A looming shadow
As with many Sub-Saharan countries in Africa, Niger regularly experiences food and nutrition challenges. Climate change, drought, limited agricultural infrastructure and many other factors leave families in vulnerable situations. The shadow of hunger is never looming far.
GOALies in Niger, with support and funding from UNITLIFE, consider the local challenges and how to address them in a sustainable way. That is how the project “Promoting Innovative and Sustainable Agriculture to Improve the Nutritional Status of Communities” was born in 2020.
“Promoting innovative and sustainable agriculture to improve the nutritional status of communities”
This project works to build community resilience and well-being in the Zinder region of Niger. It attempts to keep the threat of hunger at bay using a holistic gender sensitive approach. The project also has different yet interconnected, complementary actions to combat climate change, malnutrition and to strengthen women’s empowerment.
Zaï holes helping farmer respond to climate change
Zaï holes are a traditional technique for rehabilitating poor, crusted and otherwise unusable agricultural land. It involves digging holes manually to allow runoff water and organic matter to concentrate in one point. This counterbalances the effects of drought and human activity that often lead to the degradation the agricultural lands.
“We were taught modern ways to practice Zaï farming” says Bachir Zabeirou from Gueza Dan Alkali village. “It consists of digging holes and filling them with compost. I also bought modern seeds for millet and beans which I sowed in this field. Before when we sowed, it did not grow like it does now. Today you can see that the plants grow well. We hope to have a good harvest, thank God.”
Home gardens to fight malnutrition
At the same time, GOAL teams on the ground have been helping communities create home-gardens. These should allow the families in the most vulnerable areas to meet their basic needs.
Abdou Liman lives with his family in the village of Illala Malam Abdou. “GOAL gave us seeds for vegetables that will help fight malnourishment in young children such as moringa, maize, tomato, pepper and bell pepper. We’re so happy that GOAL has helped us keep our children healthy. Even our neighbors are copying us after they’ve seen the results.”
The small vegetable gardens are cultivated a few steps from their homes, offering households an affordable, accessible and sustainable access to nutritious food.
Women’s empowerment for equal access to vital resources
Women’s empowerment has positive effects that ripple to each member of the community. Inspired by a traditional community solidarity practice common to the Sahel region, GOAL teams decided to support the re-introduction of Habanaye. Habanaye consists of building up the productive capital of livestock for the vulnerable members of a community.
Typically, an animal (a female) is temporarily entrusted to the beneficiary and is returned to its owner after one or more reproductive cycles. The offspring are raised by the beneficiary to provide milk and meat for the household. In case of shock it can be a source of income to meet the needs of the family. It allows families to build up a capital base and promote livestock production. The goat becomes a crucial productive asset and an important resource for empowering families facing food insecurity.
To help set up the system in the village of Illala Malam Abdou, GOAL distributed four goats to women in vulnerable households.
Oumarou Moussa, a savings group member, says “with GOAL’s help, we have now set up two village savings associations. This allows us to offer loans to help the community conduct productive activities that generate resources and income. They will also serve to sustainably increase women’s financial literacy, inclusion, and decision-making regarding the use of income to support an investment in households’ wellbeing. The very small interest rate will be put back in the savings for loans for other women ensuring everyone has access to the financial support.”
Small pieces of a bigger puzzle
These interconnected, complimentary activities enable communities to build resources based on solidarity and sustainable practices. With the support of partners such as UNITLIFE, GOAL’s team in Niger have been able to put in place interventions which empower women and communities to take control of their own futures. The diversity of the ‘Promoting Innovative and Sustainable Agriculture’ project ensures that the complex issues people tackle in Niger such as hunger, gender inequality and malnutrition are addressed at their cause.
You can support UNITLIFE’s and GOAL work and other projects of our country teams by joining our 2021 GOAL Mile run this year!