African Drone and Data Academy Empowers Nigerien Youth

By Amber Persson

Imagine that a mother of five in rural Niger suddenly develops a fever, headache, and nausea; the diagnosis—malaria. She must receive treatment as soon as possible before the swift-acting disease develops further. Unfortunately, her community is largely inaccessible by road, and there are no hospitals in the vicinity. It could take several days before she is able to receive the anti-malarial medication she needs. A new program aims to address this life-threatening challenge.

Drones Can Provide a Solution for Remote Communities

In 2016, UNICEF proposed using drones to transport medications, vaccines, and diagnostic biological samples to solve health crises like this one. A drone is able to deliver lifesaving medications in hours as opposed to days or weeks. For this mother, a few days could mean the difference between recovery and fatality.


Source: Wilson Oluoha Wikimedia Commons

Drones were first used in Malawi to assist with the HIV testing of infants by transporting blood samples from remote communities directly to laboratories. The initiative was soon expanded to Vanuatu, a country in the South Pacific, where vaccines were effectively distributed using drones. Before this project, 20% of children in Vanuatu were unable to access vaccines because of the country’s 1300 km of mountainous terrain and limited healthcare infrastructure. Vaccines were often delivered on foot in coolers, a journey that can take several days. The drones made the journey in a mere 25 minutes.

Drones have also been employed for surveillance of areas affected by natural disasters. They can easily assess the extent of flooding and damage, identify communities most in need, and be used for search and rescue purposes.

As powerful as drones can be, they require training to operate and maintain, and the data they collect must then be analyzed. This is a challenge in disadvantaged communities that lack the capacity to build and support such an initiative.

This is why the African Drone and Data Academy (ADDA) was created. ADDA is a global initiative spearheaded by UNICEF that aims to increase the accessibility of health-related materials and diagnostic testing by training drone operators. Potential pilots take three courses over 11 weeks in which they learn drone basics, planning, and data logistics. Through these courses, pilots gain valuable hands-on experience tailored to the Global South.


Source: Anouk Delafortrie

African Drone and Data Academy in Niger

ADDA was recently adopted in Niger with the support of the Nigerien government. In collaboration with Virginia Tech University, the curriculum was translated to French so it could be taught in the Sahel region. After preparing five Nigerien drone instructors, the first class of 24 youth graduated the ADDA training program in 2022. 60% of the students in this class were women.

ADDA encourages young people to get excited about helping their community. It also provides a clear employment path that culminates in a remote pilot license, which would otherwise be reserved for more privileged individuals. Addressing the drone piloting skills gap enables young people to obtain well-paid jobs, boost local economies, and contribute to something greater than themselves.

The safe local wells that Wells Bring Hope drills enable more girls and women to attend school and contribute to their communities in a bigger way, maybe one day by piloting a drone.



Donor Appreciation Brunch

On Sunday, May 21st, some of Wells Bring Hope’s most loyal L.A.-based supporters gathered at the home of WBH president and founder Barbara Goldberg for a donor appreciation brunch. It was a glorious sunny day as we gathered in her Japanese garden.

Guests sipped mimosas and bloody marys while enjoying delicious bagels (courtesy of Western Bagel) with cream cheese and smoked salmon. There were also plenty of pastries to satisfy everyone’s sweet tooth and a delicious watermelon salad, courtesy of board members David Girard and Eduardo Robles.


We had an incredible group of volunteers – eight scholars and two teachers from Odyssey STEM Academy in Lakewood. They helped set up, greeted guests and ensured that the event went off without a hitch. Angel, one of the amazing student volunteers, is responsible for all of these photos! If you would like a copy of any of these photos, please email

Once guests had a chance to mix, mingle, eat and drink, Barbara formally welcomed them and expressed our deep appreciation for their support of Wells Bring Hope, especially those who had been with us since the very beginning. She also introduced WBH’s valued board members.

Barbara announced that we are only about $20,000 away from hitting the six million dollar milestone raised since we started in 2008. She also asked everyone to mark their calendars for our 15th anniversary fundraiser, which will be held on October 1st at the home of Sukey and Gil Garcetti, the man who inspired our cause and this year’s honoree.

