diets increases calving rate among smallholder Kenyan dairy farms. Huttner et al. ( 2001 ) reports that malnutrition is a major factor predisposing cattle to poor health among Malawian smallholders. Like the case for crops, we estimate the impact of grazing biomass change on livestock productivity using two scenarios:

Business as usual (BAU)— Continuous grazing and improved pasture management—rotational grazing which allows natural regeneration of grasslands. Choice of rotational grazing as an improved forage management is done due to the observation that a number of farmers reported to have used it.

Consistent with Havlic et al. ( 2014 ), forage productivity under continuous and rotational grazing was estimated using EPIC model estimated in Sokoto Nigeria by Izzaraulde ( 2010 ). The biophysical and socio-economic characteristics of the sites selected in Sokoto were comparable with those selected in Southern Niger (Nkonya et al. 2015 ). Grazing biomass productivity under BAU and rotational grazing was simulated with the EPIC model, establishing a generic, perennial C4 species and grazing regime during the rainy season (June 1–October 31) and a livestock density of 1 TLU/ha. Continuous grazing was set such that animals could continue grazing until biomass reduces to a minimum amount of plant dry matter of 0.1 Mg/ha. Rotational grazing scenario allowed 15-day resting periods in-between to allow for grass natural regeneration.

It is important to establish the feed requirement of grazing animals and match this with available pasture. The feed requirement will provide the potential productivity of livestock. Assuming the animals feed on forage with specific nutrient properties, the quantity of feed intake will vary depending on the characteristics of the animal. Specifically, the body weight, growth rate, milk production, and activity level of the animal will jointly determine the level of intake required. Stéphenne and Lambin ( 2001 ) estimated the DM biomass consumption per TLU Livestock in the Sahelian zone to be 4.6 tons/year based on the following:

Average daily dietary requirements are 6.25 kg DM per TLU (Houérou and Hoste 1977 ; Behnke and Scoones 1993 ; Leeuw and Tothill 1993 ).

Consumable forage of grasses is only one-third of the above-ground biomass (Penning de Vries and Djitèye 1982 ; Leeuw and Tothill 1993 ). This means requirement must be multiplied by a factor of 3 to account for this.

Shrubs, trees and crops residues contribute 33 % of livestock biomass requirements (Houérou and Hoste 1977 ; Pieri 1989 ).

This translates to 6.25 kg ∗ 365 ∗ 3 ∗ 2/3 = 4.6 tons/year/TLU. The feed requirement was used to determine the cost of land degradation in the areas experiencing overgrazing but not practicing rotational grazing. The feed requirement was also used to determine the grazing area experiencing overgrazing. Overgrazing occurs when

where ovr = overgrazing; TLU density is the TLU density per ha; biom = grazing biomass productivity (tons of dry matter per ha per year).

Given that the TLU density data are available for only 2005, we extrapolated it over nine periods using the FAOSTAT national livestock population data and assumed the livestock distribution remained unchanged.

Impact of Forage Intake on Milk Production

Consistent with NRC ( 2001 ) and Muia ( 2000 ), we estimate the response of milk production to dry matter intake using a linear equation:

where y i  = daily milk offtake of cow i, x = dry matter intake (DMI) per day. To determine the impact of feeding practices only, this equation assumes all other cow nutritional and health requirements are fixed at optimal levels. Table  17.4 reports some results of the impact of dry matter intake (DMI) on milk off-take in Kenya and USA. The study by Muia ( 2000 ) is appealing since the constant and coefficient of the equation were determined under controlled experiments in SSA. However, Muia ( 2000 ) determined the impact of feed intake on milk yield using zero-grazed Friesian cows in Kenya—an aspect that requires calibrating the model to fit the predominantly local cows raised by farmers in Niger. Dairy cows were fed with Napier grass supplemented with Leucaena legume. However, the added supplement had only a marginal impact on milk productivity since the slope of the equation with Napier grass, Leucaena and concentrates is 0.87 (Table  17.4 ).

Muia ( 2000 ) used Napier grass (Pennisetum purpureum)—which is tropical grass suitable in tropical humid environment, which is not widely distributed in Niger . Additionally he used improved breeds, which account for only 2.1 % of cattle in Niger. This suggests the need to test the model and modify it to take these challenges into account. We evaluated the model performance in predicting milk yield after feeding on the common forage in Southern Niger. To address the different offtake of local and improved breeds, we introduce a technology scalar, which is a ratio of milk production for local and cross-bred cows. Given the above, the loss of milk production due to land degradation is given by the following model

where m i  = total milk production in year t, DM  I c t  = dry matter biomass intake (kg/head per day) for cows grazing under rotational grazing; DM I d t  = dry matter biomass intake (kg/head per day) for cows grazing under continuous grazing; t = year, t = 4…0.9; a = technology coefficient given by \( a = \frac{{m_{l} }}{{m_{e} }} \) , where m l  = daily milk production of one local cow; and m e  = daily milk production of one exotic cow used by Muia ( 2000 ) and x t  = number of milking cows in year in overgrazed grasslands in t.

We start to detect the impact of improved pasture management in the fourth year (t = 4) because we assume that grassland biomass increase due to rotational grazing will reach an equilibrium in year 3. The annual biomass productivity per ha in Niger ranges from 0.21 to 2.02 tons DM/ha with an average of 0.63 tons DM/ha (Havlic et al. 2014 ). Based on LSMS household survey data collected in 2012, the daily milk offtake per local cow ranges from 0.5 to 4 l with an average of 1.4 kg. Muia et al. ( 2000 )’s one Friesian cow fed with 12.2 kg DM of Napier grass per day and supplemented with sunflower produces 11.7 kg of milk. Using these data to calibrate Muia’s model shows that the average milk production is overestimated by only 10 % (Table  17.5 )—suggesting that the technology factor a = 0.90.

To determine milk production during the reference period, we compute the cow herd growth model proposed by Upton ( 1989 ):

where x t  = cow herd in year t; β = growth rate of heifer into cows; ω = cow mortality rate; τ = cow offtake rate.

We set the growth rate of cow herd to reach an equilibrium that matches the average herd size, i.e.,

where \( \bar{x} \)  = average cow herd. Since we estimate cow herd growth rate at national level, we do not include stolen cows since we assume such theft is a transfer within Niger.

Impact of Forage Intake on Beef Production

We compute the impact of land degradation or improvement using the meat off-take only and ignoring the change in weight for livestock which were not sold or slaughtered. Based on Blench ( 1999 ), the feed conversion ratio (kg grazed dry matter per change (kg) in live weight) is 7:1 for cattle and 10:1 for sheep and goats (shoats). This suggests the extra 100 kg of forage due to improved pasture management (e.g. rotational grazing) would convert in gains of 14 kg of live weight for cattle and 10 of live weight for shoats. However, these comparisons should be taken with caution since they apply mostly to European breeds, which may have different behavior from indigenous cattle breeds in Niger.

