Atelier Masomi, an architectural studio, is helping to grow the economy in the village of Dandaji in Niger. Led by lead architect Mariam Kamara, who was raised in Niger, the studio designs its spaces to socially empower individuals and provide a better quality of life. Kamara recognized that markets previously were temporary and had no permanent space. This constant movement of the markets made it difficult for entrepreneurs to both sell and procure goods. Kamara knew that creating a permanent market would provide the community with a consistent and reliable place to gather for commerce, something that would be sure to help the economy grow.
The design of the structure is very simple. It is designed around an ancestral tree, where the weekly transient markets used to take place. Now, the space has become a public gathering place with seating arrangement . There are 52 enclosed market stalls located close to the public space. The stalls were designed to be practical and durable enough to last for decades. The bricks used to build these stalls are made from compressed earth to help cool the space allowing the vendors to work through the day despite temperatures that exceed 100°F.
Recycled metal was used to create shade, making up for the area’s lack of trees. The metal shades are painted yellow, blue, and green, creating a whimsical feeling and drawing villagers into the marketplace.
By building the regional market, Alelier Masomi provided new
opportunities for the Dandaji villagers. Kamara hired local villagers as masons
to work on the project, which both provided work for the villagers and allowing
Masomi to transfer his knowledge and skills to the local community. The project
has instilled pride in local residents and added to the village’s sense of
When a well is drilled in a village, there is a similar
increase in community spirit and pride. In villages where Wells Bring
Hope works, that community building begins even before the well is drilled,
when a committee is formed to manage the well, handle malfunctions, and obtain
new parts. The villagers also establish a maintenance fund, to which everyone
in the village contributes, creating a feeling of “ownership.” Reliable access
to safe water, allows individuals to have more free time to take care of their
families and to pursue income-generating work. The market at Dandaji is a great
example of how individuals can use time that is freed up when they do not have
to walk for water to provide for their families, but as always, the first step
is having access to clean water.
Niger is one of the poorest countries in the world. The country has a high fertility rate and low literacy rate. Before I conducted my own research for this article, everything I knew about Niger was negative. Magazines like National Geographic provided insight into the chaos that surrounds Niger. That is literally the title of a National Geographic article released in July 2019, “Surrounded by chaos, Niger is a nation on the edge.”
Niger is a country that seldom makes news
for positive reasons. If you google “Niger” you will find quite a few articles
about violence and political instability. Positive news can be hard to find;
however, I am an optimist. Although,
Niger continues to endure immense hardships, there is progress worth
Niger is ranked at the bottom in the UN’s Education Index. Less than 15% of women in Niger can read and write. Less than 50% of school-age children attend school. There are poor retention rates for the remainder of children who attend school. Save the Children has sponsored early childhood education to help increase literacy levels by increasing access and equality in education. In Niger, Save the Children has also provided an estimated 825,268 children with essential nourishment through health and nutrition programs that support vulnerable children.
In Niger, diarrheal disease resulting from
unsafe water and inadequate sanitation and hygiene is one of the leading causes
of death for children under the age of five. UNICEF has partnered with Niger’s
government and other non-profits to implement sanitation programs, called Total
Sanitation, in 10 villages. The program is in its early stages and will be
implemented in more villages in the future. The majority of villagers in rural Niger
do not have knowledge of hygienic practices. UNICEF trained a certain number of
villagers to understand and teach the program. The sanitation programs are
community-led and each villager participates in the learning process.
UNICEF provides funding for programs that teach
good hygiene practices in communities. UNICEF also conducted research to help
implement a pilot program in 10 schools that will help young girls learn about
menstruation and hygiene. This initiative will include helping the government
and its ministers make this program a national cause. This is a small step in
the right direction for a nation that has a history of severe inequality among
men and women.
Domestic violence is a widespread issue in
Niger. The United Nations and the European Union have come together to work
toward the goal of eliminating all forms of violence against women by 2030. The
United Nations is also working with the Ministry for the Promotion of Women and
Protection of Children to strengthen laws that address violence against women,
encourage and strengthen women’s rights movements, and educate communities on
the harmfulness of female genital mutilation. This massive initiative will
begin at the government level as ministers will learn about every step of the
initiative before it is implemented in communities.