Finally, Director of Operations Kate Cusimano introduced four recent graduates of our Ambassadors Program who have been working hard to apply what they learned to help save lives with safe water in Niger.

Siblings Mackenzie and Ben Nelson along with their friends Bronwyn Vance and Adam Neiberger, formed a group called H2O (Help to Others), and have dedicated themselves to water causes. Back in March, they set a goal of raising funds for four wells ($25,200). When they exceeded that amount this month, they raised their goal to six wells! We are so incredibly grateful for these generous, hard-working global citizens and all of our amazing donors!

Water Access Can Reduce Violence

By Will Beeker

Source: Wells Bring Hope

Access to clean drinking water in Niger provides numerous benefits, one of which is a reduction in violence in its many forms.

Studies have shown a connection between water scarcity and violence in the Sahel region of Africa, but also anywhere there is limited access to clean water. Even small variability in rainfall is linked with an increase in violence in the region and some even claim that much of the violence in and around Niger can be attributed to water scarcity-induced migration.

How does water scarcity lead to violence?

There are many forms of violence that can stem from a lack of access to clean water:

  • Competition for access to water supplies can lead to violence between farmers and herders, sometimes involving national militaries and police forces.
  • Water scarcity hinders economic and social development, which can lead to radicalization and its associated violence.
  • Women are forced to make long journeys many miles from their homes to fetch water, which can put them at risk of gender-based violence.
  • Villagers may have to travel through militarized zones where fighting occurs to reach a water point.
  • Migrants fleeing violence put extra strain on already limited water supplies, which can lead to tension and conflict with hosting communities.

As Hycinth Banseka, the technical director for the Lake Chad Basin Commission, has put it: “Escalating impacts of climate change and water scarcity are likely to provoke more conflict if water access isn’t improved for the different communities. We need to develop strategies to ensure that wherever people live, they have access to the water that they need allowing them to develop their economic activities and maintain their communal organizations and ties.”

Any time groups are forced to compete for limited natural resources, there’s bound to be conflict. However, the correlation goes both ways: when there is greater access to water, there’s bound to be less conflict.

How can water security reduce violence?

  • As water access becomes more widespread, farmers and herders have less need to fight over limited water supplies.
  • Water security, and the economic and social development associated with it, reduce radicalization, meaning people will be less likely to join violent militant groups.
  • Water security can reduce the distance women and children need to travel to fetch clean drinking water, making them less vulnerable to attack.
  • When wells are drilled in the villages that need them, they are less susceptible to control by a hostile outside group and villagers can avoid dangerous areas.
  • Water security allows safe havens to support more migrants, helping them respond to the greater need for water.

The borewells drilled by Wells Bring Hope equip villages with a safe, local source of clean drinking water, improving water security and reducing violence in all the above-mentioned ways. Villagers become safer and healthier, and in turn the whole region benefits.






Secretary Blinken Makes Historic Visit to Niger

By Will Beeker

Source: Secretary of State meets Nigerien authorities

In March, United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken made a historic visit to Niger during which he praised the country for upholding democracy as neighboring countries have fallen prey to coups and political upheaval. This is the first time in history that a U.S. Secretary of State has visited Niger, signaling the growing importance of the Sahel in global politics. Blinken’s visit and remarks also underscore the fact that Niger is one of few regional success stories since its transition to democracy in 2011.

“Niger is a young democracy in a challenging part of the world, but it remains true to the democratic values we share. And Niger has been quick to defend the democratic values under threat in neighboring countries,” Blinken said while in Niger’s capital, Niamey, after meeting with President Mohamed Bazoum.

Niger’s Foreign Minister Hassoumi Massoudou said Blinken’s historic visit showed “solidarity and consideration” for Niger, while emphasizing his country’s responsibility as a democratic bulwark in a troubled region, saying: “We need to show that democracy is the only way to defeat terrorism.”

Blinken’s visit comes over a year into the Ukraine war during which Russia’s influence in the Sahel has grown. Mali’s junta has hired mercenaries from the Russian Wagner Group to combat insurgents there. Ghana reports that Burkina Faso has also employed the Wagner Group; Burkina Faso has declined to comment on the claim. Blinken said the use of Russian mercenaries has not proven to be an effective response to extremism. “It’s not just we know this is going to end badly, we’ve already seen it end badly in a number of places,” Blinken said.

