Relief International’s animal restocking program in Niger works with widowed or abandoned women who have children and other dependents, helping them to build up lost herds and flocks in a sustainable way. To date, animal purchases, vaccinations, and distributions have taken place at 17 of the 20 Relief International-supported villages in Niger, with a total of 408 cows and 1600 sheep or goats now loaned to vulnerable community members.
The methodology being used to purchase and distribute animals through this project is proving to be highly successful, and adheres to longstanding nomadic cultural norms in the zone. At each distribution site, RI staff conduct meetings with the whole community to establish terms of reference of the animal loans, to discuss the importance of prioritizing female beneficiaries, and to elect community purchasing committees, whose responsibilities include carrying out the purchasing decisions of beneficiaries regarding animal type (cows, goats sheep etc), and helping to determine animal quality, race, and health. After the terms of references have been established, and the particular animal decisions have been made by beneficiaries, a formal contract is signed by the chief and committee of each site and the RI project staff.
The innovative aspect of this loan project is that the livestock purchased and distributed are not one-off payments to beneficiaries. Rather, the project adheres to a traditional stock-loan methodology, where each beneficiary is required to give back one (same sex) offspring for each animal they receive. Only after they have done so are the original livestock their own to keep. The offspring are then re-distributed to other beneficiaries, which cannot be members of the same family and must have been pre-determined by the site committee. Second-round beneficiaries receive the same number of animals and are subject to the same conditions as first-round beneficiaries.
Members of the Government Veterinary Technical Services in Abalak have accompanied project staff and community committees on each animal purchase and distribution mission, and are specifically tasked with inspecting prospective livestock for health, quality, and cost, vaccinating all purchased livestock against the main diseases in the region, and overseeing distribution. This provides additional transparency to the activity, helps to build relations between government and citizen, and helps to ensure accountability of the project to beneficiaries. The role of the Technical Services also includes writing reports about each mission, and making recommendations for future methodological adjustments.