Based on the discussion of milk and meat offtake changes due to feed intake, we estimate the cost of land degradation from 2001 to 09 on overgrazed grassland using the following model:

where CLD grass  = Cost of land degradation in Niger; m t  = as defined in Eq. ( 17.5 ), b c and b d  = meat production under improved and unimproved pasture management; P b  = price of beef per kg; P m  = price of milk per kg; off = livestock offtake rate (slaughter and sales of live animals); ∆CO 2  = change in the amount of carbon sequestered under SLM and BAU and τ = price of CO 2 in the global carbon market and a = area being overgrazed.

Groundtruthing and Focus Group Discussion

Focus Group Discussions (FGD ) were conducted in seven Nigerien communities shown in Fig.  17.9 . The communities were selected to cover AEZ and to represent areas that Le et al. (2014) showed land improvement or land degradation in each AEZ (see Table  17.6 ). All seven communities fell into one agroecological zone—the arid and semiarid land (ASAL), i.e., with rainfall below 700 mm/year. Approximately 10–20 community members participated in the FGD. KoneBeri, Tiguey, Bazaga, and Babaye are predominantly crop producers while Djibiri and Bla Birin are pastoral and agropastoral communities. Le et al. ( 2014 ) classify Bazaga and Djibiri as having experienced land improvement while the rest of the communities experienced land degradation (Fig.  17.8 ).

Case study communities selected for FGD and groundtruthing

Participants were purposely selected to represent old people who could give informed perception on land use change over the 30 year reference period; women, the youth, local government leaders, crop producers, livestock producers, people who earn their livelihoods from forest and other non-agricultural terrestrial biomes, and customary leaders. Such a diverse groups afforded a rich discussion on ecosystem value and their change from 1982 to 2012.

Groundtruthing remote sensing data was done by asking FGD members to show the LUCC and land degradation or improvement of the major biomes which have occurred in the community over a 30 year period (1982–2012). Groundtruthing helps to determine reliability of the satellite data used in this report. Results of the groundtruthing are reported in Chap. 5 of this book.

Drivers of Adoption of SLM and Risk Reducing Land Management Practices

Drivers of adoption of SLM: We estimate the drivers of adoption of ISFM, inorganic fertilizer, organic inputs and crop rotation using a Probit model specified as follows:

where Y* is a latent variable, such that

Φ is a cumulative normal distribution with Z-distribution, i.e., \( \Phi(Z)\epsilon ( 0 , 1 ), \) X is a vector of covariates of drivers of adoption of land management practices and β is a vector of the associated coefficients. Xβ ~N(0, 1); ε is an error term with normal distribution, i.e., ε ~ N(0, 1).

Choice of the elements of the X vector in the empirical model is guided by literature Footnote 7 and data availability. We include some variables that are potentially endogenous. To address the endogeneity bias, we estimate a reduced form model and an instrumental variable linear probability model (IV-LPM) (Horace and Oaxaca 2006 ). The LPM has two major problems: (i) some estimates of probability are above 1 and are meaningless. The farther away from 0 to 1 interval, the more biased and inconsistent the estimates are (Ibid) and (ii) violation of homoscedasticity and normality assumptions. The dependent variable as dichotomous variable cannot yield a homoscedastic error term, unless the odds of p = 1 for all observations are the same and that the error term is not normally distributed, given that there are only two values (0 and 1). Following Horace and Oaxaca ( 2006 ), it is possible to address both problems by dropping values that lead to coefficients outside the 0 to 1 interval. Estimates are unbiased and are consistent if they lie within the unit interval (ibid). To check robustness of the coefficients, we estimate the structural model and the corresponding IV-LPM and the reduced Probit model.

Impacts of land management on production risks: Given that the land management practices that affect yield also influence risk (variance), we use the Just-Pope mean-variance model:

where Y = yield which is affected by a deterministic production function P(·) and a stochastic risk function φ (·) with an error term of unknown random effects \( (e(\xi )) \) determined by rainfall and other risks and stressors that affect Y. Drivers of \( e(\xi ) \) are unknown to farmers when they make production decisions.

C and X are respectively covariates of land management practices and other covariates, which simultaneously affect P(·) and φ (·).

The following section discusses the results of the study, starting with the cost of land degradation due to LUCC.

Cost of Land Degradation Due to LUCC and Community Restoration Efforts

According to Table  17.7 , desert or barren land accounts for about 72 % of the land area. However, excluding the desert, grasslands and shrublands respectively account for 76 and 23 % of the land area. A total of 6.12 million ha experienced LUCC and shrublands and grassland accounted for the largest change (Fig.  17.9 and Table  17.7 ). Excluding the desert, 19 % of the land area experienced LUCC. Cropland expansion accounted for about 57 % of deforestation followed by grassland expansion (Fig.  17.10 ). This is consistent with Gibbs et al. ( 2010 ) who also observed forest contributing the largest share of cropland expansion in SSA. However, grasslands accounted for about 90 % of cropland expansion (Fig.  17.9 ). The changes from high to low value biome leads to land degradation and are considered in the cost of land degradation discussed below.

Contribution of major biomes to LUCC and to cropland expansion

Source of loss of biome extent and destination biome in the LUCCC, Niger

Cost of land degradation due to LUCC is about 2007 US$0.75 billion, which is 11 % of the 2007 GDP of US$6.773 billion and 1 % of the 2001 value of ecosystem services (ES) in Niger (Fig.  17.11 ).

Cost of land degradation due to LUCC, Niger

The cost of action to address land degradation is US$5 billion while the cost of inaction is about US$30 billion over the 30 year planning horizon. As expected the returns for taking action are quite high. Every US dollar invested in taking action returns about $6—a level that is quite attractive.

In the section below, we examine the perceptions of farmers on land degradation to verify the satellite data results discussed above.

Focus Group Discussion Results

Trend of importance of ecosystem services.

Consistent with the MODIS data results, communities perceived that importance of provisioning services fell for both degraded and improved lands. In both cases, the fall in importance—ranked from not important = 1, somehow important = 2 and very important = 3 fell by over 40 % (Fig.  17.12 ). In the last 30 years, Niger was affected by several severe droughts, locust pests and floods. The events caused a lot of stress for the ecosystem and the farmer’s production systems (World Bank 2011 ) and had generally a negative impact on the supply of provisioning, regulating and supporting as well as cultural services. Regulation of air quality, pollination, waste treatment, nutrient cycling and other regulating and supporting systems were affected by these events. Importance of regulating services fell by 52 % the steepest decline of all the ecosystem services.

Importance of provisioning services, Niger, Note Importance of ecosystem services: 1  Not Important; 2  Somehow important; 3  Very important; 4  Don’t know). Source Authors

Detailed analysis of the trends of ecosystem services show that importance of provisioning services declined in both communities with degraded and improved NDVI (Fig.  17.13 ). However, a look at the specific services in detail reveals that perceptions of the importance of crops were rated the same over the time period from communities with improved lands. In one village (Bazaga), where 90 % of the households primarily produce crops, the importance of provisioning services from crops actually increased. This is consistent with Fig.  17.14 —which reports increasing crop productivity. The farmers reported that this increase results from infrastructure development.

