Convinced that the Sahel problem is not political but economic, the association Les Puits du Désert, which has worked in Niger in the field of water, education and health, for 15 years, has started a “Development and Security” program for nomadic and sedentary poor populations in the North of the country.
In the particular context of the Sahel, a landlocked region surrounded by conflict zones, the association, in accordance with Niger’s policy of combating poverty, and of access to drinking water, supports the Agadez region in its consolidation peace through access to water and contributes to reducing vulnerability through adapted agriculture.
The association relies on the main legal texts of Niger to find lasting solutions to the problems of drinking water supply and sanitation of populations, namely: the Water Code (including the participation of beneficiaries in the funding of infrastructure (wells, boreholes)), the Multi-Risk Contingency Plan (PCM), the National Integrated Water Resources Management Plan (PGIRE), the National Plan for Access to Drinking Water and Sanitation (PNAEPA) )
The situation in the North of Niger, as in many regions of Niger, is particularly difficult for a population vulnerable to climatic hazards (floods, desert advance, locust invasion, natural disasters etc.), due to its geographical position, everything by being confronted with current events following the conflagration and conflicts in the sub-region. It was in a conflictual context that the need to support local populations in their economic development was born, to avoid the scarcity, even disappearance, of development partners in the region due to insecurity, but also to avoid risk of radicalization of youth by poverty. In order to support local populations, the project has given itself the mission of improving access to water to reduce water-borne diseases; to free the children from the drudgery of water so that they can go to school, to increase the incomes of the ex-combatants by a socio-economic reintegration in market gardening, to consolidate peace and ensure stability in the area.
In the first 5 isolated villages of the Agadez region, then 5 others in 2018, 10 village wells and 42 vegetable wells were built, market gardening and arboriculture training for garden beneficiaries were conducted, as well as training in for families ..
Support measures to facilitate the management of the project by local partners have also been put in place. Each village well has a management committee (COGES) which collects contributions (between € 5 and € 10 per year / family) from user families with a view to ensuring the maintenance and repair of the installations and which guarantees monitoring the well and its proper use. The members of this committee are elected by the population and have received appropriate training (rules for equitable access to the water point; monitoring and routine maintenance of the structure (cleaning and desensable, minor repairs) and alert procedures in major problem; water point hygiene). They are, if necessary, supported by the Regional Directorate of Hydraulics, which checks the water quality every 3 months. In the end, nearly 22,000 people, who, less than 5 km from their camp, have access to quality drinking water; more than 1,000 people benefit directly from products from the gardens irrigated by the 42 market garden wells built; more than 120 people have been trained in arboriculture, agriculture and who live from this new profession with incomes multiplied by 10; it is a new cooperative in the valley which exports market produce (surplus) to various markets in the sub-region; it is also a diversified diet with fruits and vegetables (onions, potatoes, carrots, zucchini, okra, green beans, peppers, peppers and lemon trees, mango trees, papaya trees, apple trees, date palms, guava trees, pomegranate trees and orange trees); it’s also with better food and good quality nearby water, waterborne diseases and declining infant mortality rates; opportunities for new entrepreneurs and well builders; and a more stable region less prone to social and ethnic conflicts.
Training of trainers (relay educators) in hygiene and sanitation for children and women in the area is provided by health workers, and carried out by grouping of villages, but above all by type of people concerned. Thus, several sessions are offered and their content is adapted according to the target audience (women, village chief, teachers). The people trained in turn form family and other users.
Rare difficulties encountered during execution
The appearance of gold in the Agadez region has had a negative impact on all of the region’s business sectors. Some beneficiaries of the project had abandoned the gardens in the hands of other people to fetch gold. It was a great difficulty for us but also for the maintenance of the gardens. We were able to overcome this difficulty by making the new occupants of these gardens responsible. To date, all the gardens are functional. Gardeners have understood that cultivating a garden has a double advantage: feeding one’s family, selling overconsumption and having income; unlike gold fever which doesn’t guarantee much.Tree disease: some varieties of trees face diseases. This explains their mortality rate. These are mainly the trees that we bought in the capital and not in the more desert intervention area. We replaced a large number of plants that had not stood up to the oasis citrus in the area.
The “Security and Development” project:
o Responds to the needs of users and communities
o Develop access to essential services (access to water as an essential right for the survival of the population (food, hygiene, drink, etc.))
o Guarantees compliance with sanitary rules (according to MHE standards, wall protects animal wells, cleanliness slab, water filtering)
o Takes into account the expectations of users and communities, making them responsible (request from the populations, COGES)
o Respects environmental constraints
o Optimizes resource management (1 well provides water for almost 2000 people / the water from the well is used for drinking water, agricultural activities, watering animals, body hygiene, laundry)
o Acts on environmental protection through a sanitation effort: a protective wall is built around the well to regulate access and keep animals away.
o the well is surrounded by a slab of drainage with drainage channeling the water towards a false well (well filled with rocks and gravel, where the wastewater is poured to filter it.
o contributes to the reduction of water-borne diseases
o Ensure sanitation (role of COGES, ensure proper use and maintenance of the well, but also that sanitation rules are respected
We have also put in place agreements for the return of village wells to the villagers themselves. Symbolically this retrocession, defines the responsibilities and duties of the inhabitants. The well was “offered” to them. To avoid having to redo kilometers and weigh down the stains, it is their responsibility to maintain the well, so that it lasts as long as possible.
Integration of works in the repository of the Ministry of Hydraulics
In accordance with the objectives of the project, and to complement the actions of the Nigerien government, all the works carried out and financed by the partners of the Puits du Désert, are controlled by the Regional Direction of Hydraulics and included, once the final acceptance is pronounced , in the repository of the Ministry of Hydraulics in Niger. This testifies to the benefit and recognition of our actions by the Nigerien government, but also contributes to improving the living conditions of the populations and the rate of water coverage.
Technical partners: First of all, the Nigerian NGO Tidène, which provides project management for all projects and therefore the link with the requesting populations, local authorities and beneficiaries; the Regional Direction of Hydraulics of Agadez which ensures the follow-up and the control of the good realization of the wells and the disinfection of water; The mayor of the commune on which the 5 villages depend, the association of Aïr ex-combatants which is the interface between ex-combatants, beneficiaries of market gardens and the NGO Tidène and which ensures compliance with the commitments of peacebuilding; the Amenokal (group leader of the Ifoghas (Tuareg) ethnic group); Moms of the sun (health pole of the association Les Puits du Désert)
At the financial level, the project was funded by the French Development Agency (AFD), the Suez Foundation, the Adour Garonne water agency, the Bordeaux Urban Community (Bordeaux Métropole), ORANO / Areva, and the pumps KSB.
What we are proud of:
o The significant drop in waterborne diseases. In 2013, the integrated health center registered 13 dead children in its registers, 7 in 2014.3 in 2015; and no deaths since 2016.
o The reintegration of ex combatants who become gardeners, and who live from this new activity and who are no longer tempted to take up arms – the area is thus calmed.
o These same gardeners thus trained, in turn train their neighbors and families in agricultural yield techniques
o Community relays trained during hygiene training, pass on information, educate other members of the village Building on this success, funding for a third phase of the project was submitted to partners to cover 5 new villages.