Niger is one of the poorest countries in the world, ranking last on the United Nations Development Program’s (UNDP) 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 and desertification have created major food crises. A drought and locust infestation in 2005 led to food and water shortages for about 2.5 million people in Niger.
Water shortages have devastating effects on Nigerians’ livelihoods, constantly hampering their ability to secure income for survival. In particular, the nomadic Tuareg population, a minority ethnic group, is threatened due to the lack of drinking water, vegetation and decreased millet production. Nomadic herders can no longer rely on lakes for their livestock, as they often dry out. Herding, as a result, requires extensive travel because grass is increasingly scarce. For herding to remain a sustainable livelihood, wells are needed. An absence of drinking water has gradually increased local populations’ dependency on water wells.
Since 2001, following the initiative of Agathe Bagnoud, godmother of François-Xavier, FXB has built and renewed water wells in northern Niger with, and to benefit, the Tuareg population. In their damaged state, these wells are unusable due to their wooden structure and depth. Entry points have to be rebuilt, requiring an upgrade to cement structures that allow for water protection and ensure that water can be transported.
So far, 16 wells have been dug, and others are on the way. They vastly improve the living conditions of northern Niger populations in this remote, arid area.