Detailed listing of provisioning services’ importance in communities with degraded and improved lands, Niger, Note Importance of ecosystem services (ES): 1  Not Important; 2  Somehow important; 3  Very important), Source Authors

Detailed listing of regulating and supporting services importance, Niger, Notes Importance of ecosystem services in 1982 and 2013: 1  Not Important; 2  Somehow important; 3  Very important); Source FGD

Additionally, a majority of villages stated that they have better access to fresh water in 2012 than was the case in 1982. Publicly financed wells were constructed in the villages. This positive development is mostly due to a transferring of responsibilities for water supply from the national government to local authorities (AMCOW 2011 ).

Importance of regulating and supporting systems declined in communities with decreased NDVI but increased in villages which experienced higher NDVI (see Fig.  17.15 ). In villages with an improved NDVI, cleaning of the air is functioning better in 2013 compared to 1982. The participants, who were situated in predominantly crop producing areas, specified that this is a consequence of land improvement. The promotion of improved production technologies increased the soil quality of cropland. For instance, leaving millet stumps after the harvest on the fields, which reduces wind erosion in the dry season, is a successfully applied approach in Niger (Hayashi et al. 2010 ).

Reasons for the fall in importance of ecosystem services, Niger, Source FGD

Cultural services were generally declining in importance in nearly all villages. One of the factors driving this change is erosion of traditional values among the youth (Blum 2007 ). Additionally, a shift from traditional beliefs to Islam is also contributing to movement from traditional spiritual services that nurture nature. Only one village reported that cultural services are improving. The farmers in the community who reported improvement in cultural services attributed the improvement to government promotion of trees, which significantly increased the ability to rest and recover during field work.

Land degradation is the most important reason for the decline of all three types of ecosystem services (see Fig.  17.15 ). The FGD participants reported that wind and water erosion as well as loss of soil fertility are a consequence of deforestation, poor agricultural techniques and overgrazing. In general, rates of sustainably managed natural resources are still low in Niger , as can be seen by the low fertilizer application rates in Fig.  17.5 or the low application rates of rotational grazing in Table  17.2 . Climate Change , especially reduced precipitation, is also an important reason for a decline of provisioning as well as regulating and supporting services.

In general there is a strong agreement between FGD and the MODIS data on land degradation. Chapter 5 reports further on the groundtruthing of satellite data with community perception. The discussion below examines the community response to land degradation.

Restoration of Degraded Lands

Communities were asked to mention the three most important actions they have taken to address land degradation for each of the major biomes. Communities reported to have taken actions on cropland, grasslands and bare lands only. There were no actions mentioned to address land degradation on forests and shrublands. About 40 % of the communities that reported land degradation on cropland adopted SLWM practices and 13 % passed byelaws to address it (Fig.  17.17 ). The SLWM practices used include promotion of improved agricultural technologies, application of organic and inorganic fertilizers and other management practices. Other actions taken to address land degradation on cropland include shifting cultivation, tree planting, postharvest handling and other actions. Footnote 8 Tree planting was the most common strategy used to restore bare lands. Tree planting was done mainly on bare lands to fix sand dunes. As discussed earlier, this is in line with Niger’s tree planting programs that have shown significant impacts.

For grazing land, farmers reported mixed results of the activities reported as other in Fig.  17.17 . In Bazaga, farmers received credits for livestock. The larger herd sizes increased the demand for fodder and this led to overgrazing. In contrast, in Babaye the distribution of animals improved grazing land. Vulnerable women received goats, which used to be a traditional income source for female villagers. In Babaye women were not only given access to animals adopted to the irregular precipitation, but also awareness for the changing climate and its consequences, as well as trainings including sustainable fodder production and rotational grazing were provided by an NGO. A similar project was conducted by CBA ( 2010 ) in other parts of Niger.

Land Degradation on Static Land Use

The discussion below focuses on cropland and grazing lands that did not undergo LUCC. As discussed earlier, only 19 % of land south of the Sahara desert experienced LUCC and the remaining land (81 %) maintained the same biome in 2001 and 2009. We start our discussion with adoption and profit of cropland SLM practices.

Land Degradation on Static Grasslands

Livestock production is mainly concentrated in the southern part of the country and its density increases towards the Nigerian border (Fig.  17.16 ). Grazing land pressure has been increasing and this has led to reduced biomass productivity. Controlling for rainfall, a long-term experiment of rangeland productivity in Niger showed an annual decrease of 5 % from 1994 to 2006 and the causes of decrease included decreasing soil fertility and increased grazing pressure (Hiernaux et al. 2014 ).

Action taken to address land degradation on major biomes

The increasing grazing pressure suggests some level of overgrazing. The average carrying capacity in the Sahelian region varies from 10 to 3.5 ha/TLU—depending on the precipitation of each year (Boudet 1975 ; Penning de Vries and Djitèye 1982 ). The carrying capacity of livestock in Niger is between 5 and 7 ha per tropical livestock unit (TLU) (Kamuanga et al. 2008 ). Results of biomass productivity in Niger done by Havlic et al. ( 2014 ) show that the average productivity of grazing biomass in Niger is 0.634 tons DM/ha/year. Stéphenne and Lambin ( 2001 ) also show that feed requirement per TLU in the Sahelian region is 4.6 tons of dry matter (DM) per year. This translates to a carrying capacity of 7.25 ha per TLU. Based on this, we overlaid the grazing biomass productivity and livestock density and determined that more than 75 % of the grazing lands are experiencing overgrazing. This partly explains the low livestock productivity in the country—an aspect that leads to high cost of land degradation.

Only about 4 % of the households with livestock practice improved pasture management (Table  17.8 ). The improved pasture management include different forms of rotational grazing and restricted movement of livestock. Based on EPIC simulation discussed earlier, the cost of land degradation due to loss of milk and beef offtake is US$152 million, which is about 2.2 % of the GDP. Loss of milk production accounts for 88 % of total on-farm loss. Loss of beef offtake is small due to the small offtake rate and the small gain in weight due to rotational grazing (Table  17.9 ).

Adoption Rates and Profit of Cropland SLM Practices

Figure  17.17 shows that while only 9 % of plots received the most profitable practice—integrated soil fertility management (ISFM), i.e., a practice that combines judicious quantities of chemical fertilizer with organic inputs and improved germplasm (Vanlauwe and Giller 2006 ), about half of the plots did not receive any external inputs—the least profitable management practice. Table  17.10 gives details of adoption rate of the three soil fertility management practices for the four major crops and all consistently show the same pattern—lowest adoption rate for ISFM and inorganic fertilizer and highest use for the least profitable soil fertility management practices. The inverse relationship between profitability and adoption rate of land management suggests there are challenges which hamper farmers from adopting the most profitable land management practices. We look at these in the section addressing drivers of adoption of soil fertility management practices.

