In 2015, RAIN will be focusing on the expansion, improvement and rehabilitation of existing School Market Gardens and their attendant wells in current partner communities before expanding into new communities. Existing gardens will be expanded from 500 square meters to 1,000 square meters to accommodate cash crops, increasing sustainability. In some communities, the gardens need intensive rehabilitation due to recent floods, droughts and changes in nomadic living patterns. As our agricultural programs develop they are taking the form of mainly women driven community wide gardens that not only support schools but benefit entire communities on a wider scale.
To reflect this shift in scope, look for our Community Garden microproject coming soon - another opportunity to support organic food production in Niger. RAIN will provide a tailored action plan for each partner community - for example, in Gougaram, we're strengthening their current gardens with small grants, training and educational opportunities. For Ingui, the well will be restored and the School Market Garden expanded. In Mari, RAIN will continue to build on the success of the Women's Garden and as a launching pad for our pioneering garden-as-classroom cirriculum in organic techniques, crop variety and rotation, and maximizing nutrition for children and adults alike.
We plan to launch a Microproject focusing on our community garden grants program with this wider focus. An additional Microproject will support improvements to our Agadez Learning Center - a "home away from home" for nomadic students persuing middle school - which will include a 1,000 square meter School Market Garden to provide produce to the students and help support the center. We hope you'll continue to support food security to the most remote struggling in the Sahel and Sahara with these new opportunities!
The RAIN TeamU.S. & Niger
Since expanding to the southern Tillaberi region of Niger in 2009, RAIN has gained many motivated community partners in creating sustainable food security solutions for the nomadic and semi-nomadic people who call this region their home. As in all rural areas of the country, recovery is still in process from the recent droughts that decimated crops and herds.We're happy to share news of hope and renewal from the communities of Nassile and Tirboye as they embark on garden and well projects with your support behind them every step of the way.
Nassile Elementary School - Drip Irrigated School Market Garden and Well Installation
The Nassile School serves several surrounding area hamlets, which means most students walk long distances to get to school. Their new 1,000 square meter drip irrigated garden will ensure that a variety of healthy food is provided for them.
Water IssuesBefore the updated well installation, women would pull water for their families from a traditional masa-masa well. Besides the poor water quality, the low output left the women waiting for trickles of water until midnight. Many families skipped dinner simply due to a lack of water.
Families now enjoy the benefits of the School Garden well, including greater output and highter quality water. The well fills to the rim during the dry season, and provides fresh water 6-7 months of the year as the water table slowly descends.
Once the well, water tank, and fence work was finished, mentors, local school gardeners, and school staff members were trained to install drip irrigation systems. As the school year ends and the rainy season approaches, students help to plant mango, guava, and papaya saplings for long term sustainability. To date, the garden has produced a successful harvest of over 150kg of cucumbers and about 30 melons at the end of the hot season. Adults and children alike had never seen or heard of a cucumber before cultivating them. Hot season gardening is new to these communities. The possibility of a hot season harvest was demonstrated by the successful harvest of these pilot crops - resulting in greater food security for all.Tirboye School Garden with Drip IrrigationInstalled near the Gorou Bi, a seasonal river and major tributary of the Niger River, Tirboye's garden is experimenting with papaya trees in addition to mango and guava. The local soil is hard clay, and after an unsuccessful season, we realized that the addition of fertilization with compost is necessary. Though most residents moved out to huts in their fields at the start of the rainy season, RAIN mentors, several students, Tchindo the gardener, and other volunteers joined forces to plant fruit trees and begin to prepare for a rainy season crop of okra, beans, and sesame. Tchindo planted mango trees in the school yard, using thorn fencing as protection from animals. Fruit is not only an important nutritional addition for the students - it also has the best potential as cash crops.Year round planting, larger and more diverse crops, and fresh water, when added to the hard work and dedication of our partner communities, brings bounty in the arid Sahel and keeps children healthy and in school. None of it is possible without your support - thank you!P.S. GlobalGiving will match each donation to School Market Gardens 40% starting 9am EST on July 16th. Giving on this day will mean nearly twice the benefit to families in Niger! Please share this amazing opportunity with your friends and family.
From March to June, the hot season bakes the life out of the Sahel, the southern fringes of the Sahara Desert. For the RAIN partner community of Tirboye in Niger, a new drip-irrigated school market garden will bring the welcome surprise of new crop life during this traditionally barren period.
