Geography – the natural environment
Niger is in West Africa, located along the border between the Sahara and Sahel
regions. It is a landlocked country, over 650 kilometres from the sea.
Map of Niger - Click here to view the map.
The Niger river runs through Niamey
The Sahara covers the northern two-thirds of Niger. The desert landscape is made
up of endless stretches of sand dunes that shift in the hot winds and broad
plains covered with gravel and stones. In central Niger, the Aïr Mountains rise
sharply above the desert floor. In places lush, green oases can be found where
underground water breaks to the surface in springs and wells.
Southern Niger is in the Sahel region. Sahel means “shore” in Arabic. A
transition zone between the desert to the north and tropical West Africa in the
south, the Sahel is mostly grassland with tall, leafy shrubs and sparsely
scattered trees. The northern Sahel is in constant danger of becoming desert.
The vegetation does not hold the sandy soil during times of high winds and
heavy rains. Overuse by people also helps the desert advance.
The Niger River cuts through southwestern Niger. Another river, the Yobe, forms
a part of the Niger-Nigeria border in the southeast. Other small streams
meander through southern Niger. Many of them are wadis, rocky river beds that
are dry except in the rainy season.
A parched land during time of drought
Climate graphs - click here to view the
Niger is one of the hottest, driest places in the world. Average temperatures
are around 30 oC, but are capable of reaching over 50 oC in the hot season,
between March and June. The air is so hot during these months that rain
evaporates before it hits the ground. December through to February are cooler
months and the temperature can actually drop to freezing in the night-time
desert. The harmattan winds usually arrive just before the rains. They create
dust storms that can cut visibility down to almost nothing. The rainy season
comes to the southern parts of the country in late May to September, although
rainfall is often unreliable.
Droughts are Niger’s worst natural disasters. Crops shrivel, cattle die and
thousands of people starve to death. During the rainy season, heavy rain causes
flooding. Every year, the rains leave thousands homeless.