Goats save people from hunger in Niger

Amadou and Aminatou Aboula are raising their seven children in the West African country of Niger. Ensuring their family is fed and their children grow up strong and with an education is sometimes a real challenge. Caritas Niger is helping them through a livelihoods programme so they have nutritious food. Below Amadou reflects on how to take care of his children when the crops he grows aren’t enough.

Interview conducted by Abraham Komi Djagnikpo, communications officer with Caritas Niger

When your family doesn’t have enough to eat, you start to really worry. Your mind does somersaults, trying to find ways to feed them. You know that not eating enough healthy food will have a big impact on your children’s health, on their education and on their future.

Goats save people from hunger in Niger

Aminatou and her children. Photo by Caritas Niger

We thank God that this year, our harvest was good. But it’s not always like that. Usually, food starts to run out after the first rains in the months of June.

Bugs and poor rains have a big effect on our crops. When this happens, the heads of households who are able to, such as myself, have to leave the village to look for work so we can support our families.

So, when I see the situation is getting bad, I usually gather what little harvest I’ve managed to grow and I leave my family to go to places such as Tahoua, Niamey and Gaya. Sometimes I even leave Niger and go to Benin and Mali where I find work selling chairs. I send the money I earn to my wife and family, but sometimes when things don’t go well, I don’t manage to look after them.

We live on our ancestral lands and agriculture is the only thing we’ve got to help us survive. But we need help from others to make this work.

We need fertiliser, pest and disease control to help our crops grow better, a reliable water source as the rains only come for three months a year, and machinery such as ploughs and tractors to help us speed up our work and to produce more. If we had this improved technology, we would have more food and our families would no longer go hungry.

Aminatou says:

I’m part of Caritas Niger’s livelihood programme and this has really helped us to feed our family. Me and other women in the group receive money that we can invest in activities to make sure our children don’t go hungry.

We’ve also received two goats. Our children drink the milk from the goats and this helps them stay healthy and grow up strong. We breed the goats so that we can sell the goat kids. The money we receive helps us survive the periods when we don’t manage to grow enough food ourselves. It also helps us pay school fees, buy medicines and take care of our children.

Other people in our village have received agricultural materials and training as part of the “Pasan Field School”. This project helps them learn different techniques to help them grow more food.

Niger is an arid and land-locked West African country. It is considered one of the least developed nations in the world. Almost half the population lives below the poverty line and around 20 percent of the population can’t meet their food needs.

The PASAN project, financed by Caritas Norway and the Norwegian government and implemented by Caritas Niger, aims to improve the lives of smallholder farmers in Niger by boosting production. Around 34,000 people have so far benefitted from the programme in the southwest of Niger in Dosso, Tahoua and Tillabéry.