How do traditional nomadic herders thrive in the twenty-first century? With investment in small scale farming and supplemention of herding activities to provide diversity and reslience to food insecurity.
Gardens make sure children are fed at school. Nomadic and rural children often live so far from their nearest state-run school that they must live there, or walk ten miles or more round trip each day to attend. RAIN’s School Market Gardens keep children in school by ensuring nourishment in body as well as mind. Fruits and vegetables from the gardens provide critial nutritional supplementation of the basic staple of millet. Food is a vital component of nomadic schools - the presence of a garden immediately increases enrollment by 20%. Our cornerstone program, RAIN has installed over 15 School Market Gardens across the Agadez and Tillaberi desert regions of Niger - more than 80,000 square meters of agriculture.
Community participation and investment.
Parents, children and teachers install and help care for the gardens. Each community hires a gardener whom RAIN instructs in irrigation techniques, organic agriculture and produce marketing. With training from RAIN, a community-elected committee of volunteers oversees each garden. The gardens cover from 1,000 to 2,000 square meters and can generate up to three tons of food in a growing season - providing food for students along with cash crops, which are sold to meet garden expenses and support to the school.
Learning beyond the classroom.
School Market Gardens serve as hands-on learning centers, where children and adults alike gain valuable knowledge of agricultural techniques, nutrition, and marketing. Together with our partner communities, RAIN is planting seeds for the food security of future generations.
Women as key players in food security. Acute malnutrition in Niger is estimated at 13% -- a World Health Organization emergency level. Many rural nomadic men must travel to neighboring countries, referred to as exod, to find work - leaving women to provide and take care of their families. With RAIN's help, a situation of vulnerability is transformed into empowerment. A group of women come together to manage 1,000 to 5,000 sq. feet of crops. In these desert regions, where herding dominates and agricultural knowledge is scarce, training in organic techniques, drip irrigation, seed and crop strategies, pest control and nutrition ensures maximum benefit. Members plan budgets and crops, hire a gardener, and take turns monitoring the garden. Fresh produce provides critical supplementation to the nomadic staple diet of milk and millet. Drip irrigation means more water available for drinking and cooking.
From produce to profit. Harvest time brings another opportunity to earn desperately needed income to pay for medicine, tuition or emergency food supplies. Subsitance crops are transformed with the addition of cash crops to sell at local markets. Women also make sauces and other value-added staples for sale. Knowledge is shared and everyone works together towards mutual benefit. A food secure and self-sufficient community is the end goal.
Sharing animals for breeding – We call it TEMOKO!
RAIN provides sheep, goats or camels to start a chain of loaning animals for breeding – a traditional practice called temoko -- where two offspring from donated animals are in turn given to another herder, and so on. Some herders partner with RAIN to shepherd a herd for the benefit of their local schools. RAIN also increases herds by teaching better practices of feeding and health care for herds. 85% of Niger's people are subsistence farmers or herders, there is almost no industrial base. RAIN strives to make these traditional livelihoods more profitable.
Aman Iman: Water is Life. Garden installation includes the construction or repair of a well if needed, providing a nearby source of clean water for the entire community. Fetching water in the remote desert demands a great deal of time from women and children, who will travel for miles each way every day. Wells in close proximity allow women to devote time to earn incomes and allow children to be free to attend school.
Efficient use of a precious resource.
Water is hard to come by in this part of the world, and each drop must be conserved. RAIN is a pioneer of drip irrigation in the desert regions of Niger. Widely recognized as the most efficient method to irrigate crops in semi-arid desert, drip irrigation can produce three tons of produce from one garden, using 25% less water than traditional methods.
As our gardens grow, so do our programs. There are many nomadic communities asking for our help, and RAIN is striving to answer the call. Learn more about our work on the ground in Niger.
RAIN for the Sahel and Sahara is a nonprofit 501(c)3 working to make a lasting difference in Africa.