April 24, 2013 - Concord Day in Niger

Don't get Niger mixed up with Nigeria!

Camels in Niger
They are both nations in Africa, but Niger is a bit larger in size, much smaller in population, poorer, and drier. 

Niger is landlocked, whereas Nigeria has coastal land and access to the Atlantic Ocean. 

Niger is 80% Sahara Desert, with the rest of its lands in constant danger of drought, but Nigeria has varied biomes that include tropical rainforests, plains, and mangrove swamps.

Why are the two nations so similar in name? They are both named after the Niger River, which runs through these and other African countries.

In Niger, the official language is French, and people are called Nigeriens.

In Nigeria, the official language is English, and people are called Nigerians.

Apparently, the Nigeriens
made a bonfire out of guns!
Concord Day marks the anniversary of the 1995 signing of a peace agreement between the Nigerien government and some rebel forces. When the final peace agreement was signed and the Nigerien civil war was finally over, people celebrated by burning weapons in a “Flame of Peace.”

What will you be when you grow up?

Although Niger has some resources, such as uranium, gold and perhaps oil, most of its people are either subsistence farmers (people who grow their own food but have almost no food left over to sell to others) or nomadic livestock-raisers. I was shocked to read that close to 8% of the population is enslaved people! Just like the enslaved peoples of long ago, they are in forced-work situations, and they can be bought or sold.

Niger is not the only country that still struggles with slavery. A horrifying number of African countries have “hereditary servitude”—which is another way of saying slavery. It's horrifying, isn't it?

Did you know about the Green Sahara?

For the past 70 THOUSAND years (a long time!), the Sahara Desert has been...well, a giant desert, just about the way it is today. But about 12,000 years ago, a “wobble” in the Earth's axis caused a different rainfall pattern. For thousands of years, seasonal monsoons (rainstorms) came to an area of the Sahara that was roughly the size of the U.S.—and a moist, lush region was created.

We know about this period because we have found animal and human remains that tell us about it. Herds of ostriches, giraffes, and elephants, and perhaps even domesticated cattle, all lived alongside humans in this not-desert Sahara, which scientists have dubbed “Green Sahara.”

Read about a discovery of scores of human skeletons here.

Also on this date:

Anniversary of the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope

Anniversary of the opening of the Woolworth Building

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