Blinken also pledged $150 million in humanitarian aid for Niger and other countries in the Sahel, bringing the U.S. aid total for the region to $233 million in the 2023 fiscal year. Blinken said the humanitarian support “provides urgent, life-saving support, including food, shelter, safe drinking water, sanitation, hygiene, and other key services.”

During his visit, Blinken also met former violent extremists from Niger’s conflict zones who have been rehabilitated through vocational training backed by $20 million in U.S. funding. The program, called the Disarmament, Demobilization, Reintegration, and Reconciliation (DDRR) program is dedicated to “helping to give people livelihoods, and in effect giving them a better choice than falling into violent extremism” and is “from our perspective, very much a model that others can look to,” Blinken said afterwards.

Overall, Blinken’s visit highlights the significance of Niger’s successes in recent years. There is much responsibility placed on the growing nation to uphold democratic values and provide a guiding light to a struggling region.


We Zarma Love

By Megan Campbell


Niger has a wide variety of indigenous languages, which are usually majority languages that are natively spoken in a certain area. Hausa, spoken all over Niger, is the most widely spoken indigenous language. Zarma is the second leading language, and it is spoken primarily in the Southwest region of Niger, and in the capital city of Niamey. 


Nigeriens speak English and French for business, education, and administration. But, indigenous languages are very important in local culture, for shopping, socializing, and developing relationships with Nigeriens. Zarma, particularly, is very important for communication in local markets and even in some professional circles. 


The Zarma Language Has a Rich History


Zarma is part of the Songhai group of languages. The origin of this group can be traced back to the Songhai empire in the fifteenth century. The empire later fell in the sixteenth century, and the language group fragmented into two distinct branches: Northern and Southern. The Southern branch is concentrated around the Niger River and southeastern Niger.


Zarma speakers can understand some other Songhai languages, including Songhoyboro Ciine and Dendi. This is similar to how Spanish speakers can often understand Portuguese because the languages are so closely related, but they would not be able to understand French. Zarma speakers cannot, for example, understand Koyraboro Senni, which is spoken in Gao, Mali. 


While Songhai languages can be found all over Western Africa, Zarma is spoken primarily in the southwestern part of Niger, and in cities such as Tillaberi, Dosso, Niamey, Tahoua, and Agadez. But, this language can also be found in other countries such as Mali, Benin, Nigeria, Ghana, and Burkina Faso. The Zarma people are also typically found in this region. 


The Zarma ethnic group numbers approximately three million. This group dominates the public and private sectors in many locations and is known for craftsmanship and architecture. This group likewise accounts for the greatest majority of native Zarma speakers, but others in Zarma-dominated regions may learn the language due to its relevance to everyday communication. 


Take a Closer Look at a Few Interesting Features of Zarma Language


The Zarma alphabet is based on the Latin script and features 25 letters. Interestingly, the letter “v” is not typically present in the language (though it can be found in some foreign words), and many native Zarma speakers cannot pronounce it. The Zarma alphabet also has a couple of additional nasal letters. Both N and M are nasal consonants, and you can feel the vibration of these sounds in your nose. For example, the funky-looking N in the above image is a nasal consonant, and it really just represents the “Ng” sound that you hear in words like “along,” or “hungry.”


Another interesting feature of the language is it is not gendered at all. You can refer to a “he” “she” or “they” with the same word. If you were talking about your friend John and his little sister, you could use the same pronoun to describe both of them. In this example, I could say, “I met John and his little sister yesterday,” and one could reply with “I love him!” In this case, the word “him” refers to both John and his little sister. 


Verbs do not have tenses and are not conjugated, but certain aspects can be specified by markers before the word. A grammatical tense conveys information about the meaning and time of verbs. One aspect (called “perfectivity”) refers to the distinction between a completed action and an ongoing action. For example, the English sentence “I have finished eating” would be formatted as “I eat [marker] finish.” The marker refers to the action being completed. 


Zarma is a subject-object-verb (SOV) language with postpositions. English is a subject-verb-object (SVO) language. The sentence “I drew dogs,” would become “I dogs drew” in Zarma. Additionally, suffixes are used in Zarma to denote what kind of article (like “a” or “the”) a noun should have. So, the English sentence “I gave the ball to her,” would look like “I ball-the gave her to.” And, the phrase “I love Zarma” is translated to “I Zarma love” in SVO form. 