CURE International opened the first
children’s hospital to offer cutting edge specialty surgery. CURE’s hospital
has the capacity to perform more than 2,000 complex orthopaedic surgeries
annually. The hospital offers hope for children with disabilities such as
clubfoot. It also offers more opportunities for employment for the people of
Niger suffers from some of the highest rates of malnutrition and mortality in the world. USAID has implemented an initiative known as RISE (Resilience in the Sahel Enhanced). RISE’s objective is to build the local health systems so they can handle the massive rate of malnutrition. USAID works with the Nigerien government to ensure their programs and initiatives are implemented nationwide. RISE helps communities learn about nutrition.
Niger is mostly desert, so the climate is
mostly hot and dry, with periods of much-needed rain. That rain has become less
and less reliable in recent years as Niger has experienced drought after
drought. Improved conservation and alternative agricultural techniques employed
by farmers and aid groups have been able to mitigate this crisis, helping to
plant and maintain millions of trees in the last decade. The government is also working with NGOs
to decrease desertification. [KC1]
A remote irrigation system was designed by
a local farmer, Abdou Maman Kané, through his business Tech-Innov. The remote
irrigation system is controlled by cell phones and uses water more productively.
An estimated 200 farms utilise the system, which uses solar power to fuel pumps.
Prior to the remote irrigation system, an estimated 50% to 60% of water is lost
because of leaks in buckets and pipes. The system has allowed farmers to
irrigate larger areas of land.
The Integrated Production and Pest
Management program, a product of the Food and Agricultural organisation of the
UN, works to raise awareness about the dangers of pesticides, empower
communities, market nutritious food across Africa. In Niger, the program
empowers communities by collaborating with clubs to encourage open discussions
and helping communities have meaningful social interactions. The program also helps
farmers irrigate more land, trains farmers to improve practices and increase
their yield, and pilot a system to help seed marketing.
Access to clean water is limited in much
of rural Niger. As population growth continues and communities expand, the need
for clean water increases. One in seven children dies before the age of five due
to a lack of safe water. Fortunately, Niger has a wealth of clean water
available a couple hundred feet below ground. Wells Bring Hope, in partnership
with World Vision, is able to tap these aquifers, providing villagers with an
endless supply of clean water. Wells Bring Hope also works with villages for
more than 15 years after a well is drilled, teaching
villagers how to maintain it, and empowering them to take ownership of it.
Niger is improving in small ways and will
continue to make progress. When we fund Wells Bring Hope and other aid programs
in Niger, we provide communities with hope for their futures. With our
financial assistance, more initiatives can be implemented to educate men and
women on sanitation, nutrition, women’s rights, and conservation. The future of
Niger is more hopeful than it was a decade ago because of the determined
efforts of its people, the support of aid organizations that have dedicated
their time to developing innovative solutions to complex problems, and the
generosity of compassionate people around the world who have chosen to support
that important work.
In my comfortable first-world life, information is just a swipe away. Whenever
I want to know something, I just pull out my smartphone and start typing a
question into Google. Immediately, a plethora of helpful information fills the
screen. If I need counseling, support, or treatment, the internet makes endless
resources available to me.
But for women in Niger, most of whom have
never had the opportunity to receive an education, the sole sources of
information are their fathers, husbands, and male religious leaders. Although
Niger’s male literacy rate of 27.3％ is higher than the female
literacy rate of 11％, it still means that the information about women’s
issues that Nigerien men have available to pass on to women is very limited. In a country
where radio and television are luxuries inaccessible to rural communities, many
families are unaware of medical and social services such as contraception and
family planning that can improve the quality of life for women and children.
