Niger is one of the poorest countries in the world, ranking last on UNDP’s human development index (HDI). It is a landlocked, sub-saharan nation, whose economy depends on subsistence crops, livestock and uranium deposits. In the past few years, drought cycles and desertification have produced major food crises. A drought and locust infestation in 2005 led to food and water shortages for up to 2.5 million people from Niger. Water shortages have devastating effects on the livelihoods of local populations, constantly hampering their capacity to secure income for survival.
In particular, the nomadic Tuareg population’s livelihoods are threatened by the lack of clean, potable water, a lack of vegetation, and the reduction in millet production. Nomadic herders can no longer rely on lakes, which often dry out, for their livestock. As a result, herding requires extensive travel since grass has become increasingly scarce. In order for herding to remain a sustainable livelihood, wells are needed. An absence of potable water has gradually increased the dependency of local populations on water wells.
In 2001, Agathe Bagnoud – Francois-Xavier’s aunt and godmother – proposed a program to renew damaged water wells in northern Niger to benefit the Tuareg population, a minority ethnic group, and since then has managed the program with FXB. In their damaged state, these wells are unusable due to their wooden structure and depth. Entry points have to be rebuilt, requiring an upgrade in structure from wood to cement. Building permanent cement walls has facilitated the protection of water sources and ensures that the water is transportable.
So far, five wells have been dug; others are on the way. These wells vastly improve the living conditions of northern Niger populations in this remote and arid area.