The Rescuers of Koygourou


By Ibrahim Niandou, 31 August 2012

The Rescuers of Koygourou image 1
Haoua Daouda, membre de MMD et cliente de la banque de céréales de Koygourou. © 2012 CARE/ Niandou Ibrahim

"I can assure you that considering the crisis of this year 2012, I can claim that it is the women who saved our village and even families from other villages ..." says Gado Fandou, her eyes now looking up on the cloudy sky, and then laid tenderly on his wife Haoua a Daouda. It seems a kind of power emerges from this old couple who are so combative, so welded in the face of adversity.

It is 4 p.m. on this Friday, August 31. Life at Koygourou village, located 130 kilometers east of Niamey (Niger), is idling. Food crisis has been hitting the 1,500 inhabitants hard since December. In June, while hope seemed to be revived with the first rains of the season, colonies of locusts suddenly ravaged the young millet shoots. Farmers had to replant two to three times. Thus several different stages of evolution of millet can be seen in the same field. The last sowing is unlikely to produce any panicles if there is no rainfall until October. The heavy August rains have flooded the fertile lowlands. Here and there, gutted houses and uprooted trees show the violence of the recent rains. This is a difficult time through which households have to endure. Yet in this apparent desolation, Mata Masu Dubara women (ingenious women) are very active in the village. They represent the collective pride of Koygourou.

The Program Mata Masu Dubara is implemented by CARE in Niger with funding from NORAD. The impacts of the Mata Masu Dubara system in the economic and social promotion of women were already widely known in Niger. CARE collaborates through this program with 1,056 villages in 100 municipalities. CARE helped 217,839 women to create 8,209 groups of savings and credit. The evidence was made that women have now a better access to income because they got access to credit. Food security is improved in communities thanks to the banks of cereal launched by women.

"When we were establishing our cereal bank, we did not know it would be of such importance in the life of the village. Yet it feeds the most vulnerable people in Koygorou, such as my household today ... "claims Haoua Daouda, Gado Fandou's wife.

Koygourou MMD cereal bank was established after the 2005 food crisis, with one ton of corn contributed by the women of the network's three savings and loan associations, to reinforce the resilience of households.

"Already in 2010, the bank was used to alleviate food crisis by providing grains on credit. Then CARE helped us acquire a 15 ton grain subsidy from the WFP (The World Food Program). The stock which was reconstituted during the November, 2011 crops was 95 bags of maize and 200 bags of millet purchased at 18,500 f and 15000f /bag respectively, including transportation. This is the stock we have been selling at retail price to households since June. We sell the measurement of corn at 600f compared to 650f on the market. This indeed enables us to make only a narrow benefit margin, but we sell cheaper than the market and therefore at a more affordable price for the poor’ explains Mariama Kimba, president of the MMD network.

Gado and Haoua's household is one of those poorest households in the village. Gado, who is over 70 and sickly, cannot work hard, though the couple cares for seven children: their own two children and five grandchildren aged 4 to 14. The latter are the children of their recently deceased daughter.

The small field cultivated by the household yielded very little in 2011. Now the whole family sleeps in one straw hut following the flood which damaged their mud house. Haoua sells condiments to feed the family. To carry out this business, she takes credit from the MMD association. With the revenue generated by this small business, she can buy daily measures of millet at the cereal bank. "What should we have done without the MMD loan and the MMD bank?" asks Haoua, adding that dozens of other households in the village like them benefit from these opportunities created by women in Koygorou.

To ensure a proper operation of the bank, the MMD network has established a sales committee: Aissa Issa is responsible for sales and Rabi Harouna is the treasurer. The committee has undergone trainings and is available to clients any time of the day and night.

"These women are so well organized they can save everyone here. Even the less vulnerable people are somewhat relieved because they receive fewer requests to assist their poor relatives. Five days ago, a man from Tcharandi, a village which is 15 kilometers away, came up here on foot to buy some measures of millet grain at the cereal bank. This is a real honor paid for our entire village." boasts Amadou Sanda, the village tailor with delight.

"With the uncertainties due to locusts and floods this year, we are going to further reinforce our network," claims Mariama, the MMD President, while all the women sitting by the cereal bank around her approved by nodding their heads. Meanwhile, the first drops of another rain of this month of August had started falling.

In this village where Mother Nature shows little leniency, women's energy is the main preserver of men's dignity.

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