The unholy cross: Inverse relationship between profit and adoption rate of soil fertility management practices on millet plots, Niger

Millet accounts for 42 % of cropland in Niger (FAOSTAT 2014 ) but its yield is much lower than the potential yield. Literature estimates of the low, medium and high yield of pearl millet yield in Eastern and Southern Africa is estimated to be respectively 0.16, 0.72 and 1.93 tons/ha (Tittonell and Giller 2013 ). However, LSMS household survey show the average yield is 0.92 tons/ha. A long-term experiment in Sadore Niger showed that millet-cowpea rotation improves nitrogen use efficiency from 20 % to 28 % and increased grain yield from 0.516 tons/ha to 1.200 tons/ha—a 57 % increase on plots that did not receive any external inputs (Bationo and Ntare 2000 ). However household survey data show that 36 % increase in millet-cowpea yield and 72 % of households practiced millet-cowpea rotational cropping (Pender 2009 ).

We analyze the cost of land degradation due to use of land degrading management practices on maize, rice and millet plots. We use DSSAT results for non-adoption of ISFM and long-term soil fertility experiments on millet-cowpea rotational cropping vs. millet-millet continuous cropping.

DSSAT results on ISFM and non-use of inorganic and fertilizer on maize, rice and millet plots. Table  17.11 summarizes the DSSAT results for all three crops and shows that the total cost of land degradation is US77.44 million. Despite the high adoption rate of rotational cropping, the cost of land degradation due to millet-millet continuous cropping is much larger (US$154.68 million) due to the large area covered by millet (Table  17.12 ). The summary of on-farm cost of land degradation on crops covered is US$318.74 million or 2.5 % of the GDP (Table  17.13 ).

Drivers of Adoption Rate of SLM Practices on Cropland

Results across the three models (structural, reduced and LPM-IV) are consistent suggesting they are robust. Additionally, all coefficients of the LPM are below 1 implying that they are less biased and are consistent (Horace and Oaxaca 2006 ). Results also show consistent relationships between adoption of management practices that involve purchased inputs (inorganic fertilizer and ISFM) and organic soil fertility practices (organic inputs, and rotational cropping) which are produced on-farm or don’t go through the market. Accordingly, our discussion will follow this pattern by referring adoption of inorganic fertilizer and ISFM as land management practices that involve purchased inputs and non-purchased inputs.

Endowment of family male labor has favorable influence on adoption of all four soil fertility management practices while female labor has negative impact on ISFM and inorganic fertilizer—both of which include purchased inputs (Table  17.14 ). This is consistent with past studies showing favorable impact of male labor on adoption of purchased inputs (e.g. see Peterman et al. 2014 ). Consistent with Nkonya et al. ( 2008 ) and Kaizzi ( 2002 ), farmers are more likely to use organic soil fertility management practices and less likely to apply inorganic fertilizer on sandy soils. Farmers tend to avoid using purchased inputs on less fertile soils to avoid losses but tend to use non-purchased organic inputs to rehabilitate degraded soil or those naturally low fertility (e.g. sandy soils). Similarly and by design, zai and demi-lunes are associated with adoption of organic inputs—partly because organic inputs are added into constructed SWC structures—and with less likelihood to use purchased inputs.

Non-farm activities increase the propensity to use purchased inputs (inorganic fertilizer and ISFM). This shows the synergistic relationship between non-farm and farm activities. Contrary to expectation however, remittances and value of assets negative impact on adoption of management practices that involve purchased inputs. The results could be explained by tendency of farmers to focus less on agricultural activities when they become wealthier or when they have alternative sources of income such as remittances. However, values of assets have a favorable impact on adoption of crop rotation. Consistent with the fertility gradient reported by Zingore et al. ( 2007 ), plots closer to home are likely to receive both organic inputs and inorganic fertilizer.

Risks and Land Management Practices

As expected, crop rotation, stone bunds and demi-lunes are risk-reducing land management practices (Table  17.15 ). This is consistent with recent studies which have demonstrated that water harvesting, and farmer management natural regeneration (FMNR) can both increase agricultural productivity and reduce climate-related risks (AGRA 2014 ; Garrity et al. 2010 ; Bayala et al. 2014 ; Reij et al. 2009 ; Place and Binam 2013 ). The results underscores the importance of promoting these practices to increase farmers’ resilience to the high production risks in the Sahelian zone. Contrary to other studies (e.g. Cooper et al. 2009 ; Cooper and Coe 2011 ) however, zai and organic inputs increase yield variance. Likewise, inorganic fertilizers increase yield variance. This could be due to their likely impact in yield variability across relevant but excluded land management and/or soil characteristics. For example response of an inorganic fertilizer to improved crop varieties is greater than is the case for unimproved varieties.

With a number of female household members having non-farm activities, customary land tenure and proximity of plot to home also reduce production risks. The results further underscore the importance of non-farm activities and the role that female household members play in enhancing resilience of households to shocks. The results also show that the plots held under customary tenure are likely to have greater resilience to production risks than those held under leasehold. Proximity of plots to homestead could be a result of better soil fertility management reported by Zingore et al. ( 2007 ), which in turn reduces variance (Nkonya et al. 2015 ). However, female-headed households experience greater yield variance, probably due to their failure to adopt the risk reducing management practices discussed above.

Conclusions and Policy Implications

Recent policy changes in Niger and their strong association with improved human welfare demonstrate that even poor countries could achieve sustainable development enshrined in the United Nations Green Economy initiative (UNEP 2011). Enhancing government effectiveness by giving communities a mandate to manage natural resources, and by giving incentives to land users to benefit from their investment, played a key role in realizing simultaneous improvement in land management and human welfare in Niger. The country also learned hard lessons from its past mistakes that involved policies which provided disincentive to land investment and the consequent land degradation that was amplified by prolonged drought. The results further suggest that severe land degradation and the consequent negative impacts on human welfare is low-hanging fruit that needs to be utilized by countries as they address land degradation. This suggests instead of abandoning severely degraded lands, strategies should be used to rehabilitate such lands using low-cost organic soil fertility management practices and progressively followed by using high cost inputs as soil fertility improve. Improvement of access to rural services and facilitation of non-farm activities will also lead to faster and greater impacts on adoption of SLM practices and increasing resilience to production in Niger.

As Niger continues to improve sustainable land management, it faces daunting challenges to alleviate the high cost of land degradation. Niger serves as a success story to the world in addressing land degradation . Both the national and international community need to learn from the achievement of Niger and help land users to sustainably management their natural resources.

HDI ranges from 0 to 1, with HDI = 1 being the highest level of development and 0 as the lowest level.

According to North ( 1991 ), institutions are formal and informal regulations that structure political, economic and social interaction. They include laws, statutes, taboos, code of conduct, etc.

Discussion with some government officials and researchers in Niger also revealed that the government uses the free distribution of fertilizer to gain political credit during election seasons.

Only imported rice is taxed.

Microdosing is also referred to as precision conservation agriculture (PCA) (Twomlow et al. 2009 ).

Milk off-take for local breeds is 524 kg per lactation period, which lasts 329 days (Desta 2002 ). This translates to 1.6 l per cow per lactation day.

See Chap. 7 for details.

These prayers and rituals.

