Impoverished Niger creates fund to fight desert spread

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 22, 2012 5:03 PM

NIAMEY (Reuters) - Niger said on Monday it will launch a $110 million project to counter the impact of rapid expansion of deserts and increasingly unpredictable rains in one of the world's poorest countries.

"The program aims to test strategies that will help us integrate climate risk and adapt climate change into our national planning," Abdou Souley, spokesman for Niger's planning and community development ministry, said.

The five-year program aims to improve community use of water resources and alter herding and wood harvesting patterns to protect vegetation in the West African state. Souley said the program would be funded through loans and donations.

Niger earlier this month announced a separate $620 million plan to boost agriculture this season, including through the development of enhanced irrigation techniques.

The vast country is already three-quarters desert, but increasingly arid weather has seen desert sands advancing south at a rate of about 10 km (six miles) per year.

More than 18 million people, including at least six million people in Niger, are suffering from food shortages this year due to last season's failed harvest.

(Reporting by Abdoulaye Massalatchi; Writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Michael Roddy)