The remote community of Seiga is located near a lake in the Tillaberi region of Niger, bordering Mali in the southern part of the country. Seiga and it's surrounding communities of Tooru Tondi and Belkou are comprised of nomadic herders of cows, goats, sheep and camels. The village is now primarily women, as the men migrate in search of pasturelands or work. The Tillaberi region is one of the most food insecure regions of Niger, and Seiga is no exception. This past year found Seiga highly impacted by the effects of drought with food stores and income at an all time low. Responding to the community’s short-term and long-term needs, RAIN has initiated various herding and animal husbandry related income generated activities (IGA's). These activities serve to build sustainable ways to provide a source of revenue in times of need, and allow women to directly participate in supporting their community. Women from Seiga and the surrounding communities skilled in traditional crafts are now expressing interest to RAIN in forming an artisan co-operative as another IGA with the understanding that 50% of their income will support their children’s schools.
The women of Seiga primarily work with straw, prevalent among the Bellah (a class of former slave families), creating both baskets and elaborate decorative mats that may be used as placemats, trivets or home decor. RAIN plans to provide the raw materials and assist the artisans in honing their skills through training sessions. We are exploring the possibility of partnering with SAFEM (Salon Artisanat pour des Femmes), the primary artisan association of Niger.
Very few women have the knowledge of how to make the most elaborate item, the Teydeyint decorated tent wall mat. There is a great variety of designs for the teydeyint and the efartay (smaller decorative mat) that may be adapted for a variety of different products. Along with the Bellah people in Seiga is a smaller number of Inaden families, members of the Tuareg crafts class. These families specialize in metal, wood and leather work. Inaden’s heritage as artisans, the Belkou Inaden knowledge of most traditional craft items, and the fact that they remain dedicated to local level production demonstrate the importance of including them in RAIN's artisan cooperative. They will add variety with both Inaden-produced items or with the creation of new items based on the Inaden skill base.
Currently, most sales are commissioned, but they may also put items into the local Bankilare or Tegue markets. Participating in an artisan cooperative with RAIN will provide much needed additional income and expand the scope of their current sales from local to international.
All the raw materials needed are purchased from local markets and include wood, various raw metals, akof (palm fronds), tezawen (reed grass), leather, naturally produced dyes, yarn and mirrors.
Items created by Bellah people include:
Efartay: small decorative straw matEfartay wan tikan: very small efartay Eytewel: winnowing pan with sides Leyfey wan asahar: winnowing panLeyfay wan eghaf: cone winnowing pan cover Leyfey tilliwan: small, yarn-wrapped winnowing pan Lgaraygaraya/Isanam: decorated hanging leather panels with fringe and mirrors Alaami: turquoise leather panelsTekurut/Essarer: leather tied stick mat Tasotit: simple long straw tent wall mat Tawana: hanging bowl holder with long leather fringe Teydeyint: decorated reed-grass tent wall mat
Adefur: leather pillow Agadut/Agalagut: leather bag to hold water or butter Enafat: small leather purse necklace Isamut: large leather bag for grain Izayan: large leather bag Tagbat: simple leather bag Tanuwart: large horizontal leather bag Tebawunt: large leather decorative travel sac for camelsTegarut: medium sized leather bag Spoons, decorated small spice mortars The women artisans and Inaden families would benefit from the organization of a RAIN artisan cooperative producing a variety of products, overseeing a boutique for supplies, and training children and teenagers in the community in traditional artisan skills for future livelihoods and cultural preservation. As some items needed for production fluctuate seasonally in cost, establishing a store of supplies to build during lower price periods for sale during higher price periods would allow the artisans to work throughout the year unburdened by material inflation. Artisans and older youth can work together to produce traditional and marketable products, both independently and in collaboration.
RAIN is excited about this budding artistic enterprise in Seiga, and with your support, together we can make it happen!
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!
RAIN is grateful for your partnership and caring for nomadic families in Niger who receive little or no assistance from any other source.
On Wednesday October 17th, GlobalGiving will match all donations to RAIN by 30%, providing an exciting opportunity to make an even bigger impact for food security in Niger!
Let's make the most of this chance - share with your friends and family and on your social networks, tell them why you support RAIN, and how they can acheive the good of two contributions with one - then donate as early as you can on the 17th - the matching will at $50,000. Every donation counts, and together, we can make this Bonus Day a great success.
RAIN invests in the talent of nomadic and rural women in Niger so they may hone their skills and create new livelihoods through traditional artisan crafts. RAIN provides the materials, training and marketing opportunities, and the women do the rest, creating one of a kind leather and embroidery items for sale in local markets as well as here in the U.S.
Located in Portsmouth, New Hampshire’s Commercial Alley, Fa La Lo is one of our retail partners who is proud to offer the artisan’s beautiful co-operative products for sale.
Owned by husband and wife team Liz Wright and Scott Segee since 2008, Fa La Lo has made their mission to offer a wide range of hand-crafted ceramics, jewelry, clothing and other items that are made in the U.S. and across the globe exclusively by companies that practice fair trade practices.
“Fa La Lo strives to promote the dignity of all people. Supporting RAIN is a wonderful way to accomplish this. Not only does RAIN recognize the talents of nomadic people of West Africa, they empower rural women to directly fund their children’s education while learning future livelihoods. In helping RAIN foster a U.S. market for the purses hand embroidered by Wodaabe women and Tuareg leather items, Fa La Lo works to support this empowerment. We also support RAIN with the sale of unique Tuareg jewelry, which helps fund all RAIN programs, including artisan groups. We enjoy being a part of heightening western awareness and understanding of these vibrant peoples.” – Co-Owner Liz Wright
Connecting traditional artistic traditions with the West reflects one of the central goals of RAIN’s programs: help ancient nomadic cultures adjust and thrive in the 21st century, while at the same time, support and preserve traditional culture. The women in our artisan co-operatives have the opportunity to learn new livelihoods built on the knowledge passed down from generations – translated into an immediate connection to those who purchase their beautiful products. With 100% of sales going directly back to the women, the cultural bond becomes very concrete in the form of direct support to the women, their school, and the families they keep together.
Your support of our women artisan cooperatives in Niger will have a lasting impact for empowering nomadic women to learn new livelihoods.
Please take a moment to share this project with your friends and family and what it means to you.
On Wednesday June 13th, GlobalGiving will match all donations to RAIN by 40%, providing an exciting opportunity to make even more of a difference in Niger.
Thank you for supporting RAIN! We look forward to updating you with stories from the field.
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