Learning and Earning Groups (LEGS) are groups of dedicated nomadic women who come together to build new livelihoods for themselves and their families and support their local schools.
Drawing upon traditional heritage to create new livelihoods. In 2007, Akadaka Alhassane, a Tuareg woman from Gougaram, asked if RAIN could develop a program to help her group of straw and leather artisans earn money. We asked the women if they would be willing to share their profits with their local school. The answer was an enthusiastic yes. So began RAIN's first artisan cooperative.
Since partnering with RAIN, the Gougaram Women's Artisan Cooperative and the Wodaabe Barka Embroidery Cooperative have collectively earned over $16,000 - with half donated to funding school programs. The women have used their school support accounts to purchase medical care, clothing, shoes, mattresses, blankets, and books as well as provide salaries for teachers and cooks.
RAIN is celebrating the recent addition of a new group - Albaye (the word for the traditional Tuareg wallet) - Tuareg women who produce beautiful hand crafted purses and other items. Recently, the women of Albaye have been collaborating with a staw-weaving cooperative of Ingal - producing beautiful and unique tote bags, with the help of master craftsman Ilya Addoh.
RAIN provides the seed money for materials, design instruction and training, space to work, and a tailor. We then purchase the finished items from the women for sale in the U.S. RAIN is currently working towards establishing markets in the capitals of Niamey and Agadez for artisan items, and assisting the women in becoming members of their regional trade associations.
Each artisan cooperative is rooted in the unique cultural and artistic traditions of their particular ethnic group. Tuareg women work in straw and leather, and the Wodaabe have a long history in embroidery. The rural nomadic women who make up the cooperatives start without knowledge of how to measure, follow a pattern, or conduct basic accounting. Already talented, these women hone and refine their abilities to become true professional artisans, able to trade with the modern world while preserving the traditions that define each group's unique identity. Above, Wodaabe artisans measure fabric. Below left, "Albaye"
New and old techniques come together to increase livestock for all. Though our partner communities are traditionally herders, knowledge of best animal husbandry practices can be lacking. RAIN is investing in livestock cultivation not only by providing women with "starter animals" to create their own herds of goats and sheep, but by providing training in health, nutrition and management of their livestock. Additional income can be made from the production of salt licks and the sale of milk. A common rural practice called embouche entails building up of livestock for sale during the holiday of Tabaski, when there is a high demand.
Another challenge faced by these remote communities is obtaining the supplies basic to living - items such asoil, millet, tea, soap and other staples. Heads of households must often travel long distances, expending precious resources while risking spoilage or loss. A common business venture for women is purchasing essential items from the local town and reselling the items to their communities.
Learn more about our work in Niger.
RAIN for the Sahel and Sahara is a nonprofit 501(c)3 working to make a lasting difference in Africa.