Rain for the Sahel and Sahara

Rain for the Sahel and Sahara (RAIN) forges partnerships with underserved nomadic and rural desert peoples of West Africa to realize their ambitions for education and enduring livelihoods with a focus on empowering girls and women with learning and earning.
Apr 3, 2015

School Market Gardens Update: Tillaberi Region

Ingui students enter thatched classroom
Ingui students enter thatched classroom

Like most children living in remote desert regions of Niger, students of the Tillaberi region walk several miles daily to school in temperatures reaching 100-110 degrees. Providing nutritious lunches - which often times may be their only meal of the day - is imperative to their success in school. As the demand for quality education in our partner communities grows and schools see increased attendance, School Market Gardens must provide the food and income to support more students. 500 sq. meter gardens are being expanded to 1,000 sq. feet along with the addition of income generating cash crops such as fruit trees. Time and natural disasters take their toll, and several of our current gardens are in need of modifications, improvements, and refresher trainings.

This past fall and winter, Abdul Salam Dourkari, Coordinator of Agriculture, and field agent Ahmoud Mouwala visited the Tilliberi communities of Tchirboye, Nassilé, Ingui, Lemdou, Bonfeba, and Tagantassou to renew, repair and evaluate the progress of their School Market Gardens.

The objectives of the field visits:

  • Monitor the development of nursery crops
  • Check the health and production levels of the gardens
  • Provide support and guidance on organic techniques
  • Demonstrate the preparation and application of bio pesticides.

Nassilé & Tchirboye
Repairs & installations:

  • RAIN enlisted a mason to dig and build a wall with solid bricks for the well and a staircase to install the pump at the bottom. 
  • Installing a network of PVC tubes to irrigate the garden areas that are outside the drip-irrigation system.             

The nurseries were in good condition overall: cabbage, lettuce, tomato, onion and chili seeds were transplanted in mid-November, only to be destroyed by a locust invasion. However, the next generation of transplants are protected by a mosquito net and intact. A new cabbage, lettuce, potato and tomato seed nursery was installed in the Nassile garden - onion and cabbage transplants in Tchirboye. Happily, the mango, guava and moringa trees show good signs of  development. In order to protect the galvanized wire fence surrounding the garden, Jatropha seeds were planted to form a lasting live-fence for both garden sites.

Bio-pesticide training
Crop pest control is an important step to optimize agricultural production. Garden participants were trained in how to create bio pesticides using easily accessible and low cost sources, including tobacco, pepper, soap, and neem seeds. The solution of tobacco, pepper or neem is combined with a liter of water, steeped for 24 hours, mixed with soapy water and applied to crops. 

Ingui
Repairs & installations:

  • Installing a network of PVC tubes to irrigate the garden areas that are outside the drip-irrigation system.    
  • Sand was found at the well bottom to due inherent design flaws.
  • A new pump was delivered to replace the old one that often breaks down.

Garden development has been delayed due to a major locust invasion on crops after transplanting. However, tomatoes, onions, carrots lettuce and bell pepper can be found in the developmental stage. The seed nursery holds the promise of future onions, cabbages, lettuce, bell pepper, tomatoes, carrots and potatoes.

Lemdou
Repairs & installations:

  • Installation of a new gate to protect the garden. Strengthening of wire fence.
  • Repair of the well pump.

Although the drip-irrigation system was down for at least a week as a result of the pump breaking down, the crops were unaffected, thanks to the gardener and his efforts to water the garden manually until the repair team arrived. Crops include tomatoes, lettuce, cabbage, green peppers, onions, carrots, potatoes, melons and some corn, as well as blooming moringa trees, four lemon trees and a pomegranate tree. The gardener and community received the organic pesticide training.

Bonfeba
Repairs & installations:

  • Repair of the wire fence along the perimeter of the garden. 
  • Installing a PVC pipe connecting the tank to the water pump.
  • The holes in the drip irrigation pipe system were blocked by river water impurities, leaving the gardener to use a watering can to irrigate the crops. As a temporary solution for this season, PVC pipes were installed to transport water from beds created for this purpose to the garden.

Tagantassou
Repairs & installations:

  • Repair of damaged garden well parapet.
  • Repair of the connection between the garden water tank and the schoolyard tap to facilitate water supply to students.

Garden crops include tomatoes, lettuce, green peppers, cabbage, carrots, onions, potatoes, melon, squash, cowpeas and corn, as well as moringa trees.

Challenges 

This field visit to the Tillaberi region communities presented many well and pest issues and underscored opportunities for continued training to fill in knowledge gaps of participants. In order to make the most out of the School Market Gardens throughout the year, we will continue to:

  • Train gardeners on how to repair of motor pumps;
  • Solve the issue of insufficient well water levels to avoid jeopardizing the crops until the rains come;
  • Continue to provide close supervision and recruit additional field agents so we may conduct more regular monitoring.

Your continued support allows us to keep the promise that "RAIN always comes back." Our partner communities know we are here to help keep their food security on track, with you standing behind us as programs evolve and grow. Thank you!