So, in conclusion, I Zarma love! 










7 Gallon Challenge

For one day, attempt to limit water usage to seven gallons of water a day, which is a high estimate of how much the average rural Nigerien uses in a day.

For every gallon over seven that you use, donate $1 to Wells Bring Hope.

Film yourself sharing the results of the challenge. At the end of the video, call on a friend or two to take the challenge too. Post the video to social media using the hashtag #7gallon challenge. Don’t forget to tag the friends that you challenged!

By limiting daily water use and documenting the experience, both participants and the people they share their experiences with will learn how little seven gallons of water actually is, and they’ll be more of aware of the massive amounts of water Western countries consume on a daily basis.

By sharing the experience of participating in the challenge and calling on others to take it as well, we can raise awareness of the global water crisis and what Wells Bring Hope is doing to save lives with safe water.

• From the second you wake up, carry a journal/paper with you so that you can write down all water consumption, or use this simple tracking form: 

7 Gallon Challenge Tracking Form

Local Land Rehabilitation Techniques May Be the Key to Restoring Niger’s Agricultural Lands

By Kayla Ruff

Source: Nature Design

According to a recently published study conducted in southern Niger, agricultural structures called ‘half-moons’ have the potential to substantially increase Niger’s crop productivity. Scientists assessed the effectiveness of these structures between 2013 and 2020 at 18 sites in southern Niger, and the results of the study revealed that there was a 25% increase in vegetative greenness at the intervention sites. As a nation with over 1.9 million people affected by severe food insecurity, land rehabilitation techniques such as half-moons could play a critical role in increasing crop productivity in Niger.

What are half-moons?

Half-moons are semicircular pits bordered with rocks, and they are constructed in large numbers throughout agricultural fields. These rock-bordered pits allow water to collect inside them, which reduces surface runoff and soil erosion. Half-moons are especially important in regions with erratic and unpredictable rainfall patterns. While rain from a downpour would typically roll off the soil, half-moons keep water in place, allowing it to seep into the soil and nourish crops.

How can land rehabilitation techniques restore Niger’s agricultural lands?

Niger is a hot and arid country, and unsustainable agricultural practices have made the nation’s dry lands even more susceptible to desertification. In fact, at least 100,000 hectares of agricultural land are lost each year in Niger. Increasing vegetative growth is vital for reducing the rate of land degradation, as it substantially reduces the impacts of soil erosion. Without vegetative growth, rainwater cannot penetrate beyond the surface, which degrades the land and causes more intense floods during the rainy season.

Local-scale land rehabilitation practices, however, could be the answer to restoring Niger’s depleted agricultural lands. The water-preserving capabilities of half-moons, for example, could play an important role in improving soil fertility in degraded ecosystems. The vegetation that grows as a result of these structures prevents erosion, thereby mitigating floods, which substantially increases crop yields.

Additional land rehabilitation techniques may be helpful in Niger

Aside from half-moon structures, many other local land rehabilitation techniques can help improve soil productivity and restore degraded lands in Niger. For example, a case study conducted in dry regions of Burkina Faso found that Zai pits rehabilitated degraded soils and reintroduced a large diversity of plants.Like half-moons, constructing Zai pits does not require advanced technology. Other agroecological interventions such as contour bunds, eyebrow terraces, and Negarim microcatchments also help restore vegetation in arid regions.

While all of these land rehabilitation techniques help improve agricultural productivity in barren areas, they require no advanced technology, making them simple and inexpensive to construct. Overall, implementing these sustainable and effective agricultural strategies will be critical to restoring Niger’s agricultural lands, which will, in turn, help reduce the nation’s food security shortages.

Zai Practice: A West African Traditional Rehabilitation System for Semiarid Degraded Lands, a Case Study in Burkina Faso: Arid Soil Research and Rehabilitation: Vol 13, No 4 (


Niger-Nigeria: A Tale of Two Similar But Different West African States

By Eric Ojo

The Republic of Niger and the Federal Republic of Nigeria are two West African sister states that share a lot of similarities and differences. These distinguishing characteristics are widely acknowledged by citizens of both countries and perhaps other neighboring nations in the West African sub-region. However, the distinctions between the countries may blur together for people from other parts of the world.

