Rethinking Womanhood: Childless in Niger

By Elsa Sichrovsky

In a nation where the fertility rate is 7.5 children per woman[1]–the highest in the world–being childless is considered the mark of failure for a woman in Niger. Nigerien movie director Aicha Macky, herself struggling with infertility, bravely tackles the sensitive and painful social and psychological issues surrounding fertility in her first documentary feature, The Fruitless Tree (2016).

This isn’t the first time for Aicha Macky to speak up for Nigerien women about distressing but socially unacceptable issues. Her first film, Moi et ma maigreur (Me and My Thinness, 2011) addressed body image and the connection between thinness and AIDS in Africa. In 2013, she released her thesis film Savoir faire le lit (Know How to Make the Bed, 2013), which explored how girls receive–or fail to receive–sex education from their mothers. Her master’s degrees in sociology and documentary filmmaking give her both the cultural sensitivity and cinematic skill to produce a widely received, thought-provoking film that speaks for Nigerien women even when social norms wrap reproductive health issues in a cloud of shame. The Fruitless Tree received 50 different prizes at film festivals, including the Africa Movie Academy Award for Best Documentary,[2] and was pre-purchased by international channels, including Japan’s NHK[3].

Aicha Machky

In an interview with She Does the City[4], Aicha Macky explained that she wants to raise awareness for infertility as a public health issue that needs to be addressed. What’s more, she wants to return women their humanity, “especially in Niger where a woman cannot be simply a woman without being a mother and a wife”. Not having children herself, she knows too well that the pain of being seen as a lesser person for not having a family is a devastating blow to one’s self-confidence. She asks the hard question that every oppressed woman has probably asked herself: “When people look down on you, you wonder how you’ve wronged them[5].”

Her documentary begins by addressing the title, which is also the derisive label that infertile women are called: trees without fruit. “Here, a woman is a tree, casting shade for her resting husband, for whom she bears fruit…I’m a tree that casts shade, but I’m merely ornamental[6].” Without children, women are seen as unworthy wives who are treated with suspicion and scorn, and ultimately replaced with cowives who can bear children for their husbands[7].  In some cases, it is the husband who is infertile, but still, women are completely blamed for the lack of offspring, which takes a high social and psychological toll. Aicha Macky speaks to her mother, who died in childbirth when Aicha was only five years old: “By giving life, you lost yours. Whereas I, I’m dying a slow death by not being able to give life.”

Despite her pain, Aicha offers glimmers of hope in her film. A letter tells of an infertile wife who was brought to court by her mother-in-law and tried publicly on the accusation of using witchcraft to keep her husband from taking a second wife. Her husband stood up and bravely confessed to the assembled crowd that it was he who was infertile, and his wife had sworn never to leave him.

Another woman tells of how her husband remained by her side through 19 years of marriage, turning down every offer from other women, despite the fact she was unable to conceive. These stories show that when women are valued as individuals and treated with dignity, there is hope for women to be able to lead positive, productive lives even without bearing children[8].

In addition to her film projects, Aicha engages young people in conversations about short films that address violent extremism and political conflict. She also speaks about social prejudice, which is violence even if it doesn’t involve shedding blood: “Verbal violence marks us for life and prevents women from emancipating themselves.” [9]

For her work, she has been awarded the Chevalière des Arts et des Lettres (Order of Arts and Letters)by the French Republic’s Minister of Culture. Although she is unable to contribute a child to society, through her advocacy work she contributes something even more important: the ability to start greatly needed conversations to bring about positive change in the way childless women are viewed in Niger and other places in the world. As she declares in The Fruitless Tree, “I believe I am able to affirm myself as a woman among mothers[10].”












Uranium Mines in Niger: Blessing or Silent Killer?

By Elsa Sichrovsky

Source: Marcin Wichary

Although nearly 90% of Niger’s population lives without electricity, rich deposits of uranium in the northern regions of the country provide France with nuclear energy for electricity through the French nuclear energy company AREVA, which has been mining in Niger since 1958[1]. One out of every three light bulbs in France is lit with Nigerien uranium.[2] Uranium exports account for 75% to 90% of Niger’s national export income[3], but this revenue comes at a steep cost to the local population.