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Moussa, B., Nkonya, E., Meyer, S., Kato, E., Johnson, T., Hawkins, J. (2016). Economics of Land Degradation and Improvement in Niger. In: Nkonya, E., Mirzabaev, A., von Braun, J. (eds) Economics of Land Degradation and Improvement – A Global Assessment for Sustainable Development. Springer, Cham.

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Case Study: Sahel Desertification

What is desertification: It is the term used to describe the changing of semi arid (dry) areas into desert. It is severe in Sudan, Chad, Senegal and Burkina Faso

What are the causes:

  • Overcultivation: the land is continually used for crops and does not have time to recover eventually al the nutrients are depleted (taken out) and the ground eventually turns to dust.
  • Overgrazing: In some areas animals have eaten all the vegetation leaving bare soil.
  • Deforestation: Cutting down trees leaves soil open to erosion by wind and rain.
  • Climate Change: Decrease in rainfall and rise in temperatures causes vegetation to die

What is being done to solve the problem?

 Over the past twelve years Oxfam has worked with local villagers in Yatenga (Burkina Faso) training them in the process of BUNDING. This is building lines of stones across a slope to stop water and soil running away. This method preserves the topsoil and has improved farming and food production in the village.

Burkina Faso - desertification

This video shows the Sahel region south of the Sahara is at risk of becoming desert. Elders in a village in Burkina Faso describe how the area has changed from a fertile area to a drought-prone near-desert. The area experiences a dry season which can last up to eight or nine months. During this time rivers dry up and people, animals and crops are jeopardised.

This video showcases the Sahel region

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Desertification in the Sahel Region: A Product of Climate Change or Human Activities? A Case of Desert Encroachment Monitoring in North-Eastern Nigeria Using Remote Sensing Techniques

Profile image of Bello Ahmed

2022, Geographies - MDPI

Abstract Desertification has become one of the most pronounced ecological disasters, affecting arid and semi-arid areas of Nigeria. This phenomenon is more pronounced in the northern region, particularly the eleven frontline states of Nigeria, sharing borders with the Niger Republic. This has been attributed to a range of natural and anthropogenic factors. Rampant felling of trees for fuelwood, unsustainable agriculture, overgrazing, coupled with unfavourable climatic conditions are among the key factors that aggravate the desertification phenomenon. This study applied geospatial analysis to explore land use/land cover changes and detect major conversions from ecologically active land covers to sand dunes. Results indicate that areas covered by sand dunes (a major indicator of desertification) have doubled over the 25 years under consideration (1990 to 2015). Even though 0.71 km2 of dunes was converted to vegetation, indicative of the success of various international, national, local and individual afforestation efforts, conversely about 10.1 km2 of vegetation were converted to sand dunes, implying around 14 times more deforestation compared to afforestation. On average, our results revealed that the sand dune in the study area is progressing at a mean rate of 15.2 km2 annually. The land cover conversion within the 25-year study period was from vegetated land to farmlands. Comparing the progression of a sand dune with climate records of the study area and examining the relationship between indicators of climate change and desertification suggested a mismatch between both processes, as increasing rainfall and lower temperatures observed in 1994, 2005, 2012, and 2014 did not translate into positive feedbacks for desertification in the study area. Likewise, the mean annual Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) from 2000 to 2015 shows a deviation between vegetation peaks, mean temperatures and rainfall. Based on this study’s land cover change, trend and conversion assessment, visual reconciliation of climate records of land cover data, statistical analysis, observations from ground-truthing, as well as previous literature, it can be inferred that desertification in Nigeria is less a function of climate change, but more a product of human activities driven by poverty, population growth and failed government policies. Further projections by this study also reveal a high probability of more farmlands being converted to sand dunes by the years 2030 and 2045 if current practices prevail.

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This paper examined the causes and extent of desertification in Sokoto state of Nigeria from 1986 to 2015 and also make prediction of how the land use and Landcover of the area will look like in next twenty years (20 years). The data used for examining the extent of desertification were downloaded from USGS. The main objective of this research work is to examine the extent of desertification and determine the primary agent of desertification and to predict how the land use and land cover of the area will look like in the nearest feature. A well-structured questionnaire was used to collect data in order to know the resources being mined in the study area. The result of the questionnaire was analyze in SPSS using regression analysis in order to know the relationship between the local population and the resources being harvested. LandSat images for 1986, 2000 and 2015 were used to examine the extent of desertification. The classified images for 1986 and 2015 were used to predict the land use and land cover in the next 20years. The paper suggests for massive tree plantings in the study area and Nigeria in general. The Federal and State Departments of Forestry need to be empowered with adequate revenue for massive reforestation programme. Regulation to discourage dependence on wood for local energy should be put in place, while other sources of energy such as kerosene should be adequately provided. Grazing land should also be created for the Fulani headmen to avoid the destruction of farmland and environment.

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Desertification is one of the most serious problems facing northern Nigeria with 580,841 km 2 out of the 927,892km 2 total land area of Nigeria and with about 62 million Nigerians directly or indirectly affected by desertification. Climatic variability, deforestation, extensive cultivation, overgrazing, cultivation of marginal land, bush burning, fuel wood extraction, faulty irrigation system and urbanization were identified as the major causes of desertification. An attempt was made in this paper to review such causes and consequences, with a view to identify some inadequacies and to make appropriate recommendations to policy makers. The paper argues that a lot of national and international interventions have to be made to curb the condition in Nigeria. It recommends that agriculture should transcend from development strategy to agric business and that governments at levels and non-governmental organizations should provide adequate water for the farmers, planting of Jatropha trees and some exotic trees that have economic benefits which would add value to the livelihood of the people, adequate funds should be provided to the frontline states to fight desert encroachment and set up a desertification monitoring center.

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Case Study: The Sahara Desert - Opportunities

Development opportunities in the sahara desert.

The Sahara desert is 9.2 million kilometres 2 and it spans north Africa. It is Earth's hottest desert and provides these economic opportunities:

Illustrative background for Mineral extraction in the Sahara desert

Mineral extraction in the Sahara desert

  • The Algerian part of the Sahara desert contains lots of iron ore.
  • Morocco is the biggest exporter of the mineral, phosphate, in the whole world.
  • Niger's part of the Sahara desert contains lots of uranium.

Illustrative background for Energy production in the Sahara desert

Energy production in the Sahara desert

  • Oil, coal, and natural gas are all common in the Sahara desert.
  • Countries have developed oil fields to harvest this oil and oil makes up 20% of Algeria's GDP and 85% of its exports to other countries.
  • Because of the sunlight that the Sahara desert receives, solar power is popular in North Africa. Businesses are currently trying to build an enormous solar power plant in Réjim Maâtoug, Tunisia to try to create solar power for North Africa and Europe.

Illustrative background for Tourism in the Sahara desert

Tourism in the Sahara desert

  • Tourism is a vital part of the Egyptian economy and many tourists visit the Sahara desert at Siwa in Egypt.
  • Tourists can go on camel treks or go sandboarding on dunes in the Sahara desert.

Illustrative background for Agriculture and farming in the Sahara desert

Agriculture and farming in the Sahara desert

  • The Aswan Dam is a dam built across the River Nile in Egypt.
  • Farming in the Sahara desert is very difficult, so water and irrigation from dams like the Aswan are vital to allow farming to happen.

