How can traditional herders transition into agriculture in order to thrive in the twenty-first century? School Market Gardens are RAIN's answer. For Niger’s nomadic population, moving from pastoralist to agro-pastoralist provides diversification and improves food security. Small scale farming and herding are paths through which rural populations can build livelihoods. Growing crops and tending herd animals - agriculture and animal husbandry - together create food security.
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. Parents’ first concern is that the school has food for their children, and RAIN’s School Market Gardens ensures that children are nourished in body as well as mind. Fruits and vegetables from the gardens provide 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%. The cornerstone and hub of RAIN's programs, RAIN has installed over 15 gardens across the Agadez and Tillaberi regions - more than 80,000 square meters of sustainable agriculture.
Community participation and investment.
Parents, children and teachers install and 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 500 to 2,000 square meters (or 600 square yards to half an acre) and generate up to three tons of food for students as well as cash crops, which are sold to pay garden expenses and provide cash support to schools. The most common crops include tomatoes, peppers, onions and millet.
Learning beyond the classroom.
The gardens also serve as learning centers where children and adults gain knowledge of agricultural techniques, nutrition, conservation and produce marketing. RAIN is planting seeds for future generations to benefit from raising their own organic crops and the security it provides in times of scarcity.
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 of a well, meeting the need for 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 for their families and put their new knowledge of crop cultivation to work. Children are also free to attend classes and learn practical skills. RAIN's goal is to install six to twelve gardens and wells each year – each garden providing food for one to two hundred students and each well providing access to clean water for hundreds of families.
Efficient use of a precious resource.
Water is hard to come by in Niger, and each drop must be conserved. RAIN has been a pioneer of drip irrigation in 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. RAIN plans to increase gardens, wells and TEMOKO animal husbandry programs by 20% each year. 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.