Niger

Niger: A gift of millet seed brings hope to a village's women

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Arwa is a small Nigerien village just outside Tahoua. It has around a hundred inhabitants, mostly women and children. Just like many other villages in Niger, Arwa faces a food deficit following last year's poor harvest.
The first rains of the year appeared at the beginning of May in this area which was considered a good opportunity to plant early by the farmers. Those that had managed to keep some seeds planted them immediately, but the rains did not continue and the harsh sun destroyed the young shoots. This happened three times.

Life became unbearable in the village with farmers facing the challenge of providing food for their families and finding more seeds to plant. Millet, the staple food in rural Niger, is in scarce supply and the price is exorbitant, having risen fivefold in eight months.

Many men have left the area to work in neighbouring countries leaving behind the women and children to fend for themselves. In the village of Arwa, Aisha, who is in the fourth year of primary school, collects dead wood for her mother to sell at the market to enable them to buy rice and salt.

Concern responded to a request from the agricultural services of the municipality to deliver three tonnes of millet seeds to villages that had virtually no food supplies left and no seeds to plant.

So, on 10th July, Concern 500 kilos of millet seeds were given to the villagers of Arwa, who organised the distribution to farmers from the village. Most people had no seeds before this distribution and since the planting season was coming to an end, they were greeted like mana from heaven.

The husbands of the two Ikinahart sisters left the area to work in a neighbouring country because the harvest had been so poor last year. The women had not yet planted because they had not had the seeds to plant. Considered as the heads of their families they each received 7.5 kg of seeds allowing them to sow in their fields.

Mariam IKINAHARAT stated, "Without the assistance from the Concern seed distribution I would not have been able to plant the field that my husband left for me. I would have surely had to leave the village with my two children to go to the city."

This simple programme funded by Concern has raised the spirit of the population in Arwa where the newly planted seeds have already begun to sprout. During the growing season the people that received the improved seeds through the programme will receive the support of the agricultural extension officer of the district as well as the regional agricultural office.