NIAMEY: Ankle-deep in mud, Mahamane Soumana hesitatingly throws a net in his home’s flooded yard in Banga Bana district, in Niger’s capital.
“I’m a rice farmer, not a fisherman,” he sighs, tugging at the net. “But my field has been completely flooded for the past two months. So I fish in my courtyard.”
Widespread flooding has killed at least 56 people in Niger since the rainy season began in June, and left over 185,000 homeless, according to the interior ministry.
In one of the world’s poorest countries, where most houses are made of earth or mud, flooding has destroyed thousands of homes.
“I used to have two houses, both of which collapsed with the rain,” Soumana told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, as he tried to untangle a couple of small fish from his net, with his children looking on.
But now “I have nothing to house or feed my family, other than fish,” he said.
Soumana’s situation is far from uncommon. For Nigeriens unable to afford cement homes, each rainy season increasingly brings a dangerous ordeal, local experts say.
According to Katiellou Lawan Gaptia, head of meteorology at Niger’s Met Office, climate change in the Sahel is creating warmer conditions where the atmosphere can hold more moisture, often increasing the volume of rainfall.
“This year’s rain is just extraordinary,” he said. “In Niamey alone, the season’s rainfall has increased by 84 percent since 2010.”
Gabagoura, a village northwest of Niamey, is one of the worst affected areas by the recent floods.
On the median strip of the main road, mats and foam mattresses dry on guardrails. Around them, piles of wood and straw are all that are left of more than 290 homes that collapsed at the end of August, leaving 1,200 people homeless.
Village chief Adamou Saley walks towards a massive silk-cotton tree, under which 15 people have taken shelter.
“Look at this misery – total desolation,” he said, looking around at the remnants of homes.
Hadjara Yacouba’s house was entirely destroyed by the rains. “We have nothing, not even a tent,” she said, lowering her eyes.
“I am a widow with 17 children, and we have lost everything.”