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INTERVIEW: Food Crisis in Niger: What the Future Holds for One of the Most Vulnerable Countries in the World

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El Hadj Adama Touré

As a landlocked and essentially desert country, Niger is one of the countries of the world most severely threatened by food insecurity. El Hadj Adama Touré, a World Bank economist specializing in agronomy, explains how the country can better manage the climate risks it faces.

  1. Niger’s geographical position and climate make its agricultural sector especially vulnerable. What steps have the Nigerien Government and the World Bank taken to address this extreme vulnerability? 

Niger is indeed one of the world’s most vulnerable countries because of its exposure to climate risks and its landlocked position. Compounding this situation are the risks it faces from both internal and regional political extremism. One way or the other, all these factors affect the performance of the agricultural sector and therefore food and nutritional security. The World Bank welcomes the Government’s 3N initiative, launched at the end of 2011, known as “Nigeriens feed Nigeriens;” this initiative is aimed at improving food and nutritional security while promoting sustainable agriculture, thus demonstrating the Government’s willingness to tackle the problem of food insecurity. The World Bank is already one of the most active participants in the sector and is now realigning its sectoral interventions to support the 3N initiative. It will provide technical assistance to Niger to build the long-term resilience of its agricultural and pastoral systems and help the country gradually emerge from the crisis mode to which most of the Bank’s operations have unfortunately been confined until now.

  1. Please describe the exact content of the report “Agricultural Sector Risk Assessment in Niger.”

climate risks in Niger

This report, issued and submitted to the Ministry of Agriculture in January 2013, analyzes the long-term prospects for a successful Nigerien agricultural sector (in the broad sense of the term), i.e., one that is competitive both within its borders and in the subregional market, while being resilient to the various risks it frequently confronts. At the request of, and in collaboration with, the Government of Niger through the Office of the High Commissioner for the 3N initiative and the relevant technical ministries, the World Bank conducted an assessment of agricultural sector risks in Niger, which has contributed the following: (1) it systematically analyzes a whole range of agricultural risks and their effects over a longer time period (1980-2012); (2) it helps situate drought in the context of other agricultural risks; (3) it prioritizes the most important agricultural risks for the country based on objective criteria; (4) it provides a framework of mitigation-transfer-coping to manage priority risks; and (5) it offers a filtering mechanism to select high-return interventions for agricultural risk management.

 

  1. Given the droughts, locust invasions, floods, and other risks facing Niger, what do you consider the greatest threat? And why?

These risks are much greater, given their impact on agricultural production and livestock, than market-based risks or those relating to the sociopolitical environment, in terms of their frequency and the huge amount of loss they incur. Among these risks, however, drought is by far the most serious one facing the agricultural and pastoral systems in Niger.

  1. What about the instability of food prices? How are consumers affected?

The instability of food prices is one of the main sources of consumer concern, particularly since the spike in the price of food in 2008. In Niger, there is a very close link between seasonal variations in price and the impact of drought and other production risks. It could be said, in general, that the sharp rise in prices is caused, first, by the occurrence of these risks, which severely limits food production and availability. This leads to a shortage of food, especially for rural households that are net consumers of food products and for the poorest households in urban areas, and this situation has a dramatic impact on the nutritional status of their children.

  1. And, more specifically, given the crises in the countries bordering Niger, doesn’t this insecurity have an adverse impact on agricultural trade? 

Political instability and insecurity are risks that may have an impact on the sector. The effect is often a result of the occurrence of the risk within the country, but it may also come from abroad. Even when the risk is strictly external (outside Niger’s borders), the consequences may be dramatic for some types of exports (live cattle, cowpeas, onion, or peppers) whose markets are located in the neighboring countries. Generally speaking, this risk results in reduced access to certain regions, which in turn curtails access to rural markets and leads to an increase in food prices and the blocking of aid; a slowdown in public and private investments because of the heightened uncertainty; a reallocation of public expenditure for military purposes, to the detriment of other public services; and a loss of donor assistance. This risk may have a greater impact on the agricultural sector when its occurrence coincides with extreme weather events such as the 1995 drought, for example.

  1. Is there any follow-up and support team in place between the World Bank and the Government or a specific entity to implement an action plan?

Yes, the World Bank has agreed to the Government’s request for it to continue its technical assistance beyond the issue of the assessment report. Under the direction of the Office of the High Commissioner for the 3N initiative, a technical team has been set up to refine and complete the outline of the resulting action plan.

