Friends of Niger has formed a partnership with MICA, Inc. (Microcredit Africa) to provide oxcarts to women in villages in central Niger as part of a project whose aim is to empower women to reclaim their basic rights for education, health care and respect as human beings.MICA is a non-profit organization, founded by Haoua Diatta, which seeks to alleviate poverty in Africa by empowering women. Mrs. Diatta is the author of Shadow of Africa and is the spouse of Nigerien Ambassador Joseph Diatta.
The flagship activity of MICA is the Oxcart Project which begins with the formation of an association of village women, who then choose their officers (including 2 Financial Managers) from amongst themselves and undergo training as a group. This process is followed by the provision of an ox and a cart to the group. The woman rent the carts to villagers who need transportation for a variety of purposes - as an ambulance, for farmers taking produce to market, for craftspeople transporting goods, etc. Rental revenues allow the women to eventually purchase the cart while continuing to generate revenue. These recovered funds, in turn, allow MICA to purchase additional carts for other women in other villages. The cost of an ox and a cart is $280.The Oxcart Project is operating in the Maradi region with active projects in Dan Keri and Aguie and with another four villages at various stages of project development. Friends of Niger has agreed to fund oxen/cart sets for two villages as well as to package donations from its members and contacts in units of $280 for the purchase of additional oxen and carts. Information about where and how to contribute can be found below..
More information regarding MICA, its various projects in Niger, and Haoua Diatta s book (Shadow of Africa) can be found at the MICA web site - http://justin.kirk.net/mica/.
Contributions to the FON/MICA Oxcart Project should be made payable to Friends of Niger and sent to :
Oxcart; c/o FON; P.O. Box 33164; Washington, DC; 20033-0164
In that context - discussion of the big reunion/exhibit/celebration scheduled for August - we need help. Specifically we need a few people from the DC area to come forward and help us with the initial stages of several critical organizational tasks. Quite a few of you have offered to help during the event itself and these offers are very gratefully accepted. I've been in contact with most of you and you'll be hearing from me again as the event draws nearer. But we still need a few people to help us with things that must be done now. Please contact me by e-mail - email@example.com - or phone - 819-827-4870. Thanks in advance.
Friends of Niger continues to depend on membership contributions to cover the cost of its operational expenses. Members will be in receipt of the annual President's Report. Its contents will show that, once again, FON more or less broke even but that the organization does not have a lot of financial latitude. So - please, please renew your 2001 membership now and/or join us for the first time. The FON 2001 Membership Form canbe found below.You can also access the membership form from the FON website - http://www.friendsofniger.org. Our webmaster, Jai Evans, has just finished updating the site - check out the sections on news, books, art and photos.
Enjoy the newsletter, stay in contact and - please, please - join Friends of Niger.Jim Schneider
Celebration 2001 will be an opportunity to make new friends, reacquaint with old friends, reconnect with Niger and celebrate the relationship between Niger and its friends - old and new. As such, all weekend events will be open to all friends of Niger - FON member or not - as well as their families and friends.The weekend schedule, still tentativve and open to input, has nonetheless begun to take shape - with a first contact/registration session set for the afternoon of August 3 and a dinner/social slated for that evening. Refreshments will be available. The FON Exhibit, which will be located at the same site (to be announced) as Registration, will run Friday afternoon through Sunday morning. Amongst the exhibits will be the FON Archives, a growing collection of materials from people who have lived and worked in Niger over the past 40 years, and the Patrick Thomas collection of recycled tools from Niger. Saturday s events at the Exhibit will include readings and booksignings by authors of books on Niger - including Paul Stoller and Haora Diatta - as well as films and music from Niger. Additional exhibits, readings and events will be announced over the next few months at the FON website - http://www.friendsofniger.org - and in the next issue of The Camel Express. Space on the exhibits site will be set aside and audio-visual equipment available for those wanting to bring along their own slides,videotapes or audiotapes - as well as their photo albums, newspaper clippings, etc. Saturday evening planning envisages groups dining in years of service groups and then gathering for a cross-FON social evening, music included.
Additional events for the weekend will include participation of the Nigerien Ambassador to the US, Joseph Diatta. Current Peace Corps Director for Niger, Jim Bullington; PCDC Niger desk people Dan Reilly and Leanne Johnson; past PC Niger directors and staff, and members of the DC Nigerien community are expected to be in attendance.If you are planning to attend Celebration 2001, please let us know. We ll understand if your plans change - but we need to build an estimate of numbers for a variety of purposes. Thanks!!
Re: Housing: Some people have offered to host out-of-town attendees. If you can accommodate one or more persons for the weekend - please let us know. If you are hoping to board with someone - please send us a query. We ll try to put potential hosts and guests in contact. Please try to be specific regarding what you need or what you are offering. Thanks!!