In a desert nation that already struggles to provide clean, fresh water for its citizens,  AREVA has used over 270 billion liters of water in the mining towns of Arlit and Akokan. This strain on local fossil aquifers increases the rate of desertification, which is devastating, considering that only 11.5% of Niger’s land is arable. Worse yet, uranium has been contaminating the water supply above the WHO’s recommended limit for drinking water. Alpha activity levels have been reported to be 10 to 100 times higher than the safety levels suggested by WHO. After reports from Greenpeace exposing high water pollution, AREVA closed several wells, attributing it to “natural pollution.”

Nigerien filmmaker Amina Weira’s 2016 film, La Colere Dans Le Vent, or Anger in the Wind, gives a personal glimpse into how the uranium mining industry has impacted her hometown of Arlit. AREVA has been mining uranium in Arlit since 1976. Her father worked in the uranium mines for 35 years and helped put her in contact with other miners who shared their stories of danger and exploitation.

In a Greenpeace report, Salifou Adinfo, a former driller who worked in the mines from 1966 to 2000 recalled the working conditions at the time: “In that time, there was complete ignorance! No mask, no protection. Then [later] we received protection. Before, we worked with our bare hands! …The mining company never informed us about the risks…we relied on what God decided.” [6] Due to persistent pressure from activists and locals, in recent years AREVA has finally started to provide better protective gear for its employees.

In her film, Weira commented that the danger to local residents is particularly significant since they are not educated about radioactivity: “Radioactivity is not something you can see and the local population knows nothing about the risks associated with it. At certain times of the year, the entire town is covered in sand due to the strong winds.”[7]  Due to the sandstorms that plague the region, radioactive particles are spread far and wide across the land, posing a threat to the health of all residents.

The effect of radiation on local health is undeniable. The rate of death from respiratory infection in the mining town of Arlit is double what it is in other parts of the country.[8] A local journalist reports miscarriages and birth defects among villagers: “Villagers sought spiritual interventions against the high rate of death, miscarriage, and deformed babies. There are cases where children were born with four legs, four eyes, with no eyes or with an enlarged head. Animals were born with six legs.[9]” Like many other miners, former AREVA employee Hammett has had to retire due to extreme chronic pain: “I had to quit because of unbearable pains in my joints, but I can consider myself lucky. The cases of heart attacks, strange skin conditions or permanent migraines in this place cannot be counted[10].”

Yet, all is not lost. Nigeriens are standing up for their country. Ali Idrissa is a human rights activist and co-founder of ROTAB, the Network of Organisations for Transparency and Budgetary Analysis, which seeks to promote transparency and fair negotiations between the Nigerien government and French nuclear energy companies. His goal is to properly manage Niger’s natural resources and distribute them for the benefit the people of Niger. His campaign, “Don’t touch my uranium,” has encouraged public figures and influential members of society to demand transparency and equality in the government’s handling of Niger’s natural energy resources[11].

Idrissa has suffered violent clashes with armed forces, arrests, and threats. Still, he carries on: “But even if I am scared at times, fearing for my life, I won’t give up this battle for Niger, for my people, for my family.”










The Tuareg and Agadez

By Talei Caucau

Niger, West Africa, is not a place visited by many tourists, because there is not much to see, except for the northern part, most notably Agadez and the vast expanse of desert that lies beyond it, known as The Air.

Agadez is an ancient and important market town located in the desert,  northeast of Niamey, the capital of Niger. Constructed with clay and sticks, the architecture of Agadez is stunning and otherworldly. It looks like a relic of an ancient city, but it remains a lively and bustling town. It is an Islamic city with a mosque that is said to have one of the highest mud minarets in Africa.

View of Agadez from the mosque – Source: Dan Lundberg

Agadez has a fascinating history. The city prospered because of its position as a trading hub. A century ago, it became the marketplace for everything merchants had to sell – salt, ivory, slaves, etc.   For over a thousand years, caravans have been bringing salt, which is a very lucrative commodity in this area, to Agadez. The caravans merge at Agadez to sell their goods after crossing the desert.

In Agadez, caravans can gather food for themselves and their horses and camels before they begin the next part of their journey. Their way of life is mostly unknown to the rest of the world. The caravans do what they must to endure droughts and constant conflict in the region. They continue to make their way through the desert and wander through the harsh lands they know so well.

In the 15th century, Agadez was the home of a Tuareg sultanate. The Tuareg are pastoralists who inhabit North and West Africa. Niger was taken over by  French colonialists in the early 1900s and their reign over the city was brutal until the Tuaregs, a large Berber ethnic confederation of nomads, fought against their cruel oppressors in an act of desperation and defiance. It took four months for the French to quell the rebellion. Even colonial powers could not easily defeat the mighty Tuareg in the region. The language spoken by the Tuareg is said to have been used by ancient Libyans.