Illustrative background for The Sahara desert

The Sahara desert

1 Geography Skills

1.1 Mapping

1.1.1 Map Making

1.1.2 OS Maps

1.1.3 Grid References

1.1.4 Contour Lines

1.1.5 Symbols, Scale and Distance

1.1.6 Directions on Maps

1.1.7 Describing Routes

1.1.8 Map Projections

1.1.9 Aerial & Satellite Images

1.1.10 Using Maps to Make Decisions

1.2 Geographical Information Systems

1.2.1 Geographical Information Systems

1.2.2 How do Geographical Information Systems Work?

1.2.3 Using Geographical Information Systems

1.2.4 End of Topic Test - Geography Skills

2 Geology of the UK

2.1 The UK's Rocks

2.1.1 The UK's Main Rock Types

2.1.2 The UK's Landscape

2.1.3 Using Rocks

2.1.4 Weathering

2.2 Case Study: The Peak District

2.2.1 The Peak District

2.2.2 Limestone Landforms

2.2.3 Quarrying

3 Geography of the World

3.1 Geography of America & Europe

3.1.1 North America

3.1.2 South America

3.1.3 Europe

3.1.4 The European Union

3.1.5 The Continents

3.1.6 The Oceans

3.1.7 Longitude

3.1.8 Latitude

3.1.9 End of Topic Test - Geography of the World

4 Development

4.1 Development

4.1.1 Classifying Development

4.1.3 Evaluation of GDP

4.1.4 The Human Development Index

4.1.5 Population Structure

4.1.6 Developing Countries

4.1.7 Emerging Countries

4.1.8 Developed Countries

4.1.9 Comparing Development

4.2 Uneven Development

4.2.1 Consequences of Uneven Development

4.2.2 Physical Factors Affecting Development

4.2.3 Historic Factors Affecting Development

4.2.4 Human & Social Factors Affecting Development

4.2.5 Breaking Out of the Poverty Cycle

4.3 Case Study: Democratic Republic of Congo

4.3.1 The DRC: An Overview

4.3.2 Political & Social Factors Affecting Development

4.3.3 Environmental Factors Affecting the DRC

4.3.4 The DRC: Aid

4.3.5 The Pros & Cons of Aid in DRC

4.3.6 Top-Down vs Bottom-Up in DRC

4.3.7 The DRC: Comparison with the UK

4.3.8 The DRC: Against Malaria Foundation

4.4 Case Study: Nigeria

4.4.1 The Importance & Development of Nigeria

4.4.2 Nigeria's Relationships with the Rest of the World

4.4.3 Urban Growth in Lagos

4.4.4 Population Growth in Lagos

4.4.5 Factors influencing Nigeria's Growth

4.4.6 Nigeria: Comparison with the UK

5 Weather & Climate

5.1 Weather

5.1.1 Weather & Climate

5.1.2 Components of Weather

5.1.3 Temperature

5.1.4 Sunshine, Humidity & Air Pressure

5.1.5 Cloud Cover

5.1.6 Precipitation

5.1.7 Convectional Precipitation

5.1.8 Frontal Precipitation

5.1.9 Relief or Orographic Precipitation

5.1.10 Wind

5.1.11 Extreme Wind

5.1.12 Recording the Weather

5.1.13 Extreme Weather

5.2 Climate

5.2.1 Climate of the British Isles

5.2.2 Comparing Weather & Climate London

5.2.3 Climate of the Tropical Rainforest

5.2.4 End of Topic Test - Weather & Climate

5.3 Tropical Storms

5.3.1 Formation of Tropical Storms

5.3.2 Features of Tropical Storms

5.3.3 The Structure of Tropical Storms

5.3.4 Tropical Storms Case Study: Katrina Effects

5.3.5 Tropical Storms Case Study: Katrina Responses

6 The World of Work

6.1 Tourism

6.1.1 Landscapes

6.1.2 The Growth of Tourism

6.1.3 Benefits of Tourism

6.1.4 Economic Costs of Tourism

6.1.5 Social, Cultural & Environmental Costs of Tourism

6.1.6 Tourism Case Study: Blackpool

6.1.7 Ecotourism

6.1.8 Tourism Case Study: Kenya

7 Natural Resources

7.1.1 What are Rocks?

7.1.2 Types of Rock

7.1.4 The Rock Cycle - Weathering

7.1.5 The Rock Cycle - Erosion

7.1.6 What is Soil?

7.1.7 Soil Profiles

7.1.8 Water

7.1.9 Global Water Demand

7.2 Fossil Fuels

7.2.1 Introduction to Fossil Fuels

7.2.2 Fossil Fuels

7.2.3 The Global Energy Supply

7.2.5 What is Peak Oil?

7.2.6 End of Topic Test - Natural Resources

8.1 River Processes & Landforms

8.1.1 Overview of Rivers

8.1.2 The Bradshaw Model

8.1.3 Erosion

8.1.4 Sediment Transport

8.1.5 River Deposition

8.1.6 River Profiles: Long Profiles

8.1.7 River Profiles: Cross Profiles

8.1.8 Waterfalls & Gorges

8.1.9 Interlocking Spurs

8.1.10 Meanders

8.1.11 Floodplains

8.1.12 Levees

8.1.13 Case Study: River Tees

8.2 Rivers & Flooding

8.2.1 Flood Risk Factors

8.2.2 Flood Management: Hard Engineering

8.2.3 Flood Management: Soft Engineering

8.2.4 Flooding Case Study: Boscastle

8.2.5 Flooding Case Study: Consequences of Boscastle

8.2.6 Flooding Case Study: Responses to Boscastle

8.2.7 Flooding Case Study: Bangladesh

8.2.8 End of Topic Test - Rivers

8.2.9 Rivers Case Study: The Nile

8.2.10 Rivers Case Study: The Mississippi

9.1 Formation of Coastal Landforms

9.1.1 Weathering

9.1.2 Erosion

9.1.3 Headlands & Bays

9.1.4 Caves, Arches & Stacks

9.1.5 Wave-Cut Platforms & Cliffs

9.1.6 Waves

9.1.7 Longshore Drift

9.1.8 Coastal Deposition

9.1.9 Spits, Bars & Sand Dunes

9.2 Coast Management

9.2.1 Management Strategies for Coastal Erosion

9.2.2 Case Study: The Holderness Coast

9.2.3 Case Study: Lyme Regis

9.2.4 End of Topic Test - Coasts

10 Glaciers

10.1 Overview of Glaciers & How They Work

10.1.1 Distribution of Glaciers

10.1.2 Types of Glaciers

10.1.3 The Last Ice Age

10.1.4 Formation & Movement of Glaciers

10.1.5 Shaping of Landscapes by Glaciers

10.1.6 Glacial Landforms Created by Erosion

10.1.7 Glacial Till & Outwash Plain

10.1.8 Moraines

10.1.9 Drumlins & Erratics

10.1.10 End of Topic Tests - Glaciers

10.1.11 Tourism in Glacial Landscapes

10.1.12 Strategies for Coping with Tourists

10.1.13 Case Study - Lake District: Tourism

10.1.14 Case Study - Lake District: Management

11 Tectonics

11.1 Continental Drift & Plate Tectonics

11.1.1 The Theory of Plate Tectonics

11.1.2 The Structure of the Earth

11.1.3 Tectonic Plates

11.1.4 Plate Margins

11.2 Volcanoes

11.2.1 Volcanoes & Their Products

11.2.2 The Development of Volcanoes

11.2.3 Living Near Volcanoes

11.3 Earthquakes

11.3.1 Overview of Earthquakes

