Photography highlights beauty of Niger Delta

18 January 2011 | News story

In Mali, part of the landscape gleams like a giant emerald in the middle of the arid brown African Sahel. The glittering jewel is the Inland Niger Delta.

This complex combination of river channels, lakes, and swamps provides a habitat for migrating birds and mammals such as hippos and manatees. The fertile floodplains also supply much needed resources for local communities, who use the area for fishing, grazing livestock, and cultivating rice.

With the support of the IUCN West Africa office, two world renowned photographers, Jean-François Hellio and Nicolas Van Ingen, captured this stunning oasis in their photography. Breathtaking images of daily life, species habitats, and natural landscapes showcase this lush fertile ecosystem in one of Africa’s driest regions.

The photography project was developed to highlight an environment of pristine beauty but also fragility. Climate change and resource management challenges threaten the delta’s ecosystem and the people and nature that depend on it. Through these images, IUCN seeks to raise awareness and support the government of Mali, our West African Members and partners, in the quest to preserve and protect the Inner Niger Delta”, said Jean-Marc Garreau, IUCN West Africa Programme Coordinator.

Fed by floodwaters coming from the Southern Guinean highlands, the Niger River, the Bani River, and a network of smaller streams, this inland delta grows to some 20,000 square kilometers after the four-month rainy season that begins each July. At the end of the dry season, the inland delta dries up and is just a river.

IUCN has been working since the mid 1980s in the Niger delta. Together with Members such as Walia and Wetlands International, IUCN developed an approach to flooded forest restoration which gave life again to dynamic fisheries and soil fertility, particularly around Youwarou. IUCN’s success in ecosystem restoration stems in part from the complementary contribution of traditional landowners, local governments and technical State services. All the stakeholders recognise their own role in contributing to healthier ecosystems which improve their own wellbeing. For example, young people don’t migrate to the large towns of Segou and Bamako as much as they did in the past because their environment is healthy and livelihoods secured.

Towards the future, IUCN West Africa will continue to support its network and Members to scale up this approach and raise a comprehensive plan for the larger delta, in partnership with the Government of Mali.

For more information, please contact Jean-Marc Garreau: jean-marc.garreau@iucn.org