The Sahel is home to the poorest populations in Africa due to 50 years of drought and climate imbalances.
To achieve the Millennium Development Goals, the international community must increase its efforts in this region specifically.
There is very little irrigation. In Africa, only 7% of arable land is irrigated; this percentage drops to 4% in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Over 337 million people, mostly in rural areas of the region, lack access to safe drinking water.
Meanwhile, the Niger River is running dry, it is heavily polluted, and its aquifers are poorly managed. Today, there are many challenges lying ahead: the fight against poverty and waterborne diseases, the struggle for public health and food security, the flow of climate refugees.
For the region to develop sustainably, infrastructures providing access to water and sanitation need to be installed. Training in their use needs to be provided as well as irrigation to increase agricultural production and performance. Furthermore, the roots of regional conflicts are numerous: difficulties between pastoralists and farmers concerning access to water; the projects for major dams that cause the silting up of the river and its imminent death; sharing and accessing the river between various countries.
The United Nations recognized the right to water in 2010. For this right to become a reality, the Fondation Chirac wants:
– to encourage political will and, through exemplary field projects, to help improve the management of the Niger River Basin.
– to lobby the eight countries involved and advocate the ratification of the 1997 UN International Convention. Countries that have signed or ratified the Convention: Nigeria. Countries that have started the process: Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea Bissau, Chad. Countries that have not yet begun the process: Mali, Niger, Benin, Cameroon.
Timeline of efforts in the Niger River Basin
− On April 26, 2004, at the invitation of President Jacques Chirac, the heads of state of the Niger Basin Authority met in Paris for a conference dedicated to the International Partnership for the Niger basin. They adopted nine principles of management and good governance for sustainable and shared development of the basin (Paris Declaration).
− On November 5, 2010, at the Second annual Ceremony of the Fondation Chirac Prize for Conflict Prevention and again on December 7, 2010, during the European Development Days, President Jacques Chirac underlined the importance of diversifying funding for innovative development.