A Tuareg Rider – Source: Jason Hall

In 2010, it was estimated there were around 2 million Tuareg. Their lifestyle is ancient but fascinating. The Tuareg, in North Africa, inhabit the desert regions and live in feudal communities in tents and wield traditional weapons. It is apparent the Tuareg, noblemen, and clergy, are deeply entrenched in their culture and live according to their own laws. The Tuareg are considered “uneducated” by many, however, they are very intelligent and have survived the harsh landscape of Niger for thousands of years. They have preserved their ancient language and culture. They have learned everything they know from their elders. It is evidently a tough way of life, however, the caravans have survived for over a thousand years. It is a beautiful and otherworldly way of life.

The Last Master: Malam Mamane Barka

By Elsa Sichrovsky

In the 1980s, a teenaged teacher would often entertain locals in the town of Tesker, Niger by playing the ngurumi, a traditional instrument with a calabash shell body and iguana skin head[1] that is often used by the Toubou people of northern Niger. The Toubou schoolteacher went on to become headmaster of a local school at the age of sixteen, but he still found time to continue writing songs for the ngurumi and developing his musical skill. Little did that headmaster, a young Malam Mamane Barka, know that he would go on to become another kind of master: an internationally recognized musician and guardian of traditional music.

Word spread of Mamane Barka’s mesmerizing tunes that celebrated the nomadic culture of the Toubou people, and he began receiving performance requests from across Niger and neighboring Nigeria as well. But Mamane Barka had even bigger dreams. He wanted to revive the popularity of a boat-shaped string instrument called the biram, which is native to the Boudouma tribe. In 2002, he was awarded a UNESCO scholarship to travel to Lake Chad to pursue the study of the biram with the world’s last remaining biram master, Boukar Tar. The aging master had all but given up hope for preserving this ancient art, but Mamane Barka rescued it from oblivion. After Mamane Barka had undergone numerous purification rites, Boukar Tar began imparting his precious knowledge of the biram and the lyrics to traditional songs. Before he died, Boukar Tar gave Mamane Barka his last biram, thus endowing him with the responsibility of bringing the biram onto the international music scene.

In 2005, Mamane Barka brought the biram outside of Niger for the first time with a performance at the Desert Music Festival in Rissani, Morocco. The performance was a success, and Mamane Barka’s international career took off with further performances in France and Germany. In 2008, Mamane Barka and his fellow musician, percussionist Oumarou Adamou, performed at the WOMAD (World of Music, Arts, and Dance) festival and were warmly received. They caught the attention of London music producer Paul Borg, who began recording with them in the prestigious Livingston Studios where they produced their first album, Introducing Malam Mamane Barka.[2]

The album featured lyrics in multiple West African languages, Boudouma, Hausa, Toubou, and Kanuri. The multilingual album celebrated Nigerien diversity and transcended tribal borders. Some songs celebrated the courage of tribal young people who face danger from wild animals, intertribal warfare,  and the threats of nature. Some songs pondered Niger’s rapidly changing society and the challenges that young people face in adapting to it.

Mamane Barka was deeply conscious of his life’s destiny: “I felt a responsibility to the old man and to his instrument. Before he died, I promised him I would show the biram to the world and so that’s what I must do,”[3] he said. Along with the widely popular Nigerien band Etran Finatawa, Mamane Barka formed a The Endless Journey. tour. They traveled to China, Japan, Pakistan, Morocco, Algeria, France, Germany, Spain, and Holland as cultural activists striving to celebrate and preserve their traditional culture. In the face of relentless modernization, their mission was to help young people appreciate and find pride in their musical heritage. The tour was also showcased in a documentary film and photographic exhibition[4].

In 2018, Malam Mamane Barka passed away. His death was deeply mourned by the international music community. Mamane Barka left a legacy of gratitude and appreciation for traditional culture. Throughout his lyrics, he consistently paid tribute to his teacher. One of his most well-known songs is “Boulanga,” a song which. Was previously performed by his teacher Boukar Tar. “Boulanga” expresses the loneliness of an old man whose friends have died before him. Mamane Barka studied the lyrical and musical structure of the song for several months before releasing it as an homage to his teacher. In “Doro Lelewa,”Mamane Barka sings the praises of Boukar Tar’s Boudouma village[5]. While pioneering new sounds with an ancient instrument, Mamane Barka honored the cultural traditions of his ancestors.

