Niger: ICT to Prevent Food Crisis

An early warning system aimed at averting food crises to the benefit of 11 million people in Niger


As food becomes scarce in the developing world, access to telecommunications has become critical in combating hunger. Access to inventories, logistical data, and situation reports from the most remote places on Earth, often lacking even basic telephone systems, are vital to make sure limited resources save the most lives.

2006.06_Formation_niger.2Télécoms Sans Frontières (TSF) has provided access to telecommunications in Niger since the summer of 2005, when a terrible food crisis affected more than 3 million people in the country. Since that time, TSF has provided remote telecoms centres, technical support services, and has even created new software to strengthen the communications system of the government’s National Food Crisis Prevention System.

Niger is ranked 173rd out of 173 nations on the United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development list - making it one of the least developed countries on Earth. The living conditions in the Sahel desert are extremely harsh and recurrent drought leads to almost permanent food insecurity. Less than 12% of the territory is cultivable - so the widely reported current food crisis hits Niger particularly hard.

Without access to better communications critical information would take weeks to arrive...too late to save lives

Niger’s SAP-powered “Early Warning System” collects, assimilates and distributes information on the risk of famine. It also constantly monitors the developments in vulnerable areas. During the 2005 crisis, the government encountered severe difficulty sending information from remote areas of the country to decision makers due to lack of communications - this was identified as a key problem inhibiting the race to save lives in a food crisis.

IMG_0422TSF responded to the government’s need by deploying a rapid-response communications team which established a satellite and radio communications network so that information could be sent in real time from even the most isolated regions to the capital. TSF also built new software to digitalise and centralise the SAP information to empower responders to follow up on situation reports and take immediate action to facilitate aid coordination in crisis situations.


Based on the success of this TSF’s emergency response efforts, the European Commission Humanitarian Office (ECHO), funded TSF to install a communication network based in 12 pilot regions in Niger in 2006, then enabled TSF to extend to 25 regions in 2007 then to 34 remote and unconnected areas of Niger, protecting more than 11 million vulnerable people by 2008. Each site is connected, using TSF expertise and equipment, to the capital, Niamey. The data forms provide real-time information to the authorities on agricultural, nutritional and market indicators, including stock levels and measures of the adequacy of people’s diets. The system can be adapted to deliver a range of other types of early-warning information such as health or epidemic monitoring.