In 2018, UNPFA (United Nations
Population Fund) launched a project that partnered with more than 50 female
Muslim clerics like Malama Ouani to provide weekly classes about reproductive
health, family planning, and women’s rights from an Islamic perspective. In a
country that is more than 99％ Muslim, Malama Ouani has a powerful message
to deliver: she believes that family planning and the right of women to be safe
and educated do not conflict with Islamic beliefs.
In a blog article, Malama Ouani points out the common misconception
that society’s oppression of women is endorsed by Islam: “I know this is
not the will of god or our government. It merely reflects a failure so old that
it seems as if it has always been the case.” In her
women’s study groups, called madrassas, Malama Ouani teaches women
that caring for their personal health and well-being is a religious obligation:
“How do you want to be
consistent in your religious practice and your adorations if you are sick all
One essential way to improve women’s health is to practice family
planning. Niger has one of the highest birth rates in the world, and many
women have been taught that Islam does not approve of spacing births. However,
family planning allows the mother’s body to recover after giving birth, which
helps her to be a stronger, healthier mother for the children she already has.
Malama Ouani tells women they can chose a different path from what they have
been raised with: “I tell the women, I am a Muslim cleric, and I have three children –
each born roughly three years after the next (currently ages 5, 8, and 12). I
did not have 10 children like my mother because I used family planning
With a vision
for the future, Malama Quani urges women to send their girls to school so they
can become medical professionals who can make medical examinations more
comfortable and easily accessible for Nigerien women. She refutes the notion
that knowledge can only be held in the hands of men: “The quest for knowledge
is an obligation for every Muslim.”
responded enthusiastically to Malama Quani’s instruction. She describes how
women gradually process the concepts that she teaches : “ A woman one week will
ask about family planning. And then next week, she might be bold enough to ask
me what I use. And then next week, she might ask some questions about how it
works. Some women then might take this information back to their husbands to
talk about what their family might look like if they planned their
Other women announce plans to visit their local health centers or ask Malama
Quani how they can enroll their daughters in school.
Hope shares Malama Quani’s vision for educating women and girls about their
rights so they may enjoy a higher quality of life. With microfinance classes
and hygiene education, women have a chance to escape the cycle of poverty and
build a brighter future for their daughters. Most essentially, having an
accessible well in their village means that girls who no longer have to walk
for water can remain in school and get an education, which will leave them
empowered to make thoughtful decisions about their health and futures. Best of
all, anyone can be a part of it by donating or volunteering for Wells Bring
and attention for youth today is no longer an option but an obligation. It is
about preparing a future leadership, responsible and committed to defend and
build the country and safeguard a heritage.” – Diana Ofwona,
UNDP Resident Representative
In September 2018, four
international organizations (UNICEF, UNDP, Plan International and the World
Organization of Scout Movement) joined together to launch the Generation
Unlimited Youth Challenge (GenU), an initiative that called on 800 innovators between
the ages of 14 and 24 from 16 different countries to find solutions to issues
of employment, education, and entrepreneurship. They were asked to answer the
urgent question, “How can we ensure every young person has an education, skills
and empowerment to build a better future?” Applicants then submitted their
innovative ideas to the GenU Review Board The five most promising ideas from each of the
16 countries received a monetary award of $1,000 (USD) and mentoring services
to further plan and implement their initiatives. The best project from each
country moved on to a final global judging process and received an additional
$20,000 (USD) in funding. This project yielded five winning teams whose
innovative ideas sparked change in their respective countries. As an example,
Team Amigo from Zimbabwe, one of the five winners, aimed to bring education
directly into the homes of those who had difficulty getting to school and those
who had to drop out due to lack of resources. With the help of the GenU
funding, Team Amigo is developing an app which will give every student in
Zimbabwe equal access to textbooks, tutorials, and additional learning
GenU empowers youth to play
an active role in creating a better world for themselves by giving them the funding
and support necessary to implement creative solutions to the problems faced by
their communities. This initiative shifts the power to young people who are
better suited to assess the problems they face than governing bodies who
observe from afar. GenU is giving a voice to a generation who has long been
undervalued, and is allowing them to make important decisions regarding what
international organizations can and should do for them. In December 2019, Niger
was chosen for the implementation of GenU Youth Challenge 2.0 by the Scouts of
Niger. This time around, 41 countries were chosen to participate. The
application process launched in January of 2020 as GenU 2.0 moves forward and
continues its mission of working in partnership with young people, for young
Niger is a country that has experienced more than her fair share of challenges. According to the 2019 UN Development Report, Niger ranked 189th out of 189 countries making it the poorest country in the world. With this poverty comes a lack of resources and infrastructure, which has a devastating impact on the population, particularly in the rural areas.
