Lutheran World Relief Partners with the European Union to Assist Vulnerable Farmers in South-Central Niger

Lutheran World Relief has been awarded $1.8 million from the European Union to carry out a project in Zinder, Niger that will strengthen agriculture productivity and sustainably manage land in order to increase farmers’ resilience to climate change risks.

The project, which is called “Karko” after the word for sustainability in the local language, will assist 7,500 rural farm families over 36 months in this region of south-central Niger that has been beset by drought in recent years. Karko will increase agriculture productivity and help farmers to sustainably manage land in order to increase resilience to risks presented by climate change. Approximately 60 percent of project participants will be women.

“LWR is grateful for this opportunity to work with the EU, which together with its members is collectively the world’s largest aid donor,” said Ambassador Daniel V. Speckhard (rt.), LWR’s president & CEO. “By targeting these most vulnerable farm families, we hope to foster resilience that is substantial and sustainable.”

Karko is part of LWR’s wider response to a hunger crisis in the Sahel region of West Africa, which includes Niger, as well as Burkina Faso and Mali, where more than 20 million people lack reliable access to sufficient food. A succession of crises over the last five years—including repeated droughts, floods, locust plagues, desertification, a global rise in food prices and devastating food shortages in 2012—have severely diminished the resilience of poor farm families. This crisis has been exacerbated by weather disruptions that are an effect of El Niño.

In developing the Karko project, LWR drew on its experience over the past four years implementing Resilience Plus, a project helping the most affected communities in the Sahel cope with these climate-related, slow onset disasters. Like Resilience Plus, Karko will employ a traditional practice of animal restocking called “habbanayé,” which supports resilience of families by building their assets. The community identifies the most vulnerable family in its village and gives it a male and a female sheep for reproduction. When the sheep produce offspring, the pair are passed along to another family in need, slowly building a valuable herd in the community.

The Karko project will also help Zinder’s farmers by strengthening the capacity of their farmer organizations, so they can provide more effective agricultural extension services. These strengthened organizations will be able to better assist members to sustainably manage water, soil and forest resources that will improve productivity and increase resilience to the effects of climate change.

LWR has been working in Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso since the 1970’s. Local farmer organizations are at the crux of LWR’s successful initiatives in smallholder farming communities, recognizing their essential role in creating and maintaining healthy farm systems.