Welcome to Niger
Livelihoods in Niger have traditionally revolved around agriculture, with crops grown in areas to the south and farmers raising livestock in drier areas to the north. Many farmers led nomadic lifestyles, moving with their animals across large areas to find new pasture.
But with increasingly severe droughts and lower rainfalls across the Sahel region, many farmers have had to give up their nomadic way of life and find work in the towns. For women too, life is changing, as they need to learn new skills to support their families.
Niger divides into three geographic regions – the desert zone in the north and east, a semi-arid zone in the middle and a small fertile area in the southwest.
Small farmers in the south grow millet and sorghum. When rainfall is good, these farmers provide the region's cereal production. Other crops for domestic consumption include cow peas and groundnuts.
Niger has some of the world’s largest deposits of uranium, which is used by the nuclear industry. Niger is in the top five producers of uranium worldwide and exports make up over two-thirds of its foreign revenue.
Niger has one of the lowest literacy rates in West Africa, with less than a third of adults able to read and write.
The staple diet of nomadic groups in Niger consists of milk and millet. The millet is pounded into flour by the women and girls and made into a paste or stiff porridge dough.
Between the 15th and 18th centuries, Niger served as an important central link for the trade in gold, salt and slaves, which ran along routes going north through the Sahara and south through to the Atlantic ocean.
The Hausa are the largest group in Niger, making up around half the population. Other major groups include the Zarma-Songhai (comprising around one fifth of the population) and the Kanuri. Nomadic or semi-nomadic groups include the Fulani and Tuareg peoples.
Niger is one of the poorest countries in the world; in 2010, it came 167 out of 169 countries listed in the United Nations Humanitarian Development Index.
With high rates of malnutrition and disease, one in six children will not reach their fifth birthday.
The city of Agadez is one of the principal centres of the country’s long-established Islamic traditions, which were brought to Niger by Arab traders from medieval times. Like the great mud mosque at Djenne in Mali, the Grand Mosque in Agadez acts as a key place of worship.