Niger is a nation rich with unique music and culture. Sadly, Niger’s beautiful and vibrant artistry is often clouded by the struggles of poverty and deprivation. When young people gain access to the education and resources needed to achieve their dreams, they can go places previous generations could only dream of. Join Wells Bring Hope in giving Nigerien young people a chance to stop the cycle of intergenerational poverty, so Nigerien youth can enrich our world with more amazing art and music.






Causes of Child Marriage and the Bigger Picture

By Michelle Nelson von Euw

A great deal of research has been done on child marriage in an effort to understand the causes, and effects, of this damaging practice. Child marriage refers to both formal and informal unions in which children under the age of 18 live with partners as if they are married. According to a recent study conducted by Girls Not Brides, 1 in 5 girls in the world are married before the age of 18. Over 650 million women alive today were married as children. Niger has the highest overall prevalence of child marriage in the world with 76% of girls under the age of 18 being married. One of the leading predictors of a high rate of child marriage is gender inequality. Girls are pushed into marriage because of how they are perceived by society: as a burden.

Due to limited economic and social opportunities, young girls in developing nations are often seen as liabilities and economic burdens. While women work in the home, this work is not valued as it does not generate income. This view of women has reinforced the use of the dowry and has contributed to the disempowerment of women and girls. The community structures that limit opportunities for young women are often the result of traditional practices. In many instances, traditional practices that are made the sole responsibility of women such as caring for children, housework, and water retrieval, are not questioned because they are seen as an integral part of a community’s identity. For example, in India, there is widespread awareness of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act of 2006, which was enacted by the Supreme Court of India, but child marriage is still prevalent as many people feel that traditions and social norms are stronger than the law.

The supremacy of traditional practices creates great barriers to change. For example, in many nations around the world, women and girls are solely responsible for retrieving water for their homes. Unfortunately, water points are often miles away from the rural villages where the women live and may require hours of walking. This time-consuming practice greatly hinders a girl’s ability to receive education and women’s ability to find income-generating work.

Unfortunately, many young girls are taught that the only way to escape poverty is through marriage to a man with more wealth. This also means that women’s futures often rest in the hands of their spouses. For many, this means that there is no possible path to self-sufficiency. These cultural frameworks create an atmosphere of social and peer pressure that many girls feel unable to combat. This is particularly true in the case of the most vulnerable (orphans, those who have received little education, etc.) who are more susceptible to these forces. In order to break this cycle, child marriage must be stopped as the causes and effects are often circular. A lack of education leads to child marriage and child marriage often discourages, or completely eliminates, a girls’ choice to continue her education. In addition, child marriage is often associated with health risks like sexually transmitted diseases and obstetric fistulas, which further threaten a woman’s position in a community, making her even more vulnerable and reliant on her husband.

While the specific circumstances that lead to child marriage vary from girl to girl (limited education and economic opportunities, dowry systems, traditional and societal norms, and expectations, etc.), the underlying issue is gender inequality that disempowers women and girls. If there is hope for improvement, which I wholeheartedly believe there is, it is vital to understand that there is a need for societal standards that support gender equality. Communities must push back against prejudicial, traditional practices that marginalize half of the population. Increasing awareness of the laws that protect young girls can empower them to play an active role in making decisions that affect their lives. This can be a strong counter to societal pressures and can give girls the courage to break with tradition and operate outside of the status quo. Traditions and customs are not immutable, and empowerment is the gateway to change.


Girls Not Brides. “Child Marriage Around the World.” Girls Not Brides,

Steinhaus, M., Fenn, N., Gregowski, A. & Petroni, S. (2016). “’She Cannot Just Sit Around Waiting to Turn Twenty’ Understanding Why Child Marriage Persists in Kenya and Zambia.” ICRW.

United Nations International Emergency Fund. “Child Marriage.” UNICEF: What We Do.

Young Lives, Child Marriage and Female Circumcisions (FGM/C): Evidence from Ethiopia, Policy brief 21, July 2014.

So tell me again, why have we been panic buying toilet paper?

By Nick Baldry

When it became apparent that the coronavirus had not only reached the shores of the United States, but was taking hold to such an extent that we needed to shut down society as we know it, there was one fairly universal reaction. Panic.

