Earlier, we shared with you the food relief efforts made possible by your support for the remote community of Seiga in the Tillaberi region of Niger. Here is an update on their progress.
The Seiga community closed the most difficult period of the year for grain availability with RAIN's food aid program. Subsidized sales of the grain provided by RAIN increased access to staple foods while at the same time, generating support for the Seiga elementary school.
Community granaries depleted months after a sporadic harvest and the ensuing food crisis following the 2011 rainy season. During the long wait to the 2012 harvest, vendors sold imported grains in rural markets according to the prevailing market rule: the closer to harvest, the higher the price. RAIN's food aid program aimed at providing reduced-cost food to struggling families that have been reducing meal quantity and quality for months.
After a meeting with School Director, Parent-School Association members, RAIN mentors and other important members of the community, the community decided on a grain price just under half of the market value in order to maximize the programs' benefit to the struggling school, where many nomadic children are fed regularly. The community’s commitment to education impressed us, as had we anticipated a they would set the sale price lower than they did.
Seiga is an incredibly poor community with a history of school setbacks and food crises. Thanks to your support, RAIN bridged the hunger gap before the harvest providing relief from the physical discomfort and emotional drain that hunger brings. This program also directed benefits towards school improvement, drawing families’ attention to the importance of education.
The school earned 405,425CFA, or a little over $800, from the subsidized grain sales. The school staff and community will decide how they will spend this money to support the school in February.
The Tagantassou primary school in the Tillaberi region of Niger is a typical small village school: a few cement classrooms with scrappy furniture, many grass mat classes built by the community with children sitting on the floor in some cases, and few educational materials. In part with your support, the RAIN drip-irrigation School Market Garden has provided vital nutritious vegetables for the students while acting as a sustainable source of revenue for school supplies. This year, the garden will increase in value as the site of a pilot program, wherein it is transformed into a living classroom providing hands-on learning experience for children. Using textbooks provided by RAIN, a 4-month curriculum of study has been created, focusing on environmental science, agriculture, nutrition and health. The curriculum combines classroom learning with agricultural activities, including weekly data collection in the garden. Through participation in the harvesting and sale of crops, students will learn important mathematics and logistical lessons in small business accounting and organization in addition to new techniques in irrigation, cultivation and organic pest control. The winter season is ideal to garden in Niger, and the drip irrigation system is close to being fully installed, ready for the new plantings. Seedlings will be ready for transplant in less than two weeks, at which time the students will begin their specialized studies. We are very enthusiastic about this project and the prospect of adopting this hands-on model in all our School Market Gardens in the coming year. The drip irrigated school market garden with cash crop sustainability enhanced by the agricultural curriculum exemplifies RAIN’s integrated approach to long lasting change for rural communities in one of the world’s poorest countries.
RAIN founder and Executive Director Bess Palmisicano is in the field in Niger for two months, spending a good part of her visit doing what she loves best -- working with the talented and determined women who make up our ever growing artisan cooperatives. Says Bess: "We're having fun. The women here have definite tastes in styles and colors. We bring our ideas together and create different models to try out. For example, the oversized traditional hat from Burkina Faso that I modeled for the Wodaabe women in the MCV/Barka embroidery co-op drew lots of laughs. But when our resident tailor Aisha scaled it down and tried it on -- voila! An instant hit all around."
Meanwhile, the Tuareg women in the Albaye leather cooperative are just starting a joint project with the artisans of a straw weaving cooperative from Ingal. Together, they will be hand crafting striking straw tote bags enhanced with leather work featuring the saturated ochre, turquoise, magenta and black in the traditional Tuareg style. We can't wait to share our new styles with you... look for us on eBay Giving Works this spring, or directly from our website at www.rain4sahara.org.
Best wishes for the New Year and grateful tidings for all your support from the staff at RAIN and our Tuareg and Wodaabe partners!