Rain for the Sahel and Sahara

Rain for the Sahel and Sahara (RAIN) forges partnerships with 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.
Aug 20, 2013

2013 Agriculture Update: Arlit Region

Brian and Bess taking garden measurements
Brian and Bess taking garden measurements

2012-13 has seen RAIN School Market Gardens generating a positive impact in the partner communities of the northern Arlit region of Niger and has led to the increase in overall number of community residents.  

Akokan
In January, RAIN Niger staff conducted a tour and met with the group of mentors of Akokan, who are into their 8th year of working together in small enterprise and guiding at-risk girls. Staff member Halima Aboubacar presented an evaluation of current agricultural activity in the community as well the performance thus far of the mentor 3 year goat herding activity and the impacts of the savings and loan program on the most recent year of enterprise. The goat herding and savings and loan programs are functioning well, allowing women more economic independence and the opportunity to plan financially for various needs throughout the year.

Iferouane
January 2013
: RAIN staff conducted an interview with the Agricultural Director of Iférouane regarding the engagement of an agricultural specialist for the ongoing maintenance, monitoring and evaluation of Iférouane gardens. RAIN prefers to recruit local talent to ensure the continuity of access that comes with the greater level of availability along with a deeper relationship to the community. After the technician was identified, a meeting was held with staff in Agadez and Niamey to plan for activities for the year. February: Halima Aboubacar meets with mentors, orders for the season are placed and payments disbursed. The future school and garden site were surveyed, as well as the non-functioning well, which is determined to likely cause delays in the garden installation process.

Residents of Iferouane were introduced to monitoring and evaluation tools to use for their future School Market Gardens, including:

1) How to record crop performance: number of crops, level of diversity, harvests success and failures using a RAIN  designed tracking sheet;

2)  Evaluation of the condition of the materials and equipment at the start and end of each growing season;

3)  Reviewing the use of organic pesticides – the types utilized and the number of applications needed per season;

4)  Regular communication with the local garden specialist on the progress of crops.

Gougaram
Garden background
: The school market garden in Gougaram was first installed in 1979 to support and teach students. In 2002, RAIN reinvigorated community interest in the garden and invested in a professional gardener. In 2007, the garden was damaged in conflict, and was rehabilitated with the help of RAIN in 2011 and again in 2012 due to floods.

January 2013: Niger staff visited Gougaram to gather information regarding the feasibility of the installation of a 5,000 sq. meter women’s agricultural cooperative garden for the community. February: Staff conducted measurements of the garden site, created a budget for well repairs, and determined the fencing requirements to ensure security from animals. March: Founder and Executive Director Bess Palmisciano, Board Chair John Ahlgren, Niger Program Director Brian Nowak and Agricultural Coordinator Koini Abdourahmane visited the Gougaram School Market Garden. A community meeting was held in the presence of the Gougaram COGES (PTA), mentors and artisans to discuss the monitoring of the established cereal bank, management of the school canteen, initiating mentoring and practical skills classes for the year, adding mentors to the current group, and the possible installation of the women’s cooperative garden. School market garden issues were discussed, including management strategies, garden maintenance costs, the percentage of crops consumed vs. sold in the past growing season, and the individual benefits of the garden for each individual.

On the agenda Fall 2013:

  1. Arrange a meeting between Bess and Brian with the greater Gougaram community;
  2. Conduct a monitoring visit to the women’s garden in Gougaram once installed. 
  3. Interview the gardeners and increase the school market garden growing area from 500 sq. meters to 1,000.
  4. Investigate the potential of creating a local niche market for the women’s garden cooperative for the preserving, packaging and selling of surplus produce.

Spring 2013 Survey – Gougaram Agriculture Cooperative

The Gougaram Agriculture Cooperative is a project in the planning stages with the goal of organizing independent gardeners, providing small scale garden grants, and training in organic techniques, marketing, crop diversity, and improved techniques. We hope to initiate activities this year. On this round of community field visits, RAIN staff identified 16 potential future garden sites with at least one well. Current crop cultivation remains primarily subsistence level with very low production yield potential. Communities with access to a vehicle have the ability to generate income selling surplus crops in Arlit. Of the 16 communities surveyed, only 2% currently produce lemon trees. However, the potential for fruit tree cultivation is high, as the valley has a climate similar to the Timia region, which is an area producing high volumes of various citrus fruits. Fruit trees provide scarce shade, contribute to variety and nutritional diversity, and make for an excellent cash crop.

Gougaram well improvements
Gougaram well improvements
Bess and Brian talk with the women of Gougaram
Bess and Brian talk with the women of Gougaram
Garden progress!
Garden progress!
No Club Med: Brian hits the sack desert style.
No Club Med: Brian hits the sack desert style.
Mentors of Akokan
Mentors of Akokan

Links:

Jul 8, 2013

Ancient artistry empowers Wodaabe women

Embroidery is naturally a social activity.
Embroidery is naturally a social activity.