That panic manifested itself in a number of ways. A common one was panic purchasing. Commodities flew off shelves. In very short order, my local supermarkets were stripped of fairly obvious items such as canned food and bottled water as people rushed to make sure that they had enough to survive an unknown period of time where they wouldn’t be able to leave home. This was despite the fact that stores would remain open and well-stocked during the lockdown. Scarcity created fear that other products would become increasingly scarce and a vicious cycle took hold.

Other less obvious products were purchased in almost unprecedented quantities. A report from the Guardian newspaper on March 17th described lines at the doors of marijuana dispensaries and video game stores in San Francisco prior to the local shelter in place order going into effect, as people prepared to spend day after day at home. Maybe a little less unexpectedly, alcohol sales also climbed steeply. In the US they were up 55% for the third week in March compared to the same time in 2019, according to CNN.

And then there was toilet paper…

I’ll be honest, if you had asked me at the beginning of the year what items I would have hoarded in a pandemic, I don’t think toilet paper would have made the list. Wine, definitely. Toilet paper would have been an afterthought at best.

Throughout the western world, we went potty over the stuff. Local Facebook groups were full of posts from residents asking for inside information on which supermarkets were getting a shipment in as they were down to their last roll or worse last few sheets. Some stocked up with a view to selling toilet paper at a markup, a practice that proved disastrous for one gentleman in Australia who tried to return $10,000 AUD worth of toilet paper and hand sanitizer that eBay was no longer letting him list for sale. The supermarket declined to offer him a refund. The toilet paper situation in Australia was apparently so dire that one newspaper printed a special edition with eight blank pages that could be ripped off and used in case of emergency.

Ultimately this was a staggeringly first world response to a pandemic. Toilet paper is not essential to survival. Water, yes. Food, yes. Wine, we’ll agree to disagree on that one. Toilet paper, no.

In the developed world we have the luxury of having at least one room in our home essentially dedicated to sanitation. We sit on the porcelain throne whiling away time on smartphones (at least 75% of us do according to a 2015 article and terrifyingly 63% of us have answered a call while using the facilities) safe in the knowledge that what we produce and any accompanying toilet paper will be whisked away cleanly and efficiently with a simple flush, never to be thought of again.

On the ground, in Niger, the need is far more fundamental. Instead of a rush on toilet paper, the need is toilets. Around 96% of people do not have access to sanitation, not even a basic latrine. People are left with no choice but to practice open defecation, a practice which is a key part of the lifecycle for diseases such as schistosomiasis and trachoma, as well as a variety of life-threatening diarrheal diseases.

This is all before we get to the implications of a pandemic like a coronavirus, a disease where one of the best defenses is handwashing – a simple intervention when you have access to clean water. When, like 61% of rural villagers in Niger, you don’t have access to such a basic resource as clean water, the potential for rampant spread is unimaginable.

Does the emergence of the coronavirus in Niger (which has confirmed 701 cases at the time of writing) mean there is a sudden need for wells and sanitation in Niger? No. The need is far from sudden, it has been there for generations. In a country where one in seven children dies before the age of five, where diseases linked to the lack of adequate sanitation have been and continue to be rife, coronavirus is just another on a depressingly long list of reasons why there is a need to fund wells, access to sanitation, and all of the other critical interventions Wells Bring Hope provides to people on the ground.

I’m not so worried about toilet paper. I have access to a toilet, clean running water, and other fundamental defenses against disease. Of course, the pandemic is a concern for myself and my family, but at least it isn’t exacerbated by a real threat of the diseases of poverty that threaten people throughout the developing world on a daily basis.

My Journey as a Water Engineer

By Godfrey Oyuki

I come from a village called Abur in Osukuru sub-county, Tororo district, Uganda. My grandparents, father and all fourteen of his children were born there. It is located on a hill and the ground water table is very difficult to reach. There is no natural spring, no river, no stream, and no open water source in the entire area and it has been that way for many decades.

The only water source was more than six kilometers away and there were lots of hills to climb. I watched my grandmother fetching water, carrying it in a traditional pot molded from clay. If the pot fell, she would lose the water and also the pot. Her life was really difficult. It took a strong woman eight hours to walk back and forth to get water.

The other challenge was that this water source, our only water source, also served
animals that polluted the water. People would move their cattle every day from other villages and they do that to this day.

Rain was a major source of water and it collected between the hills, like small reservoirs, storing water for at least a month if animals didn’t invade the space. However, the water flowing through the soil and rock would pick up excess minerals and cause serious dental problems.

