Rain for the Sahel and Sahara

Rain for the Sahel and Sahara (RAIN) partners with rural and nomadic desert people of West Africa to enable enduring livelihoods through access to education.
Mar 1, 2013

Meet Mariama from Gougaram!

Mariama Mowli (at right) with her mentor Asha.
Mariama Mowli (at right) with her mentor Asha.

The village of Gougaram, remotely located at the gate of the Saharan Air Mountains in northern Niger, has experienced incredible challenges in this already hostile landscape. In addition to constant threats of food shortage and drought, the majority of Gougaram fled during the conflict with the previous government, settling in makeshift refugee camps on the outskirts of the uranium mining city of Arlit. After the conflict, the Gougaram community returned to a devastated landscape with a government military camp established in the center of the village. Distancing themselves from the military, residents settled in several hamlets across a two-mile radius around the local elementary school.

In part due to your generous support, RAIN mentors immediately tackled the challenge of getting their school back on track after returning from the refugee camps. For the past three years, Gougaram women have succeeded as mentors and role models, encouraging their community to focus on education and community development. Twelve women from five different hamlets are engaging their communities in important conversations about the value of education, the pitfalls of early marriage for young girls, and hygiene and health issues. 

Your support also provides the opportunity for at-risk girls in Gougaram to benefit from counseling, awareness raising group discussions, advocacy at the school and family level, and important practical skills training in traditional crafts. The women of Gougaram proudly announced to RAIN staff that all twelve girls in their final year of elementary school graduated this year, thanks to the mentoring program.

In Niger, rural children rarely finish the six-year elementary school cycle, which is based on the French system. Most rural villages that are lucky enough to have an elementary school are forced to send children to towns and cities if they want to continue studying onto middle school. At the end of the 2011-12 school year, twelve girls have set a precedent as role models for younger girls, demonstrating the impact and success of the mentoring program as they braved the necessary relocations in order to continue their education.

We met 15 year-old Mariama, a student in our Gougaram mentoring program, during her winter break. Mariama was proud to show us her leather work, including finishing the final decorations for a tea bag for her aunt was working on. Practical skills training that includes artisan craft workshops are an important way to reinforce local traditional activities while providing the girls with a way to earn some money. 

Mariama explained how her practical skills training allowed her to improve her life while in school. “My father gave me some money upon leaving for college in Arlit. I purchased some leather and made leather key chains to sell in town. So far, I’ve sold six key chains for 500cfa each (~$1 each). I bought food with this money.” The skills that girls like Mariama learn from their mentors help them to continue their education while feeling more independent and responsible.   

These women and young girls are grateful for your concern and the support you’ve given them so they may get a “leg up” in difficult times. Women and children can only show their thanks through their stories, photos, and smiles of success as they take the lead in improving the lives of their families and neighbors. At RAIN, we wish we could share with you the gifts of goat cheese and camel milk offered to our staff during fieldwork missions, as they truly represent the culture of thanks and giving in demonstration of their deep gratitude!   

Mentor President Hawa Hanzou with mentored girls.
Mentor President Hawa Hanzou with mentored girls.

Links:

Jan 25, 2013

Update: Food Aid for the Community of Seiga

Community meeting at Seiga school
Community meeting at Seiga school

Earlier, we shared with you the food relief efforts made possible by your support for the remote community of Seiga in the Tillaberi region of Niger. Here is an update on their progress.

The Seiga community closed the most difficult period of the year for grain availability with RAIN's food aid program. Subsidized sales of the grain provided by RAIN increased access to staple foods while at the same time, generating support for the Seiga elementary school.

Community granaries depleted months after a sporadic harvest and the ensuing food crisis following the 2011 rainy season. During the long wait to the 2012 harvest, vendors sold imported grains in rural markets according to the prevailing market rule: the closer to harvest, the higher the price. RAIN's food aid program aimed at providing reduced-cost food to struggling families that have been reducing meal quantity and quality for months.

After a meeting with School Director, Parent-School Association members, RAIN mentors and other important members of the community, the community decided on a grain price just under half of the market value in order to maximize the programs' benefit to the struggling school, where many nomadic children are fed regularly. The community’s commitment to education impressed us, as had we anticipated a they would set the sale price lower than they did.

Seiga is an incredibly poor community with a history of school setbacks and food crises. Thanks to your support, RAIN bridged the hunger gap before the harvest providing relief from the physical discomfort and emotional drain that hunger brings. This program also directed benefits towards school improvement, drawing families’ attention to the importance of education.

The school earned 405,425CFA, or a little over $800, from the subsidized grain sales. The school staff and community will decide how they will spend this money to support the school in February. 

Seiga children and parents with grain delivery
Seiga children and parents with grain delivery

Links:

Jan 13, 2013

Hands On Learning for the Children of Tagantassou

Garden curriculum materials
Garden curriculum materials

The Tagantassou primary school in the Tillaberi region of Niger is a typical small village school: a few cement classrooms with scrappy furniture, many grass mat classes built by the community with children sitting on the floor in some cases, and few educational materials. In part with your support, the RAIN drip-irrigation School Market Garden has provided vital nutritious vegetables for the students while acting as a sustainable source of revenue for school supplies. This year, the garden will increase in value as the site of a pilot program, wherein it is transformed into a living classroom providing hands-on learning experience for children.

Using textbooks provided by RAIN, a 4-month curriculum of study has been created, focusing on environmental science, agriculture, nutrition and health. The curriculum combines classroom learning with agricultural activities, including weekly data collection in the garden. Through participation in the harvesting and sale of crops, students will learn important mathematics and logistical lessons in small business accounting and organization in addition to new techniques in irrigation, cultivation and organic pest control.

The winter season is ideal to garden in Niger, and the drip irrigation system is close to being fully installed, ready for the new plantings. Seedlings will be ready for transplant in less than two weeks, at which time the students will begin their specialized studies. We are very enthusiastic about this project and the prospect of adopting this hands-on model in all our School Market Gardens in the coming year. The drip irrigated school market garden with cash crop sustainability enhanced by the agricultural curriculum exemplifies RAIN’s integrated approach to long lasting change for rural communities in one of the world’s poorest countries.

Tagantassou School Director working in garden
Tagantassou School Director working in garden
Tagantassou classroom
Tagantassou classroom
RAIN Board Chair John Ahlgren in garden
RAIN Board Chair John Ahlgren in garden

Links:

 
   

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