(FILE PHOTO) A woman walks through the rain in the streets of Maiduguri in north-east Nigeria on July 5, 2017. (Photo by STEFAN HEUNIS / AFP)
NIAMEY, Niger (AFP) – Niger has deployed rainmaking planes in a bid to alleviate a drought that has sparked fears of a food crisis in the desert nation, weather authorities said Thursday.
“We had to do something about this drought,” said Katiellou Gaptia Lawan, head of the national meteorology institute.
Niger has been parched by “many extended dry spells that are upsetting the development of crops and pastures”.
The Sahel country — the world’s poorest according to the UN’s Human Development Index — has also been hit by deadly floods when badly needed rains do arrive.
Artificial rainmaking usually involves planes seeding clouds with silver iodide to provoke a downpour.
Lawan said the first plane was dispatched to the west of the country in early August after several weeks there without rainfall.
The project, being carried out with help from Malian group Ibi Air, is set to continue until late September.
Malians rely on the rainy season from June to August or September to water their fields and pasturing grounds, after a lengthy dry season for the rest of the year.
It usually rains a little less in the northern desert during that period, but this year floods have hit the area, the authorities say.
The changing weather patterns are worrying in a country where already around 20 percent of the population — 4.4 million people — are severely food insecure, or struggle to find enough food to eat, according to official figures.
Flooding and landslides during Niger’s rainy season this year have killed 53 people and affected almost 88,000 more, according to the latest figures.
© Agence France-Presse