31 August 2012

The Bush of Niger

Hi Everyone,
Needless to say I have never had an experience like I had today, If you would have asked me a year ago do you see yourself in Niger, I would probably have said “Nigeria”, not in the near future, so Niger was not really even on my map, especially since it is so remote – took us five legs to arrive her, Israel and Niger do not have a formal relationship although Israelis are very much welcome here, and the prime minister of Niger recently said in a speech he gave that ”we should stop the hypocrisy and form a bilateral relationship with Israel”, Israelis are well known for their agricultural abilities here and Prof Dov Pasternak  which I mentioned before is a well known and respected figure in the agricultural milieu.
So we were welcomed very kindly and most people whom we meet are thrilled to meet us and to hear where we come from. Many people talk very badly about al-Qaida and there is a feeling that they continuously loom over the country as a threat.
Niger is divided into security zones and our village is on the boarder of the red zone where foreigners are recommended not to go.
We are now in the midst of the rainy season, (May to September), this year it rained a lot and there was much flooding, but there is no water retention for agriculture and after the rain everything just dries up.
the way to the village

We were welcomed very nicely by the mayor and the vice mayor, other than French, the mayor also speaks English to my delight, (he was a former English teacher, for 20 years) so we had a conversation where I could talk freely. We had a formal side of the meeting in which we gave them the presents and then they set out to prepare the goat meat (in the old days people would bring the goat with them, for practical reasons in modern times you just pay for it) and exchanged niceties.
The goat meat, which I have never ate before, was similar to lamb but a bit tougher, they added a spice on the side, in which you should dip the meat, the spice was very fragrant and had a touch of spiciness, I liked it very much.  They cooked so much, and obviously it was too much for us, but I understand that others received the food as well after our ceremony. We thought that was the end but then, a man came in with two huge pots, which funny enough were like our ptitim, but mixed with meat and sauce, it was very delicious.
Pic of mayor, enjoying the halva.

The picture of the food will be sent later.

Mahamad, Mariama (our engienier) and myself

After the formal part the mayor explained to us about his village and answered all our questions. Our village is quite developed in comparison to other villages; it is that main village in an area of 56 Km sq with 36,000 people. 21villages have sufficient drinking water but no water for agriculture and 22 the Fakara “away from the valley” don’t have enough for drinking water.
The mayor explained to us that most of all they need water for agriculture and training for new farming techniques and commercialization. The area is good for growing potatoes and there is enough water you just need to get to it. In a country where there is no credit availability, private entrepreneurship is very difficult, that with an existential mind set, does not allow for much development.  This we hope will be the basis for our project, the mayor and the vice mayor gave us much information with which we can build the project.

the Vice mayor and Mariama looking into the empty well
Avi and three brothers, they followed us the whole day and wanted to shake our hand like the grown ups. Their smiles were illuminating

We sometimes think that an African village is a communal living area, but actually in the villages where we visited, people live quite an individualistic way of life, each earning their living on an individualistic basis. Most of the houses in the village where like compounds in which there was a house or hut for the people, the areas in which the animals were kept and a plot of land either in the compound or on the outskirts of the village. The mayor explained to us, that depending on their financial situation some have a latrine in the house, some have rain water catchment or solar power, almost everyone owns land in the village and earns their living through farming and sheep and goats.

So all in all Niger was a great experience, going to the bush, wearing the local costume, in a wonderful purple, eating the goat and most of all meeting all the people we met, the mayor the vice mayor, Mahamad, Mariama, Saidou Abdousalam and Ahmed Boubacar the knowledgeable water engineer who after working for many years with Ngo’s has opened his own company and we wish him much luck, he has everything you need for drilling wells and other water projects in rural areas for Niger and other countries in West Africa.
Tomorrow early morning we are leaving for Cameroun and looking forward to new experiences

1 comment:

  1. Shalom Ornit,Please remember in less than 48Hours we should be meeting in Nairobi..Please let me know your flight schedule so that i may arrange airport pick-up or bringing Director to Airport for meeting.Also try to send me phone number that can reach you in Madagascar.
    Thank you.