By David Smith | Rotary Club of Pagosa Springs
The Rotary Club of Pagosa Springs has joined Rotary clubs in Aspen, Colorado Springs, West Lake Village (Calif.) and Niamey (Niger), and the Rotary Foundation to advance both economic development and the fight against malnutrition in Niger. Major steps in this project include clearing two acres of land, digging a shallow well, and training village women and children to grow and market high-value, nutritious crops.
Niger is a land-locked West African country that is twice the size of Texas. About 80 percent of Niger lies in the Sahara Desert. In 2015, the United Nations ranked Niger 187 of 188 countries in human development. Niger desperately needs economic development.
Niger also needs better food. Substantial childhood malnutrition in Niger is leading to stunting, wasting, and irreversible cognitive impairment. Fifty percent of women ages 15-49 years are suffering from the effects of chronic anemia. Malnutrition in Niger causes stunting in 48 percent of the children under the age of 5 years.
This project is part of an innovative program called Farmers of the Future. Its goal is to lift subsistence farmers in Africa out of poverty by approaching farming as a business, not just a means of survival.
The key to success is irrigation. Irrigated land generates up to 20 times the revenue of similar land that relies solely on rain. Niger receives rain only during a short rainy season in late summer. By using well water for irrigation, three crops can be grown annually.
But, success requires the adoption of new marketing and farming techniques. These new approaches are introduced simultaneously to two generations: to primary school children receptive to new ideas and to their parents (primarily mothers) who are able to put new ideas into practice immediately.
In addition to providing the 25 families in the cooperative with highly nutritious food, profits from sales of produce will be divided between the families and local schools.
The Rotary Foundation spends about $360 million annually to advance world understanding, goodwill and peace by improving health, providing quality education, improving the environment and alleviating poverty. Our Twin Club, Gaweye-Niamey Rotary Club of Niger, will manage the project. These volunteers greatly enhance the value of grants funded by the Rotary Foundation.