Similarities between Niger and Nigeria

Niger, which is pronounced as Nee-szehr, and Nigeria purportedly derived their names from the Niger River, the third longest river in Africa, after the Nile and the Congo. The river runs through western Niger and a vast portion of Nigeria and is very important to both countries.

Niger gained her political independence from France on August 3, 1960. Similarly, Nigeria also secured her independence from Britain on October 1, 1960. Citizens of Niger and people living in Nigeria are predominantly Muslims, and share a socio-cultural and religious affinity.

In addition, both countries have many Hausa speakers, which is a major language spoken in several countries within the West African sub-region and beyond. Moreover, Nigeria also shares about 1,500 kilometers of land border with Niger. The countries are members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

Differences between Niger and Nigeria

Niger is a landlocked country which happens to be the largest inland country in West Africa and the 22nd largest in the world. The country’s landmass covers a total area of 1,267,000 km² (489,191 mi²), which is approximately 182 percent of the area of Texas. Niger is extremely hot because two-thirds of its territory lies within the Sahara Desert. Niger has a population of over 24 million.

Nigeria, which has a landmass of 923,7770 km² (356,668 mi²), is almost the same size as California, Nevada and Utah combined. Nigeria currently has a population of over 211 million people, by far the most populous nation in Africa.

Niger is a semi-presidential republic which gives the President the mandate to serve as head of state and the Prime Minister of the country. Nigeria is currently a federal republic under a presidential system with a bicameral legislature, very much like that of the United States. The President and Commander-in-Chief of Nigeria heads the executive arm of government.

The capital city of Niger is Niamey, while that of Nigeria is Abuja. French is the official language of Niger, while English is the official language of Nigeria.  Citizens of Niger are called Nigeriens and those from Nigeria are called Nigerians.

Niger’s currency is the West African CFA franc. Nigeria’s currency is known as the Naira and its symbol is ₦. Niger is blessed with natural resources such as uranium, gold, salt, calcium, phosphates, cassiterite and gypsum. However, since the Sahara Desert encompasses two-thirds of the country, food production is difficult. Drought and famine are common. In spite of her huge natural resources, Niger is ranked amongst the poorest countries in the world today, according to statistics released by the United Nations in 2021.

Nigeria is richly endowed with oil and gas, tin, iron ore, coal, limestone, niobium, lead, zinc and has extensive arable land. Although Nigeria has not attained its full potential economically, the oil-rich nation has fared comparatively better in its growth and development trajectory. Rated as one the largest economy in sub-Saharan Africa, Nigeria is far richer than Niger.

Within families, two sisters often have very different personalities despite sharing a similar heritage. The same holds true for the sister states of Niger and Nigeria.



Kossom Association Provides Employment for Women with Disabilities

By Amber Persson

Female empowerment is one of the most powerful growing movements of the 21st century. Countries around the world are making changes, slowly but surely, to close the gender gap that exists professionally and culturally. For Nigerien women living with disabilities, the gender gap is even more pronounced. As a result of widespread stigma and marginalization, women with disabilities often experience increased violence and difficulty finding employment. Advocacy groups like the Kossom Association plan to change this.

Source: Van Achterberg Collection – 6, WikiCommons

The Necessity

Focus groups conducted by the Global Call to Action Against Poverty reveal the bleak cultural attitude surrounding people with disabilities in developing countries in Africa. Some people believe those with disabilities are cursed and embody bad omens for their families. Often treated as outcasts, they may even be forced to leave their family home. People with disabilities have higher dropout rates for a variety of reasons including financial hardship, facilities that lack accessible infrastructure, and social norms. This leads to limited employment opportunities later in life.

Age and gender only exacerbate the stigma. Disabilities are 7% more prevalent in women than in men. Women with disabilities are also more likely to experience domestic violence than women without disabilities. All these factors intersect to create a difficult, potentially dangerous path for vulnerable women seeking employment.

Source: Gil Garretti

What is the Kossom Association?

