With 72 hectares of reservoir-fed land, the community of Issoufouri at the edge of the Sahara in Niger had a valuable resource. Beginning in 1970, however, the underground water table began to recede, making it increasingly difficult to access sufficient water for crops. As the water became overexploited, families were forced to abandon the land and the community.
When Counterpart International launched its food security program in Issoufouri in 2010, only four people worked the wetland, farming less than a single hectare combined.
With the wetland unusable and rainfall uncertain, the community relied more and more on money sent back by economic migrants like Fadjimi Boula, who traveled to Libya to find work when he was 18 years old. Now a man of 40 and the father of six, Fadjimi recently returned to Issoufouri.
“To my surprise, I found wells constructed in our wetland, with many women busy cultivating vegetables,” says Fadjimi. “Since the wetland belongs to everyone in the village, I decided to begin cultivation on our family’s land in the wetland. Before my first harvest of maize, I had three months of food to feed my family.”
Fadjimi produced cabbage and onion, which he sold on the market for $650. He reinvested the money in a motor pump to increase his yield and production. By the time the farming season ended, he had enough money to send his first child to school, and replace the roof on his house.
Fadjimi’s family all decided to stay in Issoufouri, finally able to earn a living at home.
His is not the only family able to finally support themselves in their own community. With Counterpart’s support, more than 50 families are now cultivating 11 hectares of land.
Economic migration has slowed, family revenues are increasing, and the community of Issoufouri has, as Fadjimi says, “realized that wealth was just knocking at our doors and ready to take us to new heights. Apart from what we produced, this assistance has reunited us and we have come to settle and to continue producing vegetables in our wetland.”
Counterpart implements the Strengthening Community & Household Resiliency to Food Insecurity in Niger program, with funding and commodities from the U.S. Agency for International Development. Under this program, Counterpart supports 303 communities to strengthen their resilience to food insecurity.
This success story is featured on foodaid.org, a resource for the policy community and development practitioners to learn about U.S. food assistance programs.