Thanks are due to RAIN for the garden and both wells in our village. Nassile has a serious problem of having no potable water. So, these two wells have helped us to solve the problem for us and our animals. The garden is a gem for the population and for students in particular, as most do not know tomatoes, cabbage, lettuce and potatoes.” - Nassile Garden Committee Present Yacouba Bilan

Repair of Nassile well wall
Repair of Nassile well wall
Local herds come to the well to drink.
Local herds come to the well to drink.
Tagantassou water tank connection to school tap
Tagantassou water tank connection to school tap

Links:

Apr 3, 2015

Mentors Ignite School Growth in Ingui

1st graders enter thatch classroom in Tatararat.
1st graders enter thatch classroom in Tatararat.

Thanks to the local community women who serve as mentors to at-risk students, schools are sprouting up throughout the rural hamlets surrounding Ingui, a village in the Tillaberi region of Niger. Acting as guides and ambassadors for our Access to Education program for at-risk girls, the dedicated efforts of these local women have inspired their communities to develop and support local schools since RAIN initiated the program in 2009. Stalwart mentors personally conducted outreach efforts into isolated areas, one student at a time, engaging in dialogue with parents, resulting in unprecedented numbers of local nomadic and rural children enrolled in school. Rural schools in Niger are built by the government in response to local demand. By helping Ingui communities create this demand, mentors have successfully expanded the formal education system to many children who were previously beyond its reach.

Challenges
Primary schools of Ingui were few and far between. Like most children living in remote desert regions of Niger, students walked several miles daily to attend school. For example, one of the top local students would walk 16 miles to class and home each day, apologizing for sometimes falling asleep during lessons. Distance is not the only challenge to access to primary education: desert temperatures can regularly soar above 90 degrees by 9AM, reaching 100-110 degrees over the course of the day.

New schools in rural areas often have a dismal start in terms of infrastructure. Some classrooms begin as stick frames with mat wind blockers. Other communities build adobe classrooms out of mud bricks. School furniture is a rarity; children usually sit on the sandy ground or on leftover mud bricks until cement classrooms are built and furniture is supplied.

Extreme poverty prevents parents from sending their children to school – they either feel they need the child to help at home or they are unable to afford uniforms, books and school fees. To households such as these, struggling simply to survive, it can seem beneficial for children to collect water or herd animals that serve as the family’s savings bank rather than attend school.

The five women mentors trained to serve as local activists and counselors went to work encouraging community members from the surrounding area not only to send their children to school, but to join in the initiatives created to support education. School attendance rose significantly as a result, culminating in the creation of a cement classroom in 2010 and, in 2011, the construction of six elementary school classrooms. Three years later, these rooms are filled to capacity with learning children.

As another component of the Access to Education program, RAIN piloted a three-month basic literacy training to teach mentors in their native Tamasheq language. As newly-literate adults, they are able to fully appreciate and understand the importance of being able to read and write. This appreciation fuels their commitment to ensure that local children receive a formal education, and aids them in effectively communicating to unschooled adults why it’s important for their children to ‘sit at the desk all day’ and learn, rather than helping with household tasks.

Expanding the Mentoring Program to Follow New Schools

As the mentors recruited greater numbers of students from surrounding hamlets, families began to insist that their children attend schools closer to home. New schools grow in correlation with the local student population. At first, a new school is simply one classroom of first graders. In general, a classroom is added to the school following enrollment each year, although in communities with a low population density, schools sometimes enroll students every other year. The government is struggling to find enough teachers for existing schools, a shortage which often results in large class sizes.

RAIN's Access to Education program was designed to follow school growth by adding one new mentor for each of the four new elementary schools. New mentors have joined the women of Ingui to guide and support the growing school population, shadowing experienced mentors, ensuring that the program maintains its quality as the schools grow. The women split their time between their sponsored students at the Ingui Elementary School and students in their own communities. 

The Bigger Picture

As the demand for quality schooling in rural Niger grows, communities are coming together in efforts to garner greater investment in education for their children. Just as RAIN mentors drew children from the countryside to the Ingui school, it is expected that the new schools located in nearby hamlets will draw new students from even further afield.

In just five short years, the RAIN mentoring program has succeeded in fostering school growth, prioritizing education as a base for community wide development in Ingui and other marginalized hamlets in Niger. By promoting the value of formal schooling among nomadic communities, with a focus on girls’ education, Ingui’s mentors have proven that the dreams of nomadic families for a better life for their children can become a reality.

"Mentoring has changed my life a lot. It has helped me realize many things that I ignored before. These are the same things that I can see changing little by little in my community.

An example of my work is that none of the girls I mentor have married early. Only after being expelled from school have parents married their girls. Parents let their children finish school." - Mentor Houdeyja Ramnan – Tatararat (hamlet near Ingui)

Elementary students of Ezak Tahount
Elementary students of Ezak Tahount

Links:

Dec 30, 2014

Thanks to all for funding our project!

All of us at RAIN are thrilled at the show of support by our friends at GlobalGiving - with your help, our call to action to give 50 nomadic students the chance to pursue their education beyond primary school raised $7,000 - above and beyond our goal of $5,000.

The staff in Niger is on the ground recruiting primarily Wodaabe girls from the more remote communities of the Air Mountains. The Wodaabe are the most marginalized of Niger’s nomads, with the fewest number of girls progressing past the fourth grade.

Together, we’re taking the steps to make this a thing of the past.

Thank you so much for caring and a very Happy New Year!

The Team at RAIN and all your friends in Niger

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