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Almost half of Niger’s 20 million people live in poverty. The country ranked at the bottom on the United Nations Human Development Index last year. It is on the front lines of the fight against terrorism and drug trafficking, and it shelters about 300,000 refugees who possess little to call their own.

In the face of these significant challenges, sustainable agriculture development—specifically, drip irrigation—offers the country a way toward stability. Drip irrigation, which produces fields with greater yields, could help boost incomes and make Niger more resilient to frequent droughts, floods, and other climate-related disasters.

Farmers participating in IFC’s Niger Irrigation Project have recorded water savings of 50 percent when compared to other irrigation systems.

Results from IFC’s Niger Irrigation Project are already demonstrating the potential for solar-powered drip irrigation and organic fertilizer to transform the country’s arid landscape into productive fields capable of producing cash crops.

IFC is working with Netafim, a global leader in irrigation technology, to expand access to drip irrigation across Niger. So far, 10 hectares are drip irrigated with solar pumping, yielding tomatoes, peppers, melon, watermelon, and other crops on six farms, replacing other irrigation systems. Farmers recorded water savings ranging from 30 percent to 55 percent. More than 50 farmers (40 of whom are women) are now trained to use Netafim drip irrigation solutions.

IFC’s partner, Netafim, provides training and support to local partners to make available drip irrigation systems and microfinancing for farmers.

Drip Irrigation’s Wide Reach

The Niger Irrigation Project is a three-year collaboration (spanning 2016 to 2019) between IFC and Netafim. This project is one of IFC’s Pilot Program for Climate Resilience (PPCR) initiatives, aiming to implement sustainable and efficient agriculture methods that ensure food security. With support from IFC, Netafim is designing and installing family-based drip irrigation systems for parcels of 250 square meters and 2,500 square meters. Netafim provides the expertise, training, and support, and engages with local partners to secure the provision of drip irrigation systems, solar pumping systems, and microfinancing for farmers.

IFC’s project aims to reach 120 hectares of drip-irrigated plots by 2019 and train 1,200 smallholder farmers, including at least 500 women.

The project aims to reach 120 hectares of drip-irrigated plots and train 1,200 smallholder farmers, including at least 500 women. Another goal is to establish 800 microcredit arrangements to assist farmers in adopting new irrigation technology.

Although the initiative is still in progress, it has already recruited and trained six Community Field Assistants to train and assist farmers. Teams on the ground are developing local partnerships with dealers and suppliers, as well as credit facilities with the private sector, to accelerate uptake.

Building a Market

Ultimately, IFC and Netafim aim to create a fully commercial market for irrigation equipment in Niger.

“It’s a huge challenge,” acknowledges Seyni Ganda, Netafim’s representative in the country. He says that the company is focused on building “the capacity of farmers to finance equipment and keep it in repair and operating, so they can grow their operations, supply food markets, and employ others.”

“Creating employment opportunities for youth will contribute to security and prosperity.”

— Chaibou Dan Bakoye, government official

Netafim has signed commercial contracts with local distribution companies for solar pumps and irrigation equipment. It is also developing a cadre of technicians who travel on motorbikes to provide advice to farmers who live in remote areas and are typically underserved.

The project is attractive to officials because of the job prospects that encourage young people to stay in the area. “Creating employment opportunities for youth will contribute to security and prosperity,” says Chaibou Dan Bakoye, a government official leading the water program in Niger.

So far, 10 hectares are drip irrigated with solar pumping, yielding tomatoes, peppers, watermelon, and other crops.

IFC’s work with Netafim to develop a private market is supported by funding from the Climate Investment Funds’ PPCR, a $1.2 billion fund that helps developing countries cope with climate change. The program operates under the umbrella of the Climate Investment Funds and complements the World Bank’s work on agriculture with the Government of Niger.

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Published in February 2019