August 3 – Independence Day in Niger

Posted on August 3, 2015

Ever since 1960, August 3 has been Independence Day, a day to celebrate the African nation's independence from France.

Ever since 1975, August 3 has also been Arbor Day, a day to plant trees and thus fight against desertification.

Desertification, as you might realize, is the natural process when rather dry land becomes increasingly drier and drier. This is usually accompanied by fewer plants and animals living in the habitat (or some species being replaced by hardier species that can live in a desert).

Most of the nation (more than 80%) is already covered by the Sahara Desert. This land wasn't always a desert, and it can be very concerning to see more and more land change from fertile to desert!

Here are some other problems (just a few of many) that Niger has to deal with:

  • The literacy rate is one of the lowest in the world. Less than 30% of the population can read – and that includes the shocking statistic that only about 15% of women and girls can read!
  • This young woman wears
    ankle bracelets that show
    she is enslaved.
    Up to 870,000 people (nearly 8% of the total population) in Niger are enslaved. This shocking statistic needs to change! Apparently, when the French were colonial rulers over Niger, they largely ignored the problem, and some of the major slave owners are the ones who are wealthy and powerful enough to become political leaders.

    Again, women are more vulnerable and even more likely than men to being enslaved.

    I read that slavery was outlawed in Niger in 1960, prohibited in 1999, and criminalized in 2003 - but the laws have not been adequately enforced!
  • The enormous population growth – one of the highest in the world – puts pressure on the increasingly non-fertile land. The farming practices necessary with large families on subsistence farms end up causing desertification to speed up. This feedback loop creates a deepening problem.

Of course, there are amazing beauties to be seen in Niger, as well. Deserts usually have stark beauty, and of course the precious oases are often gorgeous. The people, the Niger River, and the canyons cut by the river are some other gorgeous sights to see...

Above, dunes;
below, oasis

Above, mother and child;
below, men in a beauty contest

Above, the Niger River;
below, a beautiful canyon

These are salt flats seen from space!

Check out this and this other earlier posts about Niger. 

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