Through the survey, we identified several possible causes of food insecurity in Niger, as shown in Table 5
. Among them, drought seems to be the major cause of food insecurity in Niger. Out of 500 respondents, 94.2% agreed that drought contributes to household food insecurity. Nigerien agriculture is highly affected by the timeliness and irregularity in rainfalls and other climatic factors. Low precipitation is the main limiting factor for crop production. Rainfall is very low and erratic, with periods of drought often followed by devastating flash floods. Water resources are limited, unevenly distributed and not easily accessible. As a result, a large part of the country is unsuitable for rain-fed agriculture, and natural pastures are being depleted. Drought often results in increases in the prices of food products, and most households who depend solely on their own production lack purchasing power to buy food to satisfy the needs of their members. 71.8% of the households sampled agreed that having enough daily ration is affected by high food prices. Soil infertility is another major constraint to Nigerien agriculture. 62% of respondents reported that food insecurity is related to soil infertility. Land degradation, particularly due to soil fertility depletion and soil erosion, is a serious constraint to agricultural productivity. Due to harsh environmental conditions, not all crops can be grown in Niger, thus limiting agricultural production to a few crops. Soils in Niger are inherently fragile, low in carbon and poor in plant nutrients. Therefore, when these soils are poorly managed (as is often the case), the outcome in terms of human welfare and environmental sustainability can be dramatic. Limited farm inputs seriously affect agricultural productivity. When farmers cannot afford yield-enhancing inputs, low productivity and food insecurity can follow. Most traditional farms have inadequate capital for the purchase of costly inputs, such as farm machinery, fertilizer, herbicide and pesticide, which contribute to the low cereal production. Farm operations, from land clearing to crop harvesting and processing, are carried out by hand using simple tools, such as a hoe, cutlass, axe, sickle and other local farm implements, by the majority of Niger farmers. In general, technology-based agriculture has not come to Niger on a significant scale. In short, the absence of new technologies in agriculture will slow the growth of agricultural productivity and the reduction of rural poverty. Agricultural techniques are still rudimentary; there are a few tractors in use (only 130 in 1998). Pest and disease attacks of crops are also serious problems affecting the grain production in Niger. Some of the common pests of cereal crops in Niger are locust, termites, birds and mammals, like rats, while diseases include smut, blight and root rot, etc.
Niger’s food crisis in 2005 has been attributed to a locust invasion and drought that devastated crop production. Flooding also often affects Niger crop farms. Rice farms along the Niger River are usually flooded, thus reducing harvest and production areas. The high poverty index among the Nigerien population affects the daily ration of many households. Niger is classified as one of the world’s poorest countries. Even though food is available at market, many households do not have money to purchase food. Labor constraint is not a major cause for household food insecurity, despite 41.6% of respondents agreeing that it affects the daily ration, as the average number of a family size is high. Indeed, there are some families where members used to migrate to neighboring countries, which can affect labor availability.