The two countries that I have selected are Nauru and Niger. Nauru is an island in the South Pacific, which formerly had significant phosphate resource but those have now been depleted. There is some limited arable land around the fringe of the island, allowing for minimal crops and coconuts. Fishing is a main source of locally-produced food. There are limited fresh water resources and Nauru is far from any markets (CIA World Factbook, 2015). Niger is an African nation that straddles Saharan and sub-Saharan (Sahel). In Niger, there is 11.79% arable land, which should be enough to support the country’s relatively small population. However, there are recurring droughts as desertification extends the Sahara farther into the country. The country is landlocked, so has limited access to markets, and none of its neighborhoods has much wealth either. There are limited water resources in Niger, with nearly 80% of the country being desert, and its agricultural land mostly savannah, suited best for livestock rather than intensive crops (CIA World Factbook, 2015).
In Nauru, as the country moved into the modern era, it exploited its phosphate reserves, building up a cash reserve. That reserve is all but gone at this point, leaving the country with a crumbling infrastructure (for example, a single aging desalination plant) and no way to generate cash flow. Nauru is almost entirely dependent on aid from Australia. Being far from markets meant that there was little opportunity to develop a post-phosphate economy — and the mining has devastated the ecology. In Niger, desertification remains a constant threat. Where there is arable land, it is relatively poor and subject to frequent droughts. Even subsistence agriculture is difficult in this country. The only major mineral wealth Niger has is uranium. The country provides 7.5% of the world’s premium uranium ore, and is the fourth-leading producer. Most of the country’s uranium is sent to France for processing (via Benin or Nigeria), and ends up in a variety of countries, including the U.S. Korean and Canadian companies also own mining concessions (WNA, 2015). There are no other resources besides uranium.
Sustainability will be very difficult to achieve for these countries. Nauru historically supported a small population, with a subsistence economy based on fishing. The country can conceivably continue along that path, but will have difficulty sustaining a modern lifestyle. There were never good water resources on the island, so it remains…