11.3.2 Consequences of Earthquakes

11.3.3 Case Study: Christchurch, New Zealand Earthquake

11.4 Tsunamis

11.4.1 Formation of Tsunamis

11.4.2 Case Study: Japan 2010 Tsunami

11.5 Managing the Risk of Volcanoes & Earthquakes

11.5.1 Coping With Earthquakes & Volcanoes

11.5.2 End of Topic Test - Tectonics

12 Climate Change

12.1 The Causes & Consequences of Climate Change

12.1.1 Evidence for Climate Change

12.1.2 Natural Causes of Climate Change

12.1.3 Human Causes of Climate Change

12.1.4 The Greenhouse Effect

12.1.5 Effects of Climate Change on the Environment

12.1.6 Effects of Climate Change on People

12.1.7 Climate Change Predictions

12.1.8 Uncertainty About Future Climate Change

12.1.9 Mitigating Against Climate Change

12.1.10 Adapting to Climate Change

12.1.11 Case Study: Bangladesh

13 Global Population & Inequality

13.1 Global Populations

13.1.1 World Population

13.1.2 Population Structure

13.1.3 Ageing Populations

13.1.4 Youthful Populations

13.1.5 Population Control

13.1.6 Mexico to USA Migration

13.1.7 End of Topic Test - Development & Population

14 Urbanisation

14.1 Urbanisation

14.1.1 Rural Characterisitcs

14.1.2 Urban Characteristics

14.1.3 Urbanisation Growth

14.1.4 The Land Use Model

14.1.5 Rural-Urban Pull Factors

14.1.6 Rural-Urban Push Factors

14.1.7 The Impacts of Migration

14.1.8 Challenges of Urban Areas in Developed Countries

14.1.9 Challenges of Urban Areas in Developing Countries

14.1.10 Urban Sustainability

14.1.11 Case Study: China's Urbanisation

14.1.12 Major UK Cities

14.1.13 Urbanisation in the UK

14.1.14 End of Topic Test- Urbanisation

14.1.15 End of Topic Test - Urban Issues

15 Ecosystems

15.1 The Major Biomes

15.1.1 Distribution of Major Biomes

15.1.2 What Affects the Distribution of Biomes?

15.1.3 Biome Features: Tropical Forests

15.1.4 Biome Features: Temperate Forests

15.1.5 Biome Features: Tundra

15.1.6 Biome Features: Deserts

15.1.7 Biome Features: Tropical Grasslands

15.1.8 Biome Features: Temperate Grasslands

15.2 Case Study: The Amazon Rainforest

15.2.1 Interdependence of Rainforest Ecosystems

15.2.2 Nutrient Cycling in Tropical Rainforests

15.2.3 Deforestation in the Amazon

15.2.4 Impacts of Deforestation in the Amazon

15.2.5 Protecting the Amazon

15.2.6 Adaptations of Plants to Rainforests

15.2.7 Adaptations of Animals to Rainforests

16 Life in an Emerging Country

16.1 Case Studies

16.1.1 Mumbai: Opportunities

16.1.2 Mumbai: Challenges

17 Analysis of Africa

17.1 Africa

17.1.1 Desert Biomes in Africa

17.1.2 The Semi-Desert Biome

17.1.3 The Savanna Biome

17.1.4 Overview of Tropical Rainforests

17.1.5 Colonisation History

17.1.6 Population Distribution in Africa

17.1.7 Economic Resources in Africa

17.1.8 Urbanisation in Africa

17.1.9 Africa's Location

17.1.10 Physical Geography of Africa

17.1.11 Desertification in Africa

17.1.12 Reducing the Risk of Desertification

17.1.13 Case Study: The Sahara Desert - Opportunities

17.1.14 Case Study: The Sahara Desert - Development

18 Analysis of India

18.1 India - Physical Geography

18.1.1 Geographical Location of India

18.1.2 Physical Geography of India

18.1.3 India's Climate

18.1.4 Natural Disasters in India

18.1.5 Case Study: The Thar Desert

18.1.6 Case Study: The Thar Desert - Challenges

18.2 India - Human Geography

18.2.1 Population Distribution in India

18.2.2 Urabinsation in India

18.2.3 The History of India

18.2.4 Economic Resources in India

19 Analysis of the Middle East

19.1 The Middle East

19.1.1 Physical Geography of the Middle East

19.1.2 Human Geography of the Middle East

19.1.3 Climate Zones in the Middle East

19.1.4 Climate Comparison with the UK

19.1.5 Oil & Natural Gas in the Middle East

19.1.6 Water in the Middle East

19.1.7 Population of the Middle East

19.1.8 Development Case Studies: The UAE

19.1.9 Development Case Studies: Yemen

19.1.10 Supporting Development in Yemen

19.1.11 Connection to the UK

19.1.12 Importance of Oil

19.1.13 Oil & Tourism in the UAE

20 Analysis of Bangladesh

20.1 Bangladesh Physical Geography

20.1.1 Location of Bangladesh

20.1.2 Climate of Bangladesh

20.1.3 Rivers in Bangladesh

20.1.4 Flooding in Bangladesh

20.2 Bangladesh Human Geography

20.2.1 Population Structure in Bangladesh

20.2.2 Urbanisation in Bangladesh

20.2.3 Bangladesh's Economy

20.2.4 Energy & Sustainability in Bangladesh

21 Analysis of Russia

21.1 Russia's Physical Geography

21.1.1 Russia's Climate

21.1.2 Russia's Landscape

21.2 Russia's Human Geography

21.2.1 Population of Russia

21.2.2 Russia's Economy

21.2.3 Energy & Sustainability in Russia

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Reducing the Risk of Desertification

Case Study: The Sahara Desert - Development


  1. Assessing impact of agroecological interventions in Niger through

    Dry and arid lands are even more vulnerable to land degradation and eventual desertification 1,2. ... the SWC intervention impact over small plots in southwestern Niger. In this case study, we ...

  2. Niger

    Action Against Desertification supports the implementation of the Great Green Wall initiative in Niger, strengthening the resilience and productivity of drylands, while stimulating economic growth. The project is undertaking the following action: Land restoration: 16 147 hectares of degraded land restored. A total of 57 615 kg of seeds and 45 ...

  3. PDF Climate Change, Water and ConfliCt in the niger river Basin

    Niger river BasiN coNtext aNd case studies The Niger River is the third longest river in Africa, flowing for 4,200 km from its source in the Guinea highlands, within the humid tropics, through Mali and Niger with their semi-arid Sahelian climates, to the ... we show how a systematic process of desertification and degradation in the Sahel is ...

