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Tuesday 24th October
Niger Information - Page 1
Geography
Niger is an inland West African country surrounded by Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Libya, Mali and Nigeria. Niamey, on the River Niger, is the capital city.

The Sahara Desert and the Sahel (a semi desert south of the Sahara) covers a large part of Niger. Most of the country, apart from the Air Mountains, is flat and level land.

The climate is very hot and dry and the country suffers from droughts. There is a short rainy period. The River Niger, which passes through the country and is its only permanent body of water, is Africa's third longest river.

Environment
Very few plants grow in the desert; the grasslands in the south of Niger support more plant life. Trees include acacia thorn trees, tamarind, mahogany, baobab and date palms. Low olive bushes grow in the desert area.

Animals find it difficult to obtain moisture. Many of the small animals are nocturnal, the scorpion for example. These animals remain in hiding during the heat of the day and come out at night to hunt and forage. Some animals, such as the sand swimmer, are completely at home in the desert; others, such as the ostrich, are found in a range of habitats but have here adapted to conditions where water is scarce. Other animals in Niger are antelopes, elephants, gazelles, giraffes, lions, monkeys and hyenas.

The W National Park and Air and Tenere Natural Reserves are on the World Heritage list.

The countries of the Sahel region are at risk from the increasing encroachment of the desert. Desertification is a result of environmental problems such as deforestation and soil erosion.

Architecture
Niger's earnings from the export of uranium have made it possible to build some modern, western style buildings. This modern architecture stands alongside mud brick houses. In Agadez and Zinder there are some old houses with beautifully decorated facades. As Niger is a Moslem country, mosques are amongst its important public buildings.

Population
The population of Niger was estimated at 13,272,679 in 2008: most of the people live in the south. The Tuareg and other nomads travel the desert. The Fulani are the second largest group of nomads.

Languages
There are many different tribes in the south of Niger, thus many people speak African languages, especially Hausa. Other languages spoken are French and Arabic.

Religion
The majority of the people are Moslems (mainly Sunni Moslems). Islam was introduced to the region in the tenth century via the trans-Saharan trade route, although traditional beliefs still survive, especially in the rural areas.

Food
Rice is a staple food and is served with fish, chicken and other meats. Manioc and beans also feature in the diet of the people of Niger. Millet porridge is a staple food of some of the nomads.

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