Over 64% of people in rural areas in Niger lack access to water.
Nine out of 10 Nigeriens don’t have access to the improved sanitation of even a simple latrine.
It’s because 33 minutes is the average walking time women and girls spend to collect water.
At first glance, it might seem that , as a landlocked nation,Niger simply lacks access to a reliable source of clean water, but that’s actually not the case. In reality, it is estimated that there are anywhere from 2.5 to 3 billion cubic meters of drinkable water. The challenge, however, is that this water is far from beyond reach, flowing in aquifers, which are 200-300 feet below ground. In fact, Niger ranks 8th highest of all African nations in terms of the productivity of its aquifers.
Groundwater storage for Africa – Panel (a) shows a map of groundwater storage expressed as water depth in millimeters (Döll and Fiedler 2008). Panel (b) shows the volume of groundwater storage for each country. Source: IOPscience
Tragically, people in Niger die every day for lack of that which is plentiful just a couple of hundred feet below ground, clean water. Accessing that water requires expert water engineers and multi-million dollar drilling rigs to access the water, but once the well is drilled, there is no danger of it running dry. The people of Niger don’t need or want endless support. Once the well is drilled, life in the village is transformed for generations. Thanks to our partners at World Vision, we are able to jump start that change with just $6,100 – our cost for drilling a well. With your support, we can give Niger a chance at a brighter future.
Humanitarian aid organizations and the government of Niger are scrambling to design more targeted relief plans to respond to the recent upsurge in violence at the hands of armed groups in Niger. Violence in areas that border Burkina Faso, Mali, and Nigeria has created yet another challenge for already vulnerable populations in Niger. In addition to the violence, natural disasters like flash floods , plant diseases, and related agricultural epidemics, have increased since July 2019 and resulted in the destruction of a number of fresh water reservoirs, which in turn caused the death of a large quantity of livestock. Unfortunately, according to recent weather forecasts, this situation is only expected to worsen over the coming year.
On November 20th, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) released its funding overview which stated that its Niger Humanitarian Response Plan of 2019 required an additional $160.5 million (42% of the original target). This budget was put into place as a response to the “emergence of new humanitarian needs and the persistence of the needs not covered” by previous relief efforts. In 2019 alone, 1.6 million people in Niger faced food insecurity, 1.8 million suffered from malnutrition, over 437,000 refugees have been displaced, and over 295 security incidents were reported. The humanitarian crises facing Niger have been exacerbated by instability in neighboring countries which are ill-equipped to handle the influx of refugees and facing violent crime on their own. While it was unable to reach its goals in 2019, OCHA continues to reach out to previous donors in the hopes of completing its projects by the end of 2020. The targets of the response plan include:
Treating 381,700 children for malnutrition
Immunizing 110,000 children against measles
Providing access to safe drinking water for 95,000 people
Distributing household items to 143,500 people affected by violent conflict and natural disasters
As a result of the needs of the country, on December 9th the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, and the government of Niger formalized an agreement to open the first-ever UN Human Rights Office in the country. The debut of this new office serves as a symbol of Niger’s commitment to promoting human rights and protecting its citizens, particularly the most vulnerable: refugees, migrants, women, and children. The office will work to:
Strengthen democracy with the increased involvement of women and youth
Provide policy assistance to the Government of Niger to ensure the protection of economic and social rights
Support legal reform to administer justice and protect human rights
Assist the government of Niger with the construction of a human rights compliance framework
Much has been written about Niger and the challenges it faces. According to the United Nations Human Development Index, Niger was ranked 187th of 188 countries in 2015 and 189th out of 189 countries in the 2018 report. The nation has grappled with a range of issues due to its land-lock position including inefficient agriculture, high fertility rates, poor educational levels, lack of infrastructure, poor healthcare, and more. Niger also suffers with security issues because of the cross-border influx of terrorists and militant groups as they can easily cross the borders without having to cross the ocean. Besides, a land-lock country may also suffer with the sense of physical isolation as people feel they are unfortunate to depend on other countries and they end up having a local mindset instead of an international and open minded one. In this situation, old mindset kings can take advantage of the environment and will have more power and chance to rule the country for longer time besides inhibiting the progress of the nation .