  4. Persistence and success of the Sahel desertification narrative

    The desertification narrative has an impact on research and development funding by overemphasizing the role of international development aid to combat desertification, thus favoring research on the subject of Sahelian desertification. ... A case study of the Tin Adjar watershed in Mali ... Aubreville A (1936) Les forêts de la colonie du Niger ...

  5. Learning from history of natural disasters in the Sahel: a ...

    One of the first environmental crises to attract interest in development initiatives and aid was the great drought of the 1970s in the Sahel. This study investigates the extent of damage caused by natural disasters from one of the most widely used databases—EM-DAT—with a sample size of 16 Sahelian countries over the period 1960-2020. These countries have been divided into three regions ...

  6. (PDF) Desertification, Adaptation and Resilience in the ...

    Location of the two case studies, the Gourma region in Mali and the Dantiandou district (Fakara) in Niger, in the Sahel delineated by the 600 and 100 mm rainfall isohyets, south of the Sahara.

  7. Desertification

    The consequences of desertification in the Sahel are severe, including food insecurity, loss of biodiversity, and displacement of communities. in the region, for around 8 months of the year, the weather is dry. The rainy season only happens for a few short months and only produces around 4-8 inches of water. The population growth over the years ...

  8. PDF Aspects of loss and damage associated with desertification and land

    National study on climate change and migration in Niger conducted by IOM of rural households consider that climate change and environmental degradation have led to an increase in migration 49.5% of households revealed that a family member was forced to migrate due to climate change and environmental degradation. 51.1%

  9. Desertification, Adaptation and Resilience in the Sahel ...

    The desertification paradigm has a long history in the Sahel, from colonial to modern times. ... Thébaud, B., & Batterbury, S. (2001). Sahel pastoralists: Opportunism, struggle, conflict and negotiation. A case study from eastern Niger. Global Environmental Change, 11, 69-78. Article Google Scholar Toulmin, C. (1987). Drought and the Farming ...

  10. PDF Desertification in the Sahel Region: A Product of Climate Change or

    Sahelian-Saharan zone of the Niger Republic, which is one of the world's most sensitive ecosystems [12]. Nationally, desertification effects are trending down towards the Southern ... hence our choice of the two LGAs as a case study (Figure1). The terrain consists of undulating plains, with elevations ranging from 322 m

  11. Bringing dry land in the Sahel back to life

    23 January 2022 Humanitarian Aid. Millions of hectares of farmland are lost to the desert each year in Africa's Sahel region, but the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is showing that traditional knowledge, combined with the latest technology, can turn arid ground back into fertile soil. Those trying to grow crops in the Sahel region ...

  12. Economic or Environmental Migration? The Push Factors in Niger

    This paper identifies the main environmental problems in Niger and detects their impact on migration at the national and international level. It mainly focuses on droughts, soil degradation, the shrinking of Lake Chad, the Niger River problems, deforestation, and sand intrusion, as important push factors that might influence the migration decision of the people of Niger.

  13. Niger & Desertification case study Flashcards

    Global distribution of desertification Click the card to flip 👆 - page 171, Heinemann Fifth Edition - pattern: majority between 30º North and 30º South above and below the equator - quantify: 60% global in equatorial region - exception: Asia continent, which is away from the equatorial region and holds the Gobi and Turkestan desert

  14. Trends, turning points, and driving forces of desertification in global

    Second, because desertification is a slow-changing process, using the dichotomous trend analysis method in this study to assess the changing characteristics of desertification was reasonable, considering the relatively short study period of 23 years (Meng et al. Citation 2020). However, certain arid lands worldwide may undergo desertification ...

  15. Desertification Case study

    The Sahel is a transition zone between the Sahara Desert in the north and the savannahs in the south. Reasons for desertification. long lasting decline in precipitation over the last 50 years - this is because of the enhanced GHG effect (changes in the grounds surfaces reflective properties and global warming) reasons for desertification.

  16. Niger case study Flashcards

    Study with Quizlet and memorise flashcards containing terms like Definition of desertification, What are human causes of desertification?, Physical causes of deforestation and others.

  17. Economics of Land Degradation and Improvement in Niger

    Niger's economic development serves a powerful case study on how policies and institutions Footnote 2 could lead to land degradation and how they could incentivize farmers to practice sustainable land management (SLM). Our definition of SLM has been contested (e.g. see Kaphengst 2014).For the purpose of this study, we define SLM as land management that maintains or improves ecosystem ...

  18. PDF The Devastating Effects of Environmental Degradation

    - A Case Study of the Niger Delta Region of Nigeria Angela Kesiena ETUONOVBE, Nigeria Key words: Environment, Degradation, Pollution, Economy, Health. SUMMARY In Nigeria, like many developing nations, the resultant environmental problems are legion: aggravated soil erosion, flood disasters, salinization or alkalisation, and the desertification due

  19. Case Study: Sahel Desertification

    Burkina Faso - desertification. This video shows the Sahel region south of the Sahara is at risk of becoming desert. Elders in a village in Burkina Faso describe how the area has changed from a fertile area to a drought-prone near-desert. The area experiences a dry season which can last up to eight or nine months.

  20. Desertification in the Sahel Region: A Product of Climate Change or

    The affected states share a border with the Sahelian-Saharan zone of the Niger Republic, which is one of the world's most sensitive ecosystems [12]. ... This gives rise to two distinct vegetation zones (Figure 1) in the case study area, which is covered by Sahel Savannah vegetation to the North, and the Southern part covered by Sudan Savannah ...

  21. Case Study: The Sahara Desert

    Niger's part of the Sahara desert contains lots of uranium. Energy production in the Sahara desert. Oil, coal, and natural gas are all common in the Sahara desert. ... 17.1.12 Reducing the Risk of Desertification. 17.1.13 Case Study: The Sahara Desert - Opportunities. 17.1.14 Case Study: The Sahara Desert - Development. 18 Analysis of India.

  22. PDF Causes and Impacts of Land Degradation and Desertification: Case Study

    The principal aim of this study was to explore the impacts of desertification, degradation and drought on both the natural resources and man's livelihood in the Sudan and to suggest appropriate forest resource management interventions. The study was based on a fact finding tour in the Sudan and data collection on drought trends as reflected in ...

  23. Desertification in the Sahel Region: A Product of Climate Change or

    sitive to desertification in the study area will become desert by 2030 is very low with a prospect value of 0.13 for farmland areas, a value of 0.10 for vegetated areas and 0.03 for oasis and ...

  24. PDF September 2012 Geofile Online 670 Alexander Cooke Desertification

    Niger Chad Nigeria Mali Mauritania Guinea Bissau N Key Hyper-arid Arid Semiarid Dry subhumid Sahel Figure 1: The Sahel region of Africa. ... Case Study: Desertification and famine in Somalia Somalia is in the north eastern region of Africa, known as 'the Horn' (Figure 2). The region