  1. What are the next steps on the part of the World Bank?

The question of risk management is the focus of the strategic discussions currently taking place at the Bank. The new World Development Report 2014 will be devoted to this topic. The Bank’s Sustainable Development Network (SDN) Forum 2013, held from February 25 to March 8, 2013, gave special attention to the problems of climate change and green growth (see the report “Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must be Avoided, which predicts that the average world temperature will increase by 4°C by the end of the century). With regard to Niger in particular, the new Country Partnership Strategy (CPS) for Niger will devote substantial resources to implementing the action plan on long-term resilience. The World Bank has also engaged in discussions with the Government and technical and financial partners to ensure better coordination of interventions on the resilience of the sector in order to multiply their impacts.

Culled from The World Bank

Interviews

Exclusive: Real reasons Bauchi Deputy Governor resigned – Aide

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Former Bauchi State Deputy Governor, Nuhu Gidado
Former Bauchi State Deputy Governor, Nuhu Gidado

Yakubu Adamu, Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, to former Bauchi State Deputy Governor, Nuhu Gidado has revealed to SATELLITE TIMES the reasons which forced his boss to resign.
Adamu confirmed that it didn’t come to him as shocking news that his boss unceremoniously dumped his common ticket with the Bauchi state governor because he plays a less significant role as a deputy.

The media aide averred that Governor M A Abubakar’s style of leadership and that of his former deputy differs, even to handling such issues when it comes to delivering their campaign promises.

However, there are speculations that Engr. Gidado may be eyeing Bauchi’s governorship seat come 2019, but believes that from the way he sees the APC administration moving in the State, he may be unable to reach his destination.

Another rumour circulating over Gidado’s resignation centers around speculations that he may be dropped as Gov Abubakar’s deputy come 2019.

It would be recalled that the former deputy governor who travelled out of the state 5 weeks ago was on his two weeks annual leave. During his trip, he used the opportunity to see his doctors and also performed the lesser Hajj before returning to Abuja last week.

Gidado’s resignation letter dated 16th May, 2018 and was acknowledged by the Governor on the 23rd May, 2018.

Efforts to find out who received the letter to the state governor proved futile when our correspondent in Bauchi reached out to the Government House through the Special Adviser, Media and Strategy to the state Governor, Malam Ali M. Ali who confirmed thus: The executive Governor of Bauchi State Mohammed A. Abubakar (Esq) has accepted the resignation of Engr. Nuhu Gidado as Deputy Governor and wish him well in his future endeavors.

He further described his tenure and service to the state as meritorious and therefore, deserving commendation. The Governor particularly commended the former No 2 citizen of the state for the remarkable manner of his resignation, Ali proffered.

He expressed optimism that the former Deputy Governor will avail the State of his vast wealth of experience to the state anytime he is called upon in the future.

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Interview: What Dapchi girl told American visitors

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A photo of two of the freed Dapchi girls used to illustrate the story
A photo of two of the freed Dapchi schoolgirls used to illustrate the story

One of the recently released Dapchi girls met with visitors from America called US Nigeria Law Group, international lawyers leading the “I AM LEAH” campaign in solidarity with Leah Sharibu, the only Dapchi girl not released by Boko Haram abductors.

Q. Were you the ones cooking or did they (Boko Haram) cook for you?

Dapchi Schoolgirl: We were the ones cooking for ourselves because they said “these children may say we will poison them.” We ate 30 bags of rice plus maize grits in our three weeks stay.

Five of us died on our way going (into captivity). They only gave breakfast and dinner; no lunch. The five girls that died were buried in one grave – all of them on the same day. And they (Boko Haram) advised us not to reveal that we were the ones that killed them. But we said that we didn’t do anything to them. They just died on their own.

Q. Did they wash them before burying them?

Dapchi Schoolgirl: No, they were just buried with their blood like that and they just pushed sand on them.

Q. But the governor (Governor of Yobe State) said that you were in Gaidam and even brought one Canter Truck that they said was the vehicle that conveyed you?

Dapchi Schoolgirl
: It was all lies, we passed Gaidam. Boko Haram even asked us “where is the army?” and we said there is no army in Dapchi. They said “it’s a lie there is.”

Dapchi town

Dapchi town (photo Credit: US Nigeria Law Group)

On our way to Abuja (to see President Buhari) we asked one of the soldiers “where were (they) when Boko Haram abducted us?” He answered that they were watching us while Boko Haram was taking us. And the reason why they didn’t follow us is that Boko Haram will kill them. Then one of the girls asked him, “you were seeing us being taken away, what is the use of your work?” And he kept silent. “You only know corruption” she said.

