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With World Bank Support, Niger Focuses on Reverse Migration

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NIAMEY, March 22, 2012—On the sidelines of the joint annual review of the World Bank’s portfolio in Niger, a loan agreement for US$15 million was signed last February between the Bank and the government.

Signed by the World Bank Country Manager for Niger, Mr. Nestor Coffi, and by Niger’s Minister of Planning, Land Use and Community Development, Mr. Amadou Boubacar Cissé, the loan provides supplemental financing to help government fund programs that deal with the impact of a poor harvest and the spillover from conflict in Libya and to sustain the implementation of the reform program supported by the Second Growth Policy Reform Credit.

One of the world’s poorest countries, Niger depends largely on agricultural and pastoral activities, which provide livelihoods for over 80 percent of the population. The dual impact of rising food insecurity throughout the Sahel and the massive influx of returnees is threatening implementation of the reform program that is being implemented since the country returned to constitutional order in April last year. If left unaddressed, these challenges could delay progress toward the Millennium Development Goals.

“Niger is at a critical juncture, and crisis-related support by the World Bank aims to assist the country in sustaining its ambitious development and reform program,” said Ousmane Diagana, World Bank Country Director for Niger.

The new government has started to implement an ambitious development program based on five strategic priorities: security and peace, institutional stability, governance and anti-corruption, food security, and human capital development for job creation. 

Last month’s agreement was signed only 24 hours after its approval by the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors and less than three months after the visit to Niger by the Bank Vice President for Africa, Ms. Obiageli Ezekwesili.

“This assistance suitably complements the emergency activities undertaken for the various Bank-financed projects and programs,” Minister Cissé said.

More specifically, the US$15 million will be invested in four projects―the Niger Safety Net Project, the Community Action Program, the Second Emergency Food Security Support Project  and the Agro-pastoral Export Promotion Project.

The socio-economic insertion of repatriates is a real challenge for Niger. To date, over 250,000 Nigerien migrant workers have made their way home. To make matters worse, a poor harvest due to inadequate rainfall has left about 5.4 million people food-insecure. Last month’s loan agreement is therefore meant to help cushion vulnerable populations by ramping up existing investments.

Over the medium term, the Emergency Food Security Support Project is designed to increase rice production in the affected areas and to restore productive assets for targeted food-insecure households. The project entails concrete components: restoration of the productive assets of food-insecure rural households and improvement of the irrigated rice production system.  As regards the first component, 45 lean season banks and five fodder banks for livestock are being built; the contract for provision of 450 tons of grain is being finalized and a nonprofit has been selected to set up and train management committees for the lean season banks.

Longer term investments are also being made, such as the Community Action Program. Now in its second phase, this project aims to make rural communities self-reliant and less vulnerable. This is achieved by improving their capacity to design and implement communal development plans and annual investment plans in a participatory manner so as to enhance livelihoods, reduce land degradation, and promote sustainable land management.

This new financing is in the form of a credit from the International Development Association, the World Bank’s fund for the poorest.

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