Despite all the difficulties people in Niger face, have succeeded in keeping their traditions and culture alive. One example of this is the Gerewol Festival, which has been celebrated by the people in the Tahoua region for centuries. The weeklong festival is a ritual courtship competition held by the Wodaabe Fula people each year. During Gerewol, young men wear traditional face paint and elaborate ornamental dress. They then line up to dance and sing in order to attract the young women in the village. It’s basically a male beauty contest!
The Wodaabe people value height and bright white teeth and eyes in men, so the male beauty contestants will roll their eyes and bare their teeth during the dance to impress the young women who are evaluating them. The judging is tense, with the young women walking down the line of dancers, poker faced in accordance with the Wodaabe pulaku, or code of behavior. Then woman each taps her favorite man, and everyone rushes in to celebrate and congratulate the winners – being selected is a huge honor. The women then return to their camps and wait. If the chosen men like them, they follow.
Thanks to documentary films and National Geographic articles about Guerewol the ritual has become more widely known in recent years. Occasionally, foreign tourists can be seen taking in this unique courtship ritual.
Since the festival can only be held if there is enough water to support the hundreds of people that the festivities attract, Guerewol is not held during times of severe drought. More recently, instability caused by the insurgency of Boko Haram has resulted in less frequent Guerewol festivals. Forunately, the traditional dance can still be seen at tourists hotels in eastern Niger where it is performed by troops of Wodaabe. Hopefully, these staged performances will help to preserve the tradition for future generations of Nigeriens.
For some, water is available with a quick turn of a faucet, while others have to walk for miles every day to search for and collect water. Access to water is a privilege we often take for granted. Water is an invaluable resource, and easy access to it is a luxury for many people. On average, an American uses about 100 gallons of water per day while average use in sub-Saharan Africa is only two to five gallons of water per day.
Turn off your faucets.
Bathroom faucets run at about 2 gallons of water per minute. What only takes a minute for you will take someone in rural Niger a walk of 3.7 miles per day on average to collect the water necessary for daily life. In your day-to-day, challenge yourself to never leave the faucet running if you’re not using it. Always turn off faucets when shaving or brushing teeth.
Shorten your showers.
Use your phone timer to hold yourself accountable for shorter showers. Aim for 5-minutes or less. A 4-minute shower uses approximately 20 to 40 gallons of water! An American taking a 5-minute shower uses more water than a rural African uses for all activities in a day.
Only run the washing machine when you have a full load of clothes. Sort clothes by color and challenge yourself to wait to wash until you have a full load. Most high-efficiency washers use 15 to 30 gallons of water to wash clothes. For those in Niger, a washing machine, fishing destination, and drinking water may all be the same place.
Use the dishwasher.
You might be surprised to learn that pre-rinsing your dishes can actually waste more water than dishwasher itself. If you do pre-rise, make sure to save the water for all of your dishes. A dishwasher uses an estimated 9 to 12 gallons of water per wash. Hand-washing dishes uses an estimated 9 to 20 gallons of water.
These are just a couple examples of ways to reduce your water consumption. The facts are interesting, but I challenged myself to take the Wells Bring Hope Seven Gallon Challenge to become more aware of my own water usage. The Challenge is to limit our water usage to seven gallons of water per day, which is a high estimate of how much the average rural African uses in a day.
