RAIN's School Market Gardens provide food for students, income for the community and the school, and teach sustainable agriculture. How else can the garden provide increased benefits to the community?
The answer: solar ovens. In the remote regions of Niger where RAIN's partner communities live, electricity is not available, and refrigeration is not a viable option to preserve food. Traditionally, drying is the preferred method in the Sahara to extend the life of food from times of plenty through more scarcer times. Solar ovens were created exactly for that purpose, and increase the capacity of a community to store and transport food.
This valuable addition to our School Market Gardens is getting its very first try out in the village of Bonfeba in the Tillaberi region. Bonfeba has worked hard to plant their new garden and dig the communities' first well with RAIN. As the first crops come in, a women's cooperative will begin drying tomatoes, onions and peppers with the new solar oven. Tomatoes are an important staple in the nomadic diet, and along with the peppers and onion tops, fortify sauces for childrens meals and are the basis of many soups. When the first fruit trees come in, fruits such as mangos and papyas will also be dried by the women.
Once dried, the food can then be stored in jars and either kept for the school or sold in local markets, the funds to be invested back into the community and school.
We expect this to be a good stride forward towards food security for Bonfeba, and plan to introduce more solar ovens to future partner communities as an integral part of the RAIN School Market Garden program!
There are a number of organizations that donate food to some of Niger’s schools each year. These gifts are generous and appreciated, but once the food is gone, the same barren schools with the same hungry children remain. Not so for Bonfeba.
Bonfeba is a village located on the Niger River, in the Tillaberi region, approximately a two-hour journey from the capital, Niamey. Though the village does have a state run boarding school, enrollment has been historically low due to lack of food or supplies at the school for the children. Without sustainable agriculture, Bonfeba, like many communities in Niger, had no food reserves to carry through the harsh summer of drought and food shortages.
With RAIN's help, along with the parents of Bonfeba, Rotary International, and supporters like you, Bonfeba is getting a leg up. This fall, a half-acre school market garden has been installed - complete with well, cistern and drip irrigation system. RAIN is introducing the community to drip irrigation to provide an ideal flow of water to the garden, while using much less water than traditional irrigation methods do. This garden will grow fresh food for the children, as well as produce cash crops to pay garden expenses and generate funds for the school, which has 247 children -- many of whom must live there while their parents search for pasture land. The garden project also includes a surrounding fence to protect it from animals, a motor pump to pull water from the well, and a gardener salary for the first three months.
Not only will the students of Bonfeba school now have food to eat, but the whole community will have clean drinking water for the very first time as a result of this project. Bonfeba is located beside a shallow and stagnant pool of water that served as the community’s only source of drinking water until RAIN dug Bonfeba’s first well. This water will bring better health to hundreds who regularly suffer from dysentery and other illnesses caused by a polluted water supply.
The village chief of Bonfeba, Dr. Bako, expressed to RAIN staff Abdou Koini: “This modern garden brings much hope for future food security in Bonfeba. It gives us the possibility of generating food, along with money to help the school. In the view of this community, this garden project is salutary!”
With the kids now in school and the community poised to support itself through future tough times, we think you'll agree!
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