Women on the move: Transforming dry lands into crops in Niger

By Elizabeth Adéwalé, CARE Niger

In the heart of Africa’s Sahel region, Niger is one of the world’s hottest countries. It’s also one of the poorest. During the dry season, which runs from March to May, temperatures can reach as high as 45° celcius, and the hot sunny days are often accompanied by billowing sand storms. Precious rain fall during the wet season, from June to September, then makes the air heavy with moisture.

In this climate, many of Niger’s famers struggle to put food on their family’s table, let alone make a living from their crops.

Rocks are removed, often by hand, and used to build a small wall around the holes, to separate it from the un-worked land.

Through its Dryland Development Program, CARE is working with farmers in Niger to help them improve their agricultural yields.

In the village of Lawaye haï himo, CARE is working with a savings group. The group, called Danhassada (meaning “envious” in Hausa, the language spoken in this part of Niger) is made up entirely of women. CARE is helping them develop dryland farming techniques that will help improve their crops by using a water harvesting and land fertile technique known as zai or tassa (meaning “anticipation” in Hausa). This technique allows the women to collect precious rainwater to irrigate their crops.

Once the land is cleared, crops including millet and peanut are planted.

Holes measuring around 20 centimeters deep and 30 centimeters wide are dug in the rocky, dusty ground in order to both collect the rainwater and to store it for long periods. Compost is placed immediately in each hole to keep the soil fertile. The process of planting the seeds in zai holes starts after the first rain.

The end result – fertile lands providing food and livelihoods for the Danhassada women’s group.

This year, the Danhassada women transformed enough of their dry lands to grown crops including millet and peanut.

Through innovation and determination, women farmer like those in Danhassada are not only surviving the harsh realities of their climate, but they are thriving. Now that’s what we call lasting change.

Learn more about how CARE works with farmers >>