In 2003, our prayers were answered when the government drilled two borehole wells in our area. I was only eight years old. But sad to say, due to the high amount of fluoride in the well water, we were still forced to fetch drinking water from the same contaminated source. By 2014, the wells dried up. The high fluoride content made teeth very brown and impacted the lives of a whole generation of children who, upon leaving their village, faced ostracism for their appearance.

As a young child, I grew up believing that every society was like mine. It wasn’t until I got to high school that I realized other communities had very good water resources and lived a very good life. I also realized that I had to work hard to solve the water challenge in my village.  My dream to improve our water supply was strengthened when one of my village friends who got an electrical engineering degree, returned home and made sure the electrical grid reached our village. It made me believe that I could also bring about change in the life of my village.

The government has remained clueless about how to help people in our area and so the problem remains—my village has no other option than to use the same traditional water source shared with animals.

Having experienced these water challenges, my father encouraged me to pursue a course in Water Engineering as a way to give back to society. In 2018, I completed my B.S. degree in water resources engineering. I also did a project on aquifer recharge techniques to help solve the borehole drying challenges in my village and submitted it as a university undergraduate thesis.

I’m now working on a UN mission in Somalia as a Water and Sanitation Engineer, assigned to a company called I.A.G International L.L.C. I’m very proud to have achieved my goal and hope to one day have the resources to solve the water problem in my village.

Clean Water: An Essential Resource in the Fight against COVID-19

By Chidiebere Aguziendu

  Source: Vinoth Chandar

With the coronavirus pandemic currently threatening communities around the world, researchers across the globe are actively pursuing an effective treatment regimen and a vaccine, which could be more than a year away. While we wait for a vaccine, there are a few things we can do to try to slow the spread of the virus. Study after study has shown that handwashing is the single most effective way to prevent the spread of the disease, COVID-19 included.

Why is handwashing so significant? Because germs are most commonly transferred from one surface to another by hands. Research has indicated that COVID-19 can live on surfaces for up to three days. Therefore, to prevent the spread of this deadly virus, it is essential to practice impeccable hand hygiene. Unfortunately, this basic defense against COVID-19 and hundreds of other illnesses is unavailable to millions of people who lack access to safe water.  

We all know that water is vital to human existence. We can’t live more than a few days without it, but it goes far beyond that. Water is essential for cooking and more importantly, for hygiene. However, in many parts of the world, access to clean water is far from a given. Millions of people around the world do not have safe water to drink, let alone to use for hand washing or cleaning utensils.

The outbreak of the coronavirus is a reminder of the importance of easy access to clean water. Water scarcity is a global problem that requires urgent action, now more than ever.


Food of Niger and Nutritional Health

by Caroline Moss

According to 2019 Global Hunger Index, a report produced by the Irish humanitarian organization Concern Worldwide and the German aid organization Welthungerhilfe, Niger is the 16th hungriest country in the world. The causes of hunger go beyond a lack of available food to include population growth, drought, political instability, conflict, and lack of access to clean water. Because of drought, agriculture is unreliable, and many women are forced to walk to retrieve water for themselves and their families. Lack of enough nutritious food causes malourishment, which is a huge concern for the people of rural Niger.

Niger’s cuisine varies by location. In southern Niger, meals are built around millet, sorghum, rice, and niebé, a type of bean. These staples are plain, yet very filling. Millet is a versatile grain that originated in Africa. The grain is known for its drought resistance and the ability to grow in poor soil. Because of its resiliency, it has become a staple in diets and constitutes a large portion of calories consumed by Nigeriens, particularly in rural areas. Millet is pounded into flour, made into a paste or porridge, and then covered with a stew or sauce for flavor. The stews and soups are typically made with peanuts and vegetables. Many Nigeriens have poor diets because of the lack of dietary diversity and a high reliance on staple foods.  Because of chronic drought, fresh produce is scarce.

Saffron, nutmeg, and cinnamon are commonly used spices because of trade with northern Africa. Niger’s cuisine is influenced heavily by Arab and French traditions. Niger gained its independence from France in 1960 but still maintains many French traditions. Women do the majority of cooking while men work. Few recipes are written down, most are passed down orally from mother to daughter. Nigerien cuisine is less famous on an international level because few recipes are documented.

Rice and meat are often saved for special occasions. Pork is rarely eaten as the majority of the population is Muslim. Most meat is cooked on a grill over hot coals. Many people eat fish from the Niger river. Fish and beans provide much-needed protein for the population.

