The Niger River and its deltas

The Niger River is the lifeline for large parts of the Sahelian region, crossing through arid areas in Mali and Niger. Each year it floods the Inner Niger Delta in Mali, thereby providing fisheries and water for agriculture and household use, on which some 1.5mln people and millions of migratory waterbirds depend. Hydropower dams, extensive irrigation schemes and climate change affect the water flow in this important river. We work with local communities, the national government and regional basin organisation to ensure water provision to the delta.

With its total length of about 4,100 km, the Niger River is the third-longest river in Africa flowing from the highlands of Guinea Conakry through the dry Sahel and ending in Niger delta in Nigeria. The differences in precipitation are enormous: the arid extreme north of the basin receives less than 50 mm of rainfall per year, all of it exclusively during one rain-season, whereas the humid southern parts of the basin, in Guinea and Nigeria, receive more than 2,000 mm (ABN, 2005).
 
The water from the Niger and Bani Rivers cause the essential annual flooding of Mali’s Inner Niger Delta, filling its many floodplains, swamps, marshes and Lac Debo. Some 1.5 mln people depend on the delta for its fish, their agriculture, transport and sanitation. Furthermore, millions of waterbirds make their annual migration as far as from Europe and the Arctic to feed and breed in the Inner Niger Delta. Read our publications

The problem

This critical water flow is ever more under stress from dam infrastructure for hydropower, and extensive irrigation schemes. Dams in the Upper Niger in Guinea Conakry and Southern Mai off-take large amounts of water destined for the Inner Niger Delta. These human impacts in combination with less predictable and less precipitation attributed to climate change lead to diminishing water levels and water scarcity. Less water means less fish, less fodder and fewer cattle and other household uses. Less food also means increased hunting pressure on migratory waterbirds.

What we do

We work with local communities to adapt to these changing conditions, for example by restoring flood forests in the Delta, set up water management plans, and develop flood prediction tools, so that farmers can adjust their agricultural production.

With the Malian Government we work to make the Development Plan for the Inner Niger Delta truly sustainable, taking flooding patterns, wetlands, and biodiversity into account. At the regional level, we work with the Niger River basin authority to reduce the impact of existing and planned infrastructure projects. For example, our extensive studies into the planned Fomi Dam upstream in Guinea Conakry has led to a second revision of the dam plans, which will strongly reduce its impact downstream.

At the end of the Niger River, we are setting up operations to mitigate the impact of oil infrastructure in the Niger Delta in Nigeria. In the coming years, we will work with communities in the Delta to develop sustainable livelihoods in this area affected by pollution, poverty and conflict.

Publication

Contact

For the Niger River and Inner Niger Delta (Mali): Elhadj Bakary Koné

National coordinator

E-mail: bkone @ wetlands-africa.org

Phone: +223 20 29 37 82

For the Niger Delta (Nigeria): Assitou Ndinga

Project manager

E-mail: ndinga @ wetlands-africa.org

Phone: +221 33 869 16 81

Achievements

  • For more than a decade we have been investigating the impacts of dams and climate change on the Inner Niger Delta, documented in dozens of publications
  • Using this knowledge we influenced the ‘Sustainable Development Plan for the Inner Niger Delta’. This plan now provides a blueprint for balancing water use for the multiple ecosystem services
  • The advocacy of our Mali team to the Guinean and Malian Governments, the Niger River Basin Authority and the African Development Bank has resulted in the significant re-design and reduction in scale of the planned Fomi Dam in the Upper Niger River in Guinea.
  • The Malian government committed to limit upstream off-takes by the dams and the extensive Office du Niger rice cultivation in Mali and allow sufficient water flow to the delta.
  • Through our early warning tools (such as flood prediction tool OPIDIN), used by the Mopti regional committee, we increased the resilience of 10,000 community members to drought in the delta, and 60 villages are now better prepared on risk management.
  • In addition, our Mali team developed and trained the regional committee to inform farmers, herders and fisherfolk about future flooding behaviour using these tools.
  • We reforested large stretches of degraded flood forest by providing Bio-rights convertible credits to women’s groups.

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