The Niger River Basin
The Niger River is West Africa´s largest river, with about 100 million inhabitants within the catchment area. Many of these live in poverty. The area covers nine countries spanning an enormous variety in climate and geography (Figure 1).
The river is an important natural resource, often key for livelihoods, especially in Mali and Niger. In addition, the region has been designated as a particularly sensitive area in terms of climate change impacts.
The Niger-HYPE model
The development of Niger-HYPE is funded by the“Building resilience to floods and droughts in the Niger River basin - hydrological predictions for sustainable water user and climate change adaption”, and the EU FP7 project “ ”.
The research aim of the projects is to explore the possibility of representing and quantifying the dominant hydrological processes in the basin with the, and to assess potential effects of climatic changes on the hydrology of the basin.
The methodology is based on a participatory co-learning approach aiming to maximize the use of both Swedish and West African experts’ knowledge to collaboratively create an adapted modelling tool of the basin. This involves using open code and open data, and sharing model development and analysis (Figure 2).
We believe the participatory approach will strengthen the local ownership and enable future refinements and model application without necessarily involving external actors. This can facilitate sustainable management and adaptation of the water resources in the basin by the people living there.
One example of a fruitful effect of the participatory approach concerns the simulation of the Inland Niger Delta in Mali. The original HYPE code was adapted to the local hydrological conditions by adding a routine for simulating floodplain dynamics and temporal lakes, which improved model performance substantially (Figure 3).
This adaptation was only possible by combining the process understanding of the West African scientists with the technical expertise of the Swedish scientists.
The Niger-HYPE model is currently used to study the potential effects of climatic changes on floods, droughts and other water-related phenomena; and to connect this to adaptation strategies in West Africa (Figure 4).
We also explore the possibility of using the tool for water resources management, education, and operational hydrological warning services together with key institutions in the region.