“We were in great difficulty in the hungry season, “ says Maimouna Boureima. “That’s the period between our two harvests and this year our fields gave us so little we seriously considered migrating to Niger’s capital, Niamey, to look for work or to even beg on the streets.” Maimouna, 45, is a widower with 5 children to feed. He works in his family’s fields with his brother, who also has a family to raise.
“Our village of Banibangou is one of the poorest in this area,” Maimouna says. “There are no paid jobs so we have to rely on what we can grow. But with drought and pests attacking our crops again, it is a very hard life. We are always thinking of our one meal a day of millet or niébé, a type of black-eyed pea.”
Caritas Niger operates cash-for-work schemes for the very poorest farmers and those headed by one parent. In many cases these are women, but when Maimouna and his brother were offered places, they jumped at the chance. They set to work rehabilitating degraded land around the village in return for wages.
“This has allowed us to boost our stocks and to buy food to keep us going until the next harvest,” he says.
“We have even been able to vary our diet a little bit. It is as though someone has removed a thorn from my foot. This has left space for hope.”
Apart from having their hunger needs met, the villagers of Banibangou are proud of the work they have done. Land which has been unused for a long time will soon be ready to be cultivated again. Maimouna is one of more than 380,000 vulnerable people who have benefited from Caritas’ help in Niger through projects like cash-for-work, community food distributions and the sale of cereals at reduced prices.