Q. Where is that Christian girl (Leah)?

Dapchi Schoolgirl: We left her there (in the Boko Haram camp).

Q. Why?

Dapchi Schoolgirl: It’s because she refuses to be a Moslem.

Q. Was she crying while you were leaving?

Dapchi Schoolgirl: Yes, I even begged Leah to accept Islam but she refused and said she can’t live with herself if she converted and came back. So she will not – that it’s better to be killed by Boko Haram. There’s one old man from Damaturu who is also a Boko Haram that brings us water. He also asked Leah to convert to Islam but she said “no.” Where by the news reached to their commander that there is one Christian girl that refused to accept Islam so they brought her before him. She repeated the same thing, and he said “we will kill you.”  He showed her one makeshift zinc hut and ordered her to go and sit inside.

On our way from Dapchi with the terrorists while going some of us were praying that “let us get into an accident so that we will all die.” Boko Haram captured three Red Cross staff. They showed us where they kept them but didn’t allow us to see them. They said they will hand us to Red Cross but later they changed their mind and decided to bring us back by themselves. They said that they will release us in exchange with two hundred of their members. They said Buhari said something when he came to Dapchi.

The “I AM LEAH” solidarity group visited Leah Sharibu’s parents. Excerpts:

Leah's father (left) with ECWA Pastor (photo Credit: US Nigeria Law Group)

Leah’s father (left) with ECWA Pastor (photo Credit: US Nigeria Law Group)

IAMLEAH Interviewer: What message do you have for your daughter?

Father: I want Leah from now henceforth not to deny Christ in any situation of suffering and I want her to endure with what she started to the end.

IAMLEAH Interviewer: What’s your message to the government?

Father: I am pleading for the government to do the right thing and help, as they do before, for bringing the rest to their parents, to do so to our daughter.

IAMLEAH Interviewer: What’s your message to those that are praying for Leah?

Father: I want the Christians to continue praying for Leah, for it is because  of the Christians’ faith in prayers that is why Leah stands in the faith, and I want the Christians not only to pray for Leah, but also the family.

IAMLEAH Interviewer:  What’s your message to Boko Haram?

Leah's mother Rebecca (left)

Leah’s mother Rebecca (left) (photo Credit: US Nigeria Law Group)

Mother: I said that even if we are told today that they’ve shot Leah, I thank God that Leah is still Christian, and that one day I will see her again.

IAMLEAH Interviewer:  What message to those praying for Leah?

Mother: May God accept and answer all their prayers.

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Exclusive: Father of released Dapchi girl speaks to Satellite Times

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Saleh Alulah, father of one of the abducted Dapchi schoolgirls

Saleh Alulah, father of one of the abducted Dapchi schoolgirls, has authoritatively confirmed the breaking news that the girls have been released. Saleh is the father of Hadiza Saleh a 14-year old Junior Secondary Secondary 3 (JSS3) student.

In an exclusive interview with SATELLITE TIMES, Saleh said his daughter and other girls were early Wednesday morning brought back and dumped by persons believed to be Boko Haram.

“Yes they have been brought back. Five are dead”, he said.

“You know they abducted 112 people. 110 were the Dapchi school girls while the other two were unknown boys. So 107 people were returned in total”, he added.

Mr. Saleh further revealed that prior to the release of the girls, rumours filtered the community that the girls were going to be returned Wednesday morning.

“After hearing these rumours, I personally drove to the where the girls were dropped and witnessed it myself. The abductors said they were not going to harm anybody and they told us that it was at their own discretion that the girls were being returned.

Youths in Dapchi wave farewell at the Boko Haram members after the release the the girls

“Right now as I am talking to you, we are inside the General Hospital Dapchi where the girls were eventually taken to for treatment. Parents of the girls were seen at the hospital filled with mixed emotions but they were chased away by the Nigerian Army.

“The Nigerian Army went as far as beating and harassing some of the parents”, Saleh said.

Heavy military presence at the General Hospital in Dapchi

When asked what really happened to the five that were confirmed dead by him, he said “My daughter (Hadiza Saleh) said that some of the five girls unfortunately died on the day of the abduction due to fear.

“Even the ones that were returned today are looking really worn-out, tired and depressed.

“They are currently receiving medications.

“Right now, the hospital is surrounded by armed security personnel.

Efforts to reach the Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO of Yobe state were unsuccessful.

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