Niger’s Wodaabe cattle herders remain one of the most nomadic groups in the world today. They experience many difficulties related to their marginalized status in Niger, however this same status has allowed for many ancient traditions to remain intact, including the legendary tradition of women’s embroidery.

Women play an important role in Wodaabe society. One aspect that expresses this is ownership of the family milk and of the calabash gourds that hold it. The gourds are passed down through generations of women, carved and decorated in special motifs that are covered up with palm fronds to ensure secrecy.  Men use the calabash to catch the milk, then return the full calabash to the women, who in turn offer it to children and family members or use it to make yogurt or butter for sale.

Wodaabe women also hold the honored duty of embroidering the long dance tunics specially donned by adolescent men in ritual dances. One of the most important dances, the gereewol is a competition wherein young women decide which men are most attractive and representative of their culture in their dance - also in essence choosing among them whom they would like to court.

The symbols prominent in their embroidery feature themes reflecting the nomadic life of the Wodaabe. There are symbols for star, cow’s eye, the calf rope, sleeping children, and the road, among many others. These symbols represent the aesthetic and cultural identity dating back thousands of years, as evidenced in rock carvings hewn from a time when the Sahara desert was forested.  The material of choice is consistently handspun woven cotton bands sewn together into cloth, often died with indigo.
    
Wodaabe women often embroider for their families, but the women of the Barka Cooperative in Foudouk are creating new products, adapting their craft for international markets. With support from RAIN and donors like you, the women design embroidery for T-shirts, purses, and decorative scarves. These activities serve to preserve their culture while adapting to the ever-changing world. Much like the special ownership of milk in their pastoral lives, embroidery co-ops further empower Wodaabe women in our partner communities to grow more economically independent and better able to fight for the survival of their families in one of the most hostile environments in the world.

Wodaabe symbol "cow eye"
Wodaabe symbol "cow eye"
Wodaabe symbol "star"
Wodaabe symbol "star"
Cotton strips with embroidered symbols
Cotton strips with embroidered symbols
Wodaabe male gereewol dancer wearing special tunic
Wodaabe male gereewol dancer wearing special tunic

Links:

May 20, 2013

Mothers & Mentors: Tanalher & Assalama

Tanalher with her daughters. Fatima  is 2nd from L
Tanalher with her daughters. Fatima is 2nd from L

RAIN programs are all about mutual support between families and community members and there is no program for which that is more so than the mentoring program. On their last visit to Iferouane, a community in the remote northern Air Massif - the homeland of Niger's nomadic Tuareg people, our staff caught up with two women bound together by RAIN - a mother and her daughter's mentor.

Tanalher: A mother on her own
Tanalher Illias is a mother of eight children and three adopted children. She lost her husband in 2009 and is now raising the children on her own. She’s doing her best to eke out a living from the garden she inherited from her husband, but it’s a challenge. Despite her hardships, Tanalher enrolled her ten school-age children in school.  One of her daughters, Fatima, is a student in RAIN’s mentoring program. Tanalher does everything she can to help her children despite the difficulties she faces. She exists on the edge; her struggle is constant. Tanalher related to RAIN staff that her daughter’s mentor, Assalama Attaher, has taken on the task of supporting Fatima through school.

“I hope all my daughters can take part in the mentoring program one day with mentors like Assalama.“

Assalama: The RAIN mentor who goes above and beyond
Assalama Attaher is a midwife and volunteer RAIN mentor. She is devoted to her village, known for her services even during conflicts and displacements, saving many lives. Though Assalama is poor, her famliy enjoys a level of security that most of her neighbors in Iferouane do not.  She has chosen independently of RAIN to further support the children she mentors, including Tanalher’s daughter Fatima, by funding their school expenses and providing food and other necessities when needed. Assalama says that she makes this gift to her group of students to encourage them to stay in school and work hard.

“I call upon all the women in Iferouane to do good for their children, and for all the children in their community. “  

It’s these everyday stories of dedicated parents, mentors and entire communities working together that makes RAIN happen in Niger. Your contribution helps to bring mentoring to more rural women and girls in need. Thank you!

Assalama with her students, including Fatima.
Assalama with her students, including Fatima.

Links:

An anonymous donor will match all new monthly recurring donations, but only if 75% of donors upgrade to a recurring donation today.
Terms and conditions apply.
Make a monthly recurring donation on your credit card. You can cancel at any time.
Make a donation in honor or memory of:
What kind of card would you like to send?
How much would you like to donate?
  • $10
  • $20
  • $40
  • $250
  • $400
  • $5,000
  • $10
    each month
  • $20
    each month
  • $40
    each month
  • $250
    each month
  • $400
    each month
  • $5,000
    each month
  • $
gift Make this donation a gift, in honor of, or in memory of someone?

Reviews of Rain for the Sahel and Sahara

Great Nonprofits
Read and write reviews about Rain for the Sahel and Sahara on GreatNonProfits.org.