Soil being unloaded from a lorry. In an effort to create an infrastructure to advance the project, over 200 km of rural roads and accessory structures have been built. - - Integrated Development Project in Keita: GCP/NER/032/ITA. Keita district is one of seven districts that make up the department of Tahoua in the central Niger. Village elders still recall when the land was covered with fertile pastures and abundant fauna and flora. But, by the early 1980 the district was on the verge of collapse as a result of desertification, severe soil erosion, deforestation and a general decline in food production. Urgent action was required. The Governments of the Niger and Italy therefore signed an agreement for an integrated development project and charged the UN/Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) with its execution. The project got under way in May 1994 when the first watershed reclamation and management activities were initiated in the areas at greatest risk. Project interventions during the first phase (1984-91) covered two-thirds of the district of Keita, an area of about 3 200 km2 and affected virtually all of the 206 villages in the three cantons of Keita, Tamask and Garhanga. The second phase of the project (1991-96) aims to complete and consolidate the work carried out and to extend the project to the neighbouring districts of Bouza in the southeast and Abalak in the north. The short-term objectives are to increase agricultural production, restore and conserve land and water resources and strengthen institutions at village level. The long-term objectives, reflecting the main orientations of the Niger's national plan, are to attain economic independence and food self-sufficiency and strengthen local institutions.