For this or other purposes related to Celebration 2001, contact Jim Schneider by phone at 819-827-4870 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dear Friends of Niger:
The event drew extensive media coverage, including a frontÄpage story in the Government daily and lots of radio and TV air time.This was an outstanding finale to a very successful PST. Our only disappointment was that 11 of the original 56 trainees departed before swearÄin. Their reasons were varied but all personal, not due to any unhappiness with the training or the program. Theremaining new Volunteers seem highly motivated and enthusiastic about beginning their service. The PST was coÄdirected by our new Training Manager, Hassane Abdourahamane, and Noelle Smith, a former PST director and Niger PCV whom some of you may remember.
The effects of last summer's drought and the subsequent poor harvest are now beginning to be tragically apparent, especially in the more northerly agricultural regions that were hardest hit. Prices for millet and other staple grains are double their level at this time last year. In some villages, people are already reduced to eating tree leaves and other "famine food". Irrigated gardens, an important food source in the cool season (with which many Volunteers have been assisting), have mostly withered with the onset of hot weather and are no longer productive. The population of Niamey and other towns has noticeably swelled with immigrants from the countryside seeking work or handouts.The most alarming aspect of this situation is that there will be no further agricultural production in Niger until after the rains come (inshallah) in July and August. Moreover, Government and donor food stocks do not appear to be adequate to meet the problem. Even though the poor harvest has been known and widely reported for months, both Government and donors have been slow to appreciate the gravity of the crisis. A complicating factor is that overall, the harvest was poor but not catastrophic, not bad enough to create a countryÄwide famine comparable to those in the 1970s and 1984Ä85. In many villages, the harvest was normal; while in others, sometimes only a few kilometers away, it was terrible. National or even regional averages tend to conceal the extent of the problem in the worstÄoff areas. Moreover, hoarding and speculation by rich merchants is part of the problem, and an infusion of money without a corresponding increase in food supplies would only serve to drive prices even higher.
Even in good years, many people go hungry in Niger during the two or three months preceding harvest. This year, however, it looks like about a third of the population will go hungry for five or six months before harvest. The Government has appealed for 60,000 tons of emergency food aid. At this point we just don't know if a combination of traditional coping strategies ("famine food," selling/slaughtering animals, etc.) and external aid will be enough to avert widespread starvation.
We and our Volunteers of course want to do what we can to help. We are urgently assessing the situation and trying to decide what to do.
In January, a visiting RPCV was robbed and slightly injured in a mugging in broad daylight near the National Museum; and in March a PCV was the victim of armed robbery at a Niamey bus station. In the Agadez region, there have been three recent incidents of armed banditry against American and European tour groups.Please don't think I'm trying to give you the impression that we and the Volunteers are in constant danger or that law and order is breaking down in Niger. This is not the case. On the whole, there is still much less violent crime in Niger than in many other African countries (e.g., Nigeria, South Africa) or indeed in parts of some American cities. Moreover, Volunteers in their villages are as safe from violent crime as they are likely to be anywhere in the world. However, caution is in order, and we have taken some steps (e.g., making La Cloche off limits, curtailing nighttime travel) to try to reduce the danger. Also, I want to remind prospective visitors of the need for prudence, especially in downtown Niamey, and medical insurance to protect you in the event of sickness or injury. Our Peace Corps Medical Officers can treat only current Volunteers ÄÄ not former Volunteers, Volunteer parents, or PC staff members. They can recommend a local medical practitioner, but medical capabilities here remain limited and far below US standards. Medevac flights cost around $10,000 and require advance payment, so visitors should have medevac insurance.
Peace Corps Country Director/ Niger
Until a little over ten years ago, the people of Kabey Fo led a nomadic existence. Drought and other economic and political stresses led them to seek more sustainable means of survival. This in turn led them to the traditional chief of Babangatta-Barekire from whom they secureed access to land near Kollo in western Niger - where they settled.
When Virginia Emmons arrived in the village of Kabey Fo as a new Peace Corps
Volunteer in March 2000, her assignment was agroforestry. A few weeks after
her arrival, people from the village approached her with a proposal for a primary
school and an adult literacy center with a difference - the language of instruction
would be Tamachek rather than French.
The villagers of Kabey Fo gather in their newly built one-room schoolhouse. Teacher Elhadji Amadou is seated front right.
