Niger is a landlocked country of approximately 16 million (World Bank). Niger’s population is growing at a rate of 3.3 percent per year, one of the fastest rates in the world, and its GDP in 2010 was one of the lowest in Africa at US$680 (World Bank).

Poverty remains a widespread problem exacerbated by rapid population growth. Nearly 63 percent of the total population lives below the poverty line, with nearly 34 percent living in extreme poverty (IFAD). These rates are even higher (66 percent and 36 percent, respectively) for rural areas. In recent years, poverty has been exacerbated by domestic political instability, economic inequality and weak infrastructure, extreme weather events, and the global financial downturn.

Agriculture is the main driver of Niger’s economy. An estimated 82 percent of the population relies on farming (WFP). In recent years, Niger has been hard hit with unfavorable agricultural conditions. In 2005, drought and locust invasions prompted a severe food security crisis. Poor harvests in 2010, along with extensive unpredicted flooding, led to another severe food crisis that affected over 3 million people in both rural and urban areas. A poor 2011 harvest resulted in a large cereals deficit, prompting 20 percent of the population to fall into food insecurity again in 2012 (World Bank). As a result of these and past food crises, malnutrition rates in Niger are high. Ten percent of children under five suffer from acute malnutrition, while a total of 44 percent of children suffer from some level of chronic malnutrition (WFP). Life expectancy is low at 44.7 years, and the mortality rate for children under five is 130 per 1,000 (IFAD).