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Wonders: Niger River


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Photo: the Niger at sunset The Niger is one of Africa's three great rivers -- the others being the Nile and the Congo. Its source lies in the Fouta Djallon highlands of Guinea and its course plunges suicidally towards the Sahara through Mali until it again takes a southward course near Gao. The Niger then traverses part of the Republic of Niger and then Benin before flowing through Nigeria to the South Atlantic. Its two Deltas, the Inland Delta and the Coastal Delta, are enormous. The coastal delta in Nigeria covers 35,000 square kilometers and is the largest in Africa. The Inland Delta of 6,000 square kilometers is West Africa's greatest inland water.

The rich agricultural lands fringing the Niger, and particularly its Inland Delta, have served as the 'bread-basket' for a succession of civilizations beginning at least as early as 300 A.D. Its ecological cycles of flood and the retreat of waters encourage a complex web of human economies: fisherfolk who live on or beside the river, rice agriculturists who plant on its banks, millet farmers who plant far from its floods on sandy ground, and pastoralists who enter the delta at the time of low waters -- after the harvest -- to graze their cattle and fertilize the land.

By K.C MacDonald

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