Some parts of the challenge were easy like turning off the faucet to brush my teeth. Other parts of the challenge were difficult. I timed myself for a five-minute shower (3 gallons per minute) and tried to flush the toilet as few times as possible. It made me recognize that my ordinary routine isn’t ordinary and gave meaning to the facts and statistics above. I invite you to take the 7 Gallon Challenge, so that you can experience for yourself how much water the average rural African uses in a day.
The pronunciation of Niger can be traced back to its colonial roots. Niger was a French colony until it gained its independence on August 3, 1960. Therefore the official language of Niger is French, and its name has a French pronunciation.
The pronunciation of Niger is “nee-ZHER.” The last syllable rhymes with “air.” Click below to listen to the pronunciation of Niger:
This video is the pronunciation of Niamey:
Population of Niamey
The population of Niamey has exploded in the past century. In 1901, the population was only about 600 people. In 1960, the population was 30,000. In the 1970s and 1980s, drought and famine pushed people from rural areas to the capital. The census in 1988 was 391,876.
The 1885 Berlin Conference carved Africa into sections for European countries to colonize. The area now known as Niger fell under French rule. Niamey was a trading area until the French decided to make it a colonial post in the 1890s. Niamey officially became the capital of Niger in 1926.
Education in Niamey
Like many developing countries, access to education in Niger remains an issue . Still, the capital of Niger can boasts several institutions of higher education. Niger’s biggest university, The Abdou Moumouni University, is located in Niamey.
The Higher Institute of Mining, Industry and Geology is also located in Niamey. It is Niger’s only higher education institution dedicated to training technicians and engineers. Another notable school is the African School for Meteorology and Civil Aviation. This college is dedicated to training students for careers in the aviation industry.
As a landlocked country with 80% of its area taken up by the Sahara Desert, it comes as no surprise that Niamey’s climate is hot and semi-arid. There is no rainfall between the months of October and April.
Temperatures dip to a low of 60 degrees Fahrenheit and can reach a high of 105 degrees Fahrenheit.
Niamey is full of exciting things to do and see. The Grand Mosque of Niamey, built in 1970, is a must-see. The mosque is affiliated with Sunni Islam,a religion which is followed by 81.1% of Niger’s population.
The Grand Marche (aka The Niamey Grand Market) is another experience that is unique to Niamey. Located in the center of the city, it is Niamey’s largest market and shopping center. An estimated 20,000 tourists visit the Grand Marche each year.
Millions of people live in poverty due to the lack of available water resources. In developing nations, the task of retrieving water often falls to women and young girls. In rural Sub-Saharan Africa, women and girls may spend upwards of 3 hours per day, retrieving water that is contaminated and unsafe to drink. Having access to clean water has critical health benefits, but it also affords girls the opportunity to stay in school and women the chance to pursue income-generating work.
Women pumping water from a WBH well.
Wells Bring Hope knows that water is simply the first step. In addition to working with every village for 15 years after a well is drilled, WBH is the only safe water cause to provide microfinance training to women in every village where our wells are drilled.
Microfinance training allows women to make valuable use of the time that is freed up when they no longer have to walk for water. A skilled facilitator assists the women in the village in forming a savings group. She then leads the women in weekly training sessions where they learn basic math and economic skills. This microfinance training a transformative step in the lives of women whose villages have received wells.
When girls no longer have to walk for water, they remain in school. Less than 20% of Nigerien women are literate and only 8% of women attend a secondary school. In addition, families are often forced to decide who to send to school, leaving girls behind while boys pursue their education. Just a year of secondary schooling can account for a 25% increase in a woman’s earnings later in life, and an educated mother is more likely to send her daughters to school, creating an empowered future generation and lasting economic development.
A group of women participating in a savings group.
Wells Bring Hope knows that having easy access to clean water not only saves lives, it gives women and girls freedom. Access to water means that girls are free to pursue their education, and women are free to find income-generating work that helps them provide for their families. When you donate to Wells Bring Hope, you’re not just giving a community life-saving access to clean water, you’re empowering women to transform their own lives.