Relief International has been working in Niger since August 2005, helping to rebuild the livelihoods of more than 14,000 nomadic herders devastated by the famine of that same year. Since arriving, RI has seen how home gardens have great potential for improving household food security and alleviating micronutrient deficiencies, provided communities can access sufficient water. It is clear that gardening can enhance food security in several ways, most importantly through: 1) direct access to a diversity of nutritionally-rich foods, 2) increased purchasing power from savings on food bills and income from sales of garden products, and 3) fall-back food provision during seasonal lean periods.
In partnership with local government in the north of the country, a local herders association, and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (UN FAO), Relief International has identified some 79 hectares of land in the arid north of the country which could be used by local communities to create home gardens. Consequently, RI is in the process of digging 132 shallow garden wells (each maximum 15 metres deep) to provide semi-permanent water resources for up to 14,000 agro-pastoralists in order that communities can develop home gardens and diversify their diets. Previously, they have relied solely on animal products and just two staple crops (millet and sorghum) for all their nutritional needs.
RI also provides agricultural extension training, seeds, and tools so that community members can create small plots for their families. During the cooler dry season in November/December, these plots will be prepared with animal manure and sown. These dry-season crops are those that usually grow in temperate climates, such as tomatoes, onions, cabbages, potatoes, and carrots.