The Kossom Association is a small dairy business in Tahoua, Niger that advocates for gender equality and empowers women with disabilities. The organization teaches women to make cheese from milk since cheese is more profitable. One liter of milk becomes one sheet of cheese, which earns a 250 XOF (40 cent USD) profit. While this is a progressive feat in itself, the Kossom Association accomplishes more than providing much-needed jobs.

The Kossom Association creates a supportive community their employees can rely on. The organization recently donated 45,000 XOF (about $73) to build a home for one of their employees, a mother experiencing homelessness. The Kossom Association actively educates the community about gender inequality and disabilities by speaking openly and spreading awareness about different forms of violence against women.

Thanks to a collaboration with the United Nation’s Spotlight Initiative Program, the organization has expanded to 40 female employees and two male employees. Together, they have taken a step toward a shared vision of ending violence against all women and girls, regardless of background or ability.

A Hopeful Future

Progress is in the air. The Kossom Association and Niger are working toward a future where all women have access to the same opportunities enjoyed by able-bodied men. Like the Kossom Association, Wells Bring Hope believes wholeheartedly in the empowerment of women. By drilling wells and bringing safe water to communities, women and girls have more time and strength to dedicate to creating a brighter future in which they are full and equal participants.







Artificial Rain Could Create a Silver Lining

By Will Beeker

Source: Wells Bring Hope

Despite heavy rains and flooding this fall, ongoing drought continues to pose a problem for Niger, especially late in its dry season. Niger often deals with periods of drought, but the country’s southeast is currently experiencing its lowest rainfall in 30 years, exacerbating food shortages. In August 2022, the Nigerien government announced it would use “artificial rain” to alleviate the effects of drought on the country’s farms and food supplies.

The director of Nigerien meteorology, Katiellou Gaptia Lawan said: “We had to do something about this drought,” and that Niger has been severely affected by “many extended dry spells that are upsetting the development of crops and pastures.”

This is not the first time Niger has deployed artificial rain to provide relief during dry spells, and the technology has become commonplace among the Sahel region in recent years.

What is artificial rain?


Source: Smcnab386

The process of creating artificial rain involves using airplanes to release a mixture of silver iodide and other chemicals into already-existing clouds to stimulate rainfall. “Cloud seeding,” as the process is also known, was invented in 1946 by American scientists and has had a somewhat controversial history.

Cloud seeding was used by the US government in the Vietnam War to lengthen the monsoon season in Northern Vietnam and flood enemy supply routes. This successful use of the technology prompted the UN to adopt a treaty prohibiting hostile uses of “environmental modification techniques.”

In recent years, the technology has garnered interest as a possible salve in drought-stricken parts of the world. Cloud seeding is now common practice in countries like China, Thailand, Australia, UAE, and the Western United States. Artificial rain is utilized by countries across Africa, too, including Kenya, Mali, South Africa, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Egypt, Ghana, Morocco, and Niger.

Niger’s neighbor, Burkina Faso, started its cloud seeding program in 1998 and has claimed great success. The extra rainfall has increased estimated cash earnings from agriculture 10 to 15 percent, according to the country’s government.

How well does it work?

There is some dispute among experts about the effectiveness of cloud seeding as a tool for drought relief. Some have claimed the process is too expensive to be economically viable. For example, Israel halted its 50-year-old cloud seeding program last year because it had proven to be “not economically efficient.”

A 2019 study from the World Meteorological Organization concluded that increased precipitation ranged from zero to 20 percent, with the larger increases representing conditions under which clouds were already likely to form precipitation naturally. Because the technology can only be used when clouds are already present, often this means it can’t be utilized when it is most needed.

Cloud seeding technology carries a certain amount of risk, and it can also bring unintended consequences. In the words of James Fleming, an atmospheric scientist: “You can modify a cloud, but you can’t tell it what to do after you modify it.”

Multiple approaches help Niger address drought

Combating the effects of climate change, drought, and other environmental difficulties calls for a combination of strategies. Wells Bring Hope taps into Niger’s natural aquifers by drilling borewells, which provide villages with drinking water as well as water for farming, making farms more reliable and drought-resistant.

Linking proven solutions like drilled wells with forward-thinking technologies such as artificial rain offers hope to Nigeriens; the Sahel will need all the help it can get in the coming decades.

Source: Wells Bring Hope