Until recently, RAIN solely worked in the Agadez region of Niger, the heart of the nomadic desert. Due to expansion and growth (in great part because of friends like you), RAIN has been able to answer requests for gardens from communities in the Tillaberi region. Tillaberi is a densely populated region of 2,200,000 people, located a four hour drive away from the capital, Niamey. Communities in Tillaberi are among the most food insecure in all of Niger, yet many receive little or nor assistance.
The five RAIN partner communities in Tillaberi are Lemdou, Tagantassou, Tangouchman, Bonfeba, and Ingui. Unlike Agadez, which is nearly all desert, Tillaberi borders the Sahel region, which has areas of green land, more conducive to agriculture. A primary goal of our market gardens is to build skills and improvements in sustainable communal agricultural practices. These remote pastoral communities have little experience in agriculture. In Niger drought is common – during times of drought pasture land is sparse and nomadic herders lose their animals – often their only source of food and livelihoods. They must gain skills raising crops to ensure future food security.
Skills which we seek to improve include community organization, building fences, installing and learning drip irrigation practices (new to much of Niger), biological pest control, crop rotation, sharing knowledge, harvesting, food storage and transport, marketing skills, and evaluating outcomes.
Each garden comprises four parties that work together - a monitoring committee, the master gardener, RAIN staff, and most importantly, individual community members themselves. Together with the monitoring committee, RAIN staff will visit each market garden to assess progress, evaluate if the garden has reached self sustainability, and engage in dialogue for feedback. The master gardener instructs the community on how to install, maintain and harvest the crops, and monitors the drip irrigation systems. The lion's share of contribution comes from the community - the parents, teachers, and leaders who come together and plant the garden, build fences, install the irrigation, and harvest and prepare the produce.
One 1,000 square meter garden with drip irrigation can produce almost three tons of produce in a single growing season. This year, the Lemdou market garden produced 80kg of melons, 10kg of corn, 8k of tomatoes, 11kgs of lemons, 60kg of cabbage, 70kg of salad greens and 41kgs of potatoes, among other crops. The garden has created two months of meals for 146 students at the school, and generated 40,000 fcfa ($80) in school supporting income, which goes a long way in Niger.
Some RAIN market gardens are incorporating poultry for the first time, such as at Tagantassou, providing sources of protein through the eggs and meat for the children.
In Niger, the next few months are know universally as "the hungry season." Not so for RAIN partner communities in Tillaberi! The families of these five villages extend their hearts and hands in gratitude to you for the important role you play in making food security a reality for them. Tanmeert.
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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