The forum to validate Niger’s contribution to the ECOWAS regional convergence plan on forests was organized by the Ministry of Environment and Waters, in Niamey on 19th and 20th April 2012. It brought together approximately 50 representatives among government agencies which develop and supervise the execution of policies that impact forests, civil society representatives, parliamentarians, centers of excellence i.e. university representatives and other non-state actors to be part of a planning process expected to lead to a new regional deal on forests in West Africa.
In his opening address, Mr. Ibrahim Kanta, Technical Adviser and representative of the Ministry of Environment and Waters for Niger recalled the problems of food insecurity and poverty suffered in his country as a result the heavy dependence on the country’s degrading forest and natural resources, a situation conjugated by recurrent drought and climate change. Mr. Kanta indicated that Niger was not alone in this dire condition and needed the technical, political, institutional and judicial collaboration of other States for the development of good governance processes towards the efficient and sustainable management of forest and wildlife resources. The Niger convergence planning forum will also be remembered by the words of the IUCN representative, Mr. Moussa Assoumane, who indicated that the ECOWAS Dialogue on Forests should generate a new regional momentum that gives forests their right place in economic development policies in countries of West Africa in general and in Niger in particular. The forum will also be remembered by the words of the FAO Representative for Niger Mr. Aboubaker Douale Waiss, who reiterated FAO’s commitment to accompany the ECOWAS Dialogue on Forests process through to its acquisition of funds for the execution of activities to be retained in its regional convergence plan. For his part, the ECOWAS Representative Mr. Moussa Leko reminded forum participants that it was the role of ECOWAS Member States to develop and implement with synergy the effective conservation of forest biodiversity, the control of desertification, the sustainable management of lands and adaptation to climate change.
The forum made some specific recommendations to ECOWAS and the government of Niger amongst, which to ensure that, the validation of the regional conservation plan receives the participation and involvement of a sufficiently representative cross-section of forest stakeholders, including civil society, parliamentarians, centers of excellence and other non-state actors; and that the government of Niger should continue to manifest the political will and support required to take the Dialogue on Forests process through to its implementation.
Forest in Niger
It should be indicated that FAO estimates (2011) report a total forest area of Niger of 1,204,000 hectares in 2010. With a population of 14,2 million inhabitants, this provides for approximately 0,085 hectares of forest land per capita. Moreover, Niger is one of the poorest countries on the planet with a Human Development Index (HDI) of less than 0.3. The economy relies heavily on the rural sector (agriculture, livestock, forests, wildlife and fisheries) which account for 41% of GDP and provides 44% of export earnings. The high potential value of forest products is justified by the significant variability of species i.e. 210 plant species contribute to human nutrition, 235 species are consumed by cattle, 270 species are used as medicines, 127 species are employed in crafts and general construction, even as more than 75 wildlife species (mammals, reptiles, birds, ...) are used for various purposes including food, disease treatment, occult, crafts, etc..The real contribution of the country’s uranium to the livelihood of the common people of Niger is yet to be assessed.