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Drought and Fires LI: Niger, 2007

Drought and Fires LI: Niger, 2007

Niger: photographed October 2007.

The country ranks next to last on the United Nations’ Human Development Index.  Much of Niger consists of the Sahara Desert.  A strip of semi-arid grassland known as the Sahel runs along the southern edge of the country.  Approximately 80 percent of the population practices subsistence farming on this land, where the soil is degraded and rainfall erratic.  Climate change is critical here as rising temperatures diminish already low crop yields.  Drought and the steady, southward creep of the Sahara Desert, both of which also appear to be exacerbated by climate change, will have a catastrophic impact on a country that is already subject the periodic famine (IPCC, AR4 WGII, Chap. 9, p. 435-437, 439, 451). As Chris Marker put it:  “The Sahel is not only what is shown of it when it is too late; it’s the land that drought seeps into like water into a leaking boat.”

Half of Niger’s government revenues come from foreign aid.  The government has invested a significant amount of this money in extensive reforestation and land restoration projects aimed at protecting the country from drought, extreme weather events and desertification. The crescent shapes in the previous photograph are trees being planted, not trees being cut.  Banquets and dams help retain sporadic rainwater and create more arable soil, as well as small lakes.  Every tree in the final image was planted by hand.  Niger’s reforestation efforts have been celebrated for their success, but only time will tell.  Niger suffered drought and famine in 2005, two years before these photographs were taken, and then again in 2010, when 12 million people faced food shortages.

Drought and Fires XLI: Niger, 2007

Drought and Fires XLI: Niger, 2007

Drought and Fires LIX: Niger, 2007

Drought and Fires LIX: Niger, 2007

Drought and Fires XXXIV: Niger, 2007

Drought and Fires XXXIV: Niger, 2007

Drought and Fires XLV: Niger, 2007

Drought and Fires XLV: Niger, 2007

Drought and Fires XLII: Niger, 2007

Drought and Fires XLII: Niger, 2007

Drought and Fires LIII: Niger, 2007

Drought and Fires LIII: Niger, 2007