8 Interesting Facts About Niger

Fishermen fishing on River Niger, the river from where the country derived its name.
Fishermen fishing on River Niger, the river from where the country derived its name.

Niger is a country in West Africa that got its name from the Niger River. The country is landlocked and shares its land borders with Algeria, Mali, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, and Benin. The country covers an area of 490,000 square miles and is, therefore, the largest country in West Africa. Most of the country lies within the Sahara desert, and the country is typically dry and arid. Niger is categorized as a developing country, and it has consistently ranked at the bottom of the list of countries on the human development index. In 2015 the country was ranked at positions 187 out of 188 countries on human development index. Similarly, in 2018, Niger was ranked at position 189 out of 189 countries on the human development index.

Named After A River

The country gets its name from the River Niger, which is the third-longest river in the continent. The river has its source in Guinea and stretches for 2,597 miles and traverses through five countries before emptying its water to the Atlantic Ocean at the Niger Delta. Niger River has clear waters because it does not have silt. The headwaters of the river flow through ancient rocks that do not have silt.

Hardly Any Arable Land In Niger

Only 2.8% of the total land area is cultivated, and most of these areas are along the banks of the River Niger. The arable land in the country in 2016 accounted for 13.3% of the whole land area in the country. In 1967, it accounted for 9.1% of the land area. It is estimated that the arable land is growing at a rate of 0.85% every year. Besides millet, other crops cultivated in the country include cassava, sorghum, onions, wheat, potatoes, garlic, and pepper. About 80% of the land lies within the Sahara desert, and it has been nicknamed the frying pan of the world because it is one of the hottest countries in the world. It has been said that sometimes it can be too hot that raindrops can evaporate before they hit the ground.

Little Choice Of Food

Millet is the leading staple food in Niger because it is a hardy crop that can survive a harsh environment and dry conditions. Although groundnuts are also cultivated, millet is the dominant crop because it can also be stored for long, and can be used as animal feed. Millet is grounded to make gruel or porridge and can be consumed with vegetables, meat, and soup, among other accompaniments.

Niger Has Had Seven Constitutions

Niger has had seven constitutions since its independence from France in 1960. The current constitution was adopted in 2010. The first constitution was written in 1959 and became operational in 1960. The constitution was used until September 1965, when it was revised and was used until the military coup in 1974. After the coup, the country was run by the military council without the constitution until 1989. The constitution amendment of 1989 created a single-party state and consultative assembly in place of the national assembly. In 1992, the constitution was adopted after one year following the formation of the civilian National Conference that replaced the semi-military rule. The constitution was ratified on December 26, 1992, and approved through a referendum in January 1993.

In January 1996, the military suspended the constitution in a coup and another constitution was adopted in May 1996 through a referendum. In July 1999, a new constitution was again adopted because a need was felt to share the powers with the prime minister and the legislature. The 1999 constitution was similar to the 1992 constitution. In August 2009, the sixth constitution was adopted in Niger, which created a presidential system of government. In 2010, the seventh constitution was adopted following a coup in February 2010, and a referendum was held in October for a new constitution. It had a 90.19% approval rate out of the 52.02% turnout.

Niger's Flag Is Quite Similar To That Of India

The flag of Niger and that of India look similar. The only difference being the ratio, the symbol at the center of the flag, and the shade of the orange color. The two flags have three stripes. The top stripe is orange, the middle stripe is white, and the bottom is green. The Indian flag has a lighter shade of orange stripe. The two flags also have a circle at the center with the Nigerien flag being red while India’s flag has a blue wheel with 24 spokes. India’s flag has a proportion of 2:3, while the flag of Niger has the proportion of 6:7, but occasionally the ratios of 2:3, 3:5, or 1:2 are used.

Niger Lacks A State Religion

Niger is a secular state despite 80% of its population being Muslim. The county’s constitution states a clear separation of religion from the state. According to the 2012 census, 99.3% of the country’s population identified themselves as Muslims, and most identify with Suni Islam. The Shia Muslims account for 7%, while the Ahmadiyya Muslims account for 6% of the Muslim population.

A Scot Was The First Westerner To Explore Niger

Mungo Park was a Scottish explorer who explored the upper Niger River and became the first westerner to travel and explore almost the whole course of the Niger River in 1796. Park wrote a very influential and popular book on his travels into the interior of Africa. He theorized that Congo and Niger rivers merged to become one river. Park had traveled two-thirds of the course of Niger when he was killed during his second expedition. As a result of his death, the mystery of the course of the Niger River remained unsolved. The mystery that had prevailed since the time of ancient Greeks was resolved in 1830 when it was established that Congo and Niger were two different rivers.

Niger Suffers From Alarming Poverty Levels

The levels of poverty in Niger are alarming, and it is one of the most impoverished nations in the world. Out of every three residents in the country, two live below the poverty line, and more than 40% of the country’s population survives on less than $1 a day. Poverty, diseases, hunger, illnesses, terror, and civil war have ravaged the country for several years. Hunger is one of the most significant challenges affecting the population of the country every day.

Niger Has Great Potential As A Tourist Destination

Niger has three sites that have been inscribed by UNESCO. One site is a natural heritage, and two are cultural heritage sites. Currently, there are 19 sites on the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage sites.


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