Tea is quite popular and has a strong social component for the Tuaregs, a nomadic tribe. The tea ceremony is described as somewhat onerous, because of the patience required. Three rounds of tea are served. The same tea leaves are used for each serving and increasing amounts of sugar are added each round. The first serving is called “bitter as death,” the second “mild as life,” and the third “sweet as love.” To leave before drinking all three rounds of tea is insulting, because of cultural implications and water scarcity.

Although the cuisine in Niger varies, one thing is certain, water is crucial to nutritional health.  Water aids in digestion, helps with nutrient absorption, and can help fight off illness. It is a human right and a vital part of human life. We may enjoy similar foods and recognized shared cultures, but all people do not have access to clean water. Consider donating to Wells Bring Hope today to give more Nigeriens access to clean water.

Darlene. “Our Journey to Niger and Nigeria.” International Cuisine, 1 Sept. 2017.

Fick, Maggie. “Tea with the Tuareg.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 17 Nov. 2007.

Giovetti, Olivia. “Fighting Hunger in Niger: 3 Causes of Hunger, 3 Causes for Hope.” 

“Niger Food and Drink Guide.” World Travel Guide.

Silver, Natalie. “Why Is Water Important? 16 Reasons to Drink Up.”  Healthline, 19 Mar. 2019.

Million more trees in Niger – An Australian farmer project that is silently changing the world

by Raphaela Barros Prado

Many nonprofit organizations in Niger were created to help communities with the issues they face everyday such as water scarcity, poverty, unemployment, violence, etc. One of the organizations started with the idea of improving. the environment by creating more green space in Niger’s desert landscape.

Tony Rinaudo is an Australian farmer who moved to Niger because of a strong desire to make a difference in the world. Rinaudo’s original goal was to reforest the world, but after two years of work, he found himself very frustrated as an intense drought was killing all the trees he planted. After observing small bushes surviving in the desert, Rinaudo took a closer look and realized that what he thought were bushes were actually trees that had been cut down and were re-sprouting from the stump. Rinaudo was struck by the fact that the whole time he’d been trying and failing to grow trees, there had been a huge, thriving root system beneath his feet. Rinaudo immediately changed tactics and began to focus on developing a plan to nurture this “underground forest.” He knew that since people had been responsible for removing the trees, they would have to be a part of the plan to restore them.

“In ‘discovering’ this underground forest”, Rinaudo recalls, “the battle lines were immediately redrawn. Reforestation was no longer a question of having the right technology or enough budget, staff or time. It was not even about fighting the Sahara Desert, or goats or drought. The battle was now about challenging deeply held beliefs, attitudes and practices and convincing people that it would be in their best interest to allow at least some of these ‘bushes’ to become trees again.”[i] Rinaudo immediately began work on developing a farmer-managed regeneration program that involved recruiting farmers and teaching them how to farm their land while also preserving some of the local species of trees. Rinaudo showed the farmers how allowing some native species to thrive actually improved their yield since the trees helped the soil retain water, the pruned branches could be used for mulch, and the foliage offered shade that ultimately reduced ground temperatures.

As his project became successful in Niger, Tony along with the World Vision organization, promoted the project across Africa, an effort that continues today. The program was low-cost, simple,  and easy to adapt, so it spread quickly through peer-to-peer interactions among Niger’s farmers. The results were astonishing, and the farmer-managed regeneration program spread to 22 other African countries. In Niger alone, about 6 million hectares of land were and over 200 million trees were regenerated over a 20-year period. The reforestation area is so big that it is visible from a satellite.

Source : John Englart

Because of the success of his project, Rinaudo was invited to participate in UN’s global climate talks in Katowice, Poland in 2018. He passed spread the word about his project, stopping by every meeting room and talking to every delegation. Today there are about 2 billion hectares of degraded land around the world, but most  of the lands could be restored and reforested with trees that could help to remove the carbon from the atmosphere and reduce global warming. Regeneration is not the sole solution for  climate change, but it is a powerful weapon in the larger fight.

Today, 30 years since the project began, Rinaudo is still hard at work. He received an award called Right Livelihood in 2018 at the Vasa Museum in Stockholm in recognition of his great job in Africa. What he created is much more than an agricultural technique, he has inspired a generation of farmers who will continue his work and get us all a little closer to his original goal – a greener world for all.

[i] The Right Livelihood Foundation