I hope that this email finds you well! Our Amman Imman team recently returned to Niamey from a rewarding couple of weeks in the Azawak. Debbie has already gone home to the United States, and Denis, Laurel and I are developing partnerships with organizations. We are also keeping busy negotiating with contractors.
Among the many things that we accomplished in the field, the following are of foremost importance:
- Conducted follow up study on the Tangarwashane borehole;
- Set up a new local Amman Imman team to run on site activities;
- Chose our site for the Montessori Well of Love, as well as sites for future construction;
- Worked on developing partnerships with organizations working locally;
- Re-established our ongoing partnership with local authorities, including the prefecture, the mayor, and the department of hydraulics;
- Created partnerships with local schools and Montessori schools.
Since there is so much to talk about, I am going to keep this email focused on Tangarwashane, our future construction site named Kijigari, and on our new local Amman Imman team.
What a beautiful site: a great looming water tower, nomads and villagers waiting to retrieve water from the faucets, and herds of cows, sheep, and camels drinking from the troughs. Over the hill, beyond the water tower, stood a little hut filled with 20 eager boys and girls learning French, and one devoted teacher. We dropped off a chalk board and adult learning booklets for the new adult classes that are soon to begin.
What a joyous moment it was to enter the school and see the Tangarwashane children – the same children I have known and watched grow up over the past four years -- clean and healthy, and most important of all, learning! Before the borehole existed, these children never had time to go to school because they were too busy looking for water. I never dreamt that I would someday be able to have a conversation in French with them. They are so smart and ready to learn everything brought to them.
And thanks to our newly hired female field agent, Assaidat, we had a very open and honest conversation with the women. They are so excited to have the borehole, and to no longer have to walk all day searching for water. But they told me, « Ariane, we now have so much time on our hands, we don’t know what to do. We have no skills, but we want to have our own income. Our husbands sometimes leave for months at time, at which point we have to beg for food and other things to keep our family alive ». They want to learn how to sew, and to raise their own livestock, as well as own a village store. The men have built a wall around the water tower, and are planning on growing gardens in the walled off area. This may open up an opportunity for the women to have their own gardens. The women, also, want to get even more involved in the management of the borehole well. I promised to bring these women people who can help. We are going to now work with and seek out NGOs to bring Tangarwashane other forms of assistance. The population is now ready to develop Tangarwashane into a prosperous community.
Kijigari, the next site for the Montessori Well of Love:
Kijigari, a large rural village surrounding a sweeping marsh, regroups over 4,000 inhabitants living directly within its boundaries, and many more than 25,000 in the surrounding communities. Kijigari was originally inhabited by refugees. For this reason, it is different from most villages one might encounter in the Azawak because it has received a good deal of assistance from international NGOs. It has had an operational school for over 20 years, and has a little village clinic held by a government nurse, and a large market where people come from afar to sell their goods once a week. As long as there is water in the marsh wells, the women run a village store, a sewing cooperative, and grow their own gardens.
For most of the year, however, Kijigari has no water. As soon as the marsh wells dry up, all activities end. Instead, families abandon the village in search for water. During the height of the dry season, Kijigari becomes a ghost town.
Everyone from the prefect to the mayor and the hydraulics department, as well as people from neighboring camps and villages, said that Kijigari should be our priority. As I got to know the village, I agreed, for several reasons:
- The need for water is huge. With more than 25,000 people and triple the amount of livestock that will directly benefit from a permanent water source, we will be providing the basis for life to a tremendous population.
- The population has proven themselves to be organized, capable, and willing to manage a borehole. The women have already been named the future borehole’s primary caretakers.
- Montessori schools worldwide partner with the school in Kijigari. We have already completed a friendship bracelet exchange with their school and a Montessori school in America.
Local Amman Imman Team:
Our newly appointed local team is composed of two men, one female field agent, and a representative in Abalak. This team will conduct follow-up studies on borehole sites and will help to develop our relationship with local authorities and potential partner NGOs. They are an invaluable resource.
I will keep you posted as our negotiations progress. I hope to send an email soon with the good news that we are preparing to drill. However, if we cannot bring the drilling cost down enough, then we will have to leave Niger sooner than planned in order to resume fundraising efforts with the hope of bringing water to the people of Kijigari in the very near future.
Yours in hope for the children of the Azawak,