Brian and Bess taking garden measurements
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.
In 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.
January 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.
Garden 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:
- Arrange a meeting between Bess and Brian with the greater Gougaram community;
- Conduct a monitoring visit to the women’s garden in Gougaram once installed.
- Interview the gardeners and increase the school market garden growing area from 500 sq. meters to 1,000.
- Investigate the potential of creating a local niche market for the women’s garden cooperative for the preserving, packaging and selling of surplus produce.
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.
Gougaram well improvements
Bess and Brian talk with the women of Gougaram
No Club Med: Brian hits the sack desert style.
Mentors of Akokan