Drip irrigation decreases the amount of water used, reduces the labor demands of gardening, and allows for year round crop cultivation, even in one of the most arid places in the world. Tirboye is a village primarily made up of Gourmance people, an ethnic group known for their agricultural acumen, and men and women alike can be found breaking up the hard desert earth with traditional hand-crafted hoes. A RAIN school market garden is the perfect solution for Tirboye, bringing schoolchildren, teachers and mentors together to overcome formidable obstacles to education and food security through modern agricultural techniques. During this hot season, the clay soil in Tirboye becomes so baked, that after breaking it apart with pick-axes, the resulting chunks of earth are literally pulverized to create a texture suitable for planting.
In a community where the children have never seen, let alone tasted, a tomato, carrot, or melon, the photos featured on their seed packages act as a strong motivator for the arduous and intensive task of planting a garden in the scorching sun. Our five women mentors, who each sponsor five local at-risk girls, will be assisting the hired gardener and school staff in installing a year-round crop-producing plot from land traditionally used only three months during the year. A seed nursery is also being installed to ensure continuity of crops regardless of seed availability. After the first harvest of crops that include moringa tree saplings, a source of the most nutritional edible leaf in the world, fruit trees, a lucrative cash crop, will be planted along the outer edge of the garden, enclosing this future pocket of paradise. The community has also expressed interest in cultivating fruits such as mango, guava and papaya.
The Tirboye school community and mentoring support system are at the start of growing a miraculous mirage that will soon flourish, supplying undernourished students with vitamin-rich vegetables and fruits at the edge of the vast Sahel desert. With cash crops to support the school, the garden will foster the growth of the school, enlarging its capacity to provide the foundation for an academic education while serving as a living classroom for lessons in food security that will endure over generations for this subsistence farming community.
Sustainable agriculture is key to lifting rural families out of poverty and chronic malnutrition. In Sub-Saharan Africa, women grow as much as 90% of the region's food. However, custom and family demands often prevent women from spending the time needed to cultivate agriculture. An optimal solution is a large communal garden with drip irrigation.
The women in our partner communities become empowered by the process of the school market gardens - they head the committees that make planting and harvesting decisions, become literate in accounting, and learn how to harvest and prepare the crops for sale. It's only natural that the next step would be to empower them with greater food security by investing in their own garden cooperatives.
Building upon the successful School Market Garden model, RAIN has initiated our first women’s agricultural cooperative in the Tillaberi community of Mari. The Mari garden was installed with 99 women who are finding empowerment and food security, as well as receiving training in organic agriculture techniques and nutrition. The cooperative garden model ensures consistent watering through group effort. Profits are increased by each member’s participation in money-saving marketing and delivery methods. Each woman contributes to the monthly salary of a gardener to run the drip irrigation system, allowing her a flexible schedule. Using solar drying ovens provided by RAIN, they prepare, dry and preserve the produce for sale in local markets. They also sell seeds as well. As in our artisan cooperatives, the women keep 50% of the proceeds and donate the remainder to their children's schools.
The 5,000 square meter Mari community garden is one of the largest of its kind in Niger. From weekly classes taught by RAIN staff Brian Nowak and Halima Aboubacar, we've created a dedicated study guide focused on organic gardening techniques, health and nutrition, and crop selection for profitability. Designed for those who are unable to read, the study guides utilize illustrated flip charts for easy reference with an emphasis on oral instruction and hands-on experience. Already in Mari, encouraging the community with inexpensive ways to boost nutrition has taught the value of a healthy organic lifestyle. The introduction of three season crops and providing the foundation for a seed bank has brought increased crop yields.
Here in traditional hamlets and familial encampments in the middle of nowhere, the best of humanity is shining through in the face of continued hardships. We'll be continuing with the Mari agricultural co-op as the women learn how to better market their crops and earn more income for their families. In 2014, we hope to bring community gardens to women in more nomadic communities in Niger. During the next three months, GlobalGiving will be featuring a microproject page to help fund this goal. We know that helping our friends in West Africa achieve food security is important to you, so we thought we'd share this exciting addition to our sustainable agriculture programs. Why not give a gift donation to someone who shares your passion this year?
Thank you for all you do for rural and nomadic desert communities!
Wishing you Happy Holidays and great things in the year to come,
The RAIN team
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.
AkokanIn 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.
IferouaneJanuary 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.
GougaramGarden 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:
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.
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