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Empowering Women with the Water-Energy-Food (WEF) Nexus Approach in Kollo, Niger

Amina leads a women’s cooperative with 40 members in the department of Kollo in Niger, West Africa. Her village is located near the Niger River and the cooperative cultivates vegetables and fruits for their own consumption and sale at the market. 

As the principal river of West Africa and the third-longest on the African continent, the Niger River sustains the livelihoods of some 160 million people daily. It not only provides drinking water and preserves biodiversity in the region, but also enables hydropower generation, irrigated agriculture, cattle breeding, fishing, and transportation – making it a lifeline for the nine riparian countries of the Niger Basin: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Mali, Niger and Nigeria.

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We have been running this garden for 30 years and have put a lot of hard work into it. We always stored rainwater to irrigate the fields, but without a permanent supply, the water wasn’t enough to sustain us.

— Amina, leader of a women´s cooperative in Niger

Vulnerability of rainfed agriculture

Amina and her colleagues in the women’s cooperative cultivate vegetable gardens on about 1.2 ha of land. Their lives have long been impacted by climate change.

Traditionally, the cooperative practiced rainfed agriculture and grew crops during the rainy season, using a petrol pump for irrigation in the dry season. However, prolonged dry periods meant that it became too expensive to cultivate crops. 

“We have been running this garden for 30 years and have put a lot of hard work into it. We always stored rainwater to irrigate the fields, but without a permanent supply, the water wasn’t enough to sustain us,” explains Amina. As a result, her cooperative depends on irrigation canals from nearby rice farmers, often leading to tension. Sharing a single water source can indeed cause conflicts – an aspect that often remains invisible.

Natural resources ensure people´s well-being

Sustainable natural resource management is increasingly important, considering that by 2030, global demand for water, food and energy will increase by 30%, 40% and 50% respectively. These three resources are closely interlinked. Not only do the women in Amina’s cooperative need more freshwater; because agriculture is their primary livelihood, they are also dependent on energy to grow enough food: “Our seedlings often did not germinate in the dry season. And those that did died without pumped water, destroying our hopes for a good harvest.” Access to natural resources and a climate-resilient ecosystem is therefore crucial for the women’s wellbeing. Although this presents a risk of conflict, the fact that water, energy and food security are interlinked also opens up opportunities for synergies.

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Sustainable natural resource management is increasingly important, considering that by 2030, global demand for water, food and energy will increase by 30%, 40% and 50% respectively.

— Source: National Intelligence Council. Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds: Central Intelligence Agency; 2012.
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The Water-Energy-Food Nexus

Together with national and regional partners, the Nexus Regional Dialogue in the Niger Basin, co-funded by the European Union (EU) and the German Ministry for Development and Cooperation (BMZ), promotes the Water-Energy-Food (WEF) Nexus approach in the region to address these interdependencies and ensure the sustainable management of water, energy and food resources.

The WEF Nexus approach focuses on negotiating trade-offs, inspiring compromises and uncovering synergies to ensure water, energy and food security in the long run. It further promotes policy coherence and cooperation between all three sectors at the regional, local and global level. The approach has proven successful for the women’s cooperative in Kollo, where it was implemented as part of a demonstration project.


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The Nexus Regional Dialogue in the Niger Basin

Solar-pumped irrigation

Rather than abandoning the land due to the difficult conditions and limited water resources, especially in the dry season, the women in Amina’s cooperative now cultivate their fields together and take joint investment decisions, which makes them more visible. “Our activities are flourishing. We call on all Nigerien women living in the river basin to join us,” says Amina. 

To scale up agricultural output during the dry season, German development cooperation and the EU started working with the national coordination of users of the Niger River basin to provide Amina’s farming cooperative with a solar pumping irrigation system (SPIS). With solar energy, groundwater can now be pumped to irrigate the fields and crops year-round. 

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Today, all 40 women working with us are able to meet their daily needs! Before, we had only one vegetable garden, but now we have three, and each garden is run by ten or more women, with other members joining us!

— Amina, leader of a women´s cooperative in Niger

Video

Get to know Amina and her fellow cooperative members and learn more about how sustainable natural resource management uplifts their livelihoods! 

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A step towards independence

The new irrigation system consists of solar-powered pumps and several retention basins to store the water. It reliably supplies water by avoiding the over-exploitation of groundwater resources. The women have taken a major step towards food self-sufficiency, using renewable solar energy while increasing their climate resilience in the dry summer months. 

German development cooperation and the EU also offered training on agricultural techniques, the sustainable management of water resources, and the maintenance and monitoring of the irrigation system to help the women gain ownership and independence: “We have all benefitted from training. Today, we are a source of pride in the eyes of the community. Before we were holding out for water, now we are giving it,” says Amina.

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More information

  • Virtual Exhibition "Invisible Water"

    Invisible Water sheds light on some of the invisible, tabooed, and stigmatized issues in connection with water and sanitation, and shows how people in six countries are actively finding solutions – with the support of German development cooperation.

  • Solar-Powered Irrigation Systems (SPIS)

    Find more information about the topic of solar-powered-irrigation systems here.

  • The Nexus Regional Dialogues Programme

    Find more information about the Nexus Regional Dialogues Programme and its activities in other regions here.

  • The Nexus Regional Dialogue in the Niger Basin

    Find more information about recent news articles, resources and activities of the Nexus Regional Dialogue in the Niger Basin here.

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