Elderly Nigerien rice-farmer Adamou Sambeye shows IRIN his rice plot on the banks of the River Niger near the capital Niamey: water lilies fill his still-flooded field. In one corner of it naked children are having fun trying to catch the fish that now swim in it.
“I put everything I had into this field to produce a good harvest this year,” he told IRIN, adding that he had used two 50kg bags of fertilizer, but the field was flooded soon after he planted his seedlings.
An inter-ministerial committee set up to assess and help manage flood damage estimates 700 fields in the Tillabéri region where Niamey is located, were flooded this year. Ayouba Hassane, director-general of the Federation of Rice Producer Cooperatives, said 14,000 tons of paddy rice have been destroyed since July.
Rice farmers usually produce 80,000 tons of the country’s annual 130,000 ton production during the rainy season, while a further 200,000-300,000 tons of rice is imported each year.
The Niger Basin Authority (ABN) predicts further flooding from mid-November based on the annual rising of the River Niger which occurs both during the rainy season and as river water from neighbouring countries such as Guinea and Mali eventually reaches Niger in mid-November to January.
According to ABN, the swell will be bigger this year than in recent years.
Residents along the river say it is already rising again, despite there having been no rain in a month. “This is a normal phenomenon, but excessive rise can cause new floods,” said Valerie Batselaere, head of NGO Oxfam in Niger.
Flooding between July and October killed 81 people and affected 520,000 - hundreds of thousands of them displaced - according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The government called it the worst flooding in decades.
"A few weeks ago, this whole area [surrounding Niamey] was occupied by water," recalls Sambeye.
Drainage ditches and flood barriers are urgently needed to protect farmers along the river, said a September 2012 study by NGOs ACTED and Oxfam, and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
The same study revealed that among Nigeriens displaced by floods, by far the most vulnerable were the 18 percent who were farmers or market gardeners relying solely on agriculture to get by.
Given their need for cash - half of displaced families have become further indebted, borrowing up to US$100, according to the survey - and the need for flood protection, the study recommends these farmers be paid to rebuild flood barriers and drainage ditches as soon as possible.
Oxfam is currently submitting proposals to do this. To date the government and aid agencies have given emergency aid, but no help to rebuild livelihoods.
Sambeye said he had received nothing thus far. “We need help in repairing the ditches around our paddies if we are to have any hope of feeding our families,” he told IRIN.
Floods have displaced or damaged the property or crops of at least three million people across West and Central Africa this season, according to the latest official figures.