Reluctant to take on too much, too soon, Virginia concentrated on her work in agroforestry and on getting to know more about the village and the villagers. Undeterred, the villagers pursued their idea. They met on a regular basis, they found someone to do an educational needs assessment survey in the village, they sent two villagers off to Niamey to be trained in adult education techniques, they shared their idea with local officials, they formed a parents committee and established a village caisee with long-term financial sustainability in mind. And along the way, good things began to happen.Virginia Emmons became involved as a planning resource to the village. She involved her sister, Lucy Spoerk, a teacher in Milwaukee. Lucy raised funds and gathered supplies both in the States and in Niger - where she went for 10 days in November. American Airlines even waived the excess baggage charges as a humanitarian gesture of support. Meanwhile, working with PC Niger Country Director Jim Bullington and APCD Don Osborn, Virginia submitted a Peace Corps Partnership Program proposal. Due to the soundness of the project, Lucy s stateside fundraising activities as well as her liaison work with PC DC, and the responsiveness of people in and around Milwaukee (as well as Miami, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, etc.) - the PCPP proposal was fully subscribed almost immediately. While all this was taking place, the people of Kabey Fo began to build a one-room schoolhouse as well as a temporary home for the teacher that had been enlisted - Elhadji Amadou. Soon after Lucy arrived on the scene in November, the school s first primary school term began at the Tamachek Experimental Primary School and Adult Literacy Center. Basic literacy training was already taking place in the evenings.
While they wait for formal accreditation for their school - and the state funding that comes with it - the village is housing and feeding the teacher. Lucy s fundraising has secured enough money to provide the teacher with a salary for at least a year. With any luck, the school will become accredited by that time - especially as the government now sees education conducted in Niger s national languages as a priority.Luck or not, the villagers are determined that the school is there to stay. Thirty-seven children between the ages of six and eight attend class most every day (with additional classes slated for next year). The adult literacy classes are conducted at night, with Elhadji Amadou overseeing the work of the recently trained villagers. Other villagers have been sent off for training in agricultural techniques, AIDS prevention, etc. Lucy Emmons Spoerk said it perhaps best -"There s a saying, it takes a village to raise a child. Well, in this case it took many villages ..." Or as The Camel has been known to say - it all counts,or none of it does.
Financial contributions should be made payable to Friends of Niger and sent to:
Vitamins c/o Friends of Niger
P.O. Box 33164
The Board of FON has tentatively lined up Spector Travel of Boston, African travel specialists, to handle the arrangements for transatlantic travel. Initial indications are that the trip will be of the 10-15 day variety.Both Peace Corps Niger and the US Embassy have become involved in discussions related to trip activities and in-country logistics. Anyone who is not already on the list and interested in the trip can still contact Schneider via e-mail at email@example.com.
Friends of Niger T-Shirts -- You’re gonna love this T-Shirt!!
Based on a design originally created by our neighbors at Friends of Burkina Faso, FON had produced its first shirts in plenty of time to meet holiday gift giving needs. The short-sleeved shirts are 100% cotton, pre-shrunk beefy-T, natural muslin-colored fabric. The design (above) is four color: brown, black and the orange and green of the flag of Niger. You’ll notice a nifty proximity map of Niger within the map of Africa which appears in the branches of the baobab tree. The shirts are available in Medium, Large and Extra Large sizes and sell for $18 each, shipping included. Use the FON Membership & Order Form or send a check made out to Friends of Niger (indicating the number of shirts by size), along with your name and address to: Shirts. c/o Friends of Niger, P.O. Box 33164, Washington, D.C., 20033-0164.
You’re Gonna Love This T-Shirt
Available in 3 Sizes
- M, L, XL
Makes a Great Gift!!
It’ll Look Good on You as Well!!
As part of its HIV/AIDS initiative, Peace Corps is sending RPCVs to Africa via Crisis Corps. The effort includes a range of volunteer assignments including the development of AIDS curriculum and activities related to capacity-building within local HIV/AIDS NGOs.
The Crisis Corps is looking for RPCVs who have completed two years of PC service, who have some HIV/AIDS experience, who have at least one year of experience in sub-Saharan Africa and who preferably would be available for a six-month assignment.Additional information about this and other Crisis Corps programs is available on-line at - http://www.peacecorps.gov/crisiscorps. Crisis Corps can also be reached by the following means:
Peace Corps - Crisis Corps
1111 20th Street NW, 7th Floor
Washington, D.C. 20526
1-800-424-8580 ext 2250 - or - 2020-692-2250
The tentative list of courses includes Fula/Fulfulde/Puular I and Hausa I in addition to courses in a dozen other African languages. The intensive eight week courses are equivalent to one year of academic study (8 credits).For more information about SCALI, FLAS, and updates on the languages that will be offered., visit the website -
http://polyglot.lss.wisc.edu/afrst/scali/ or contact Jared avia e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other intensive language learning opportunities are available at a variety of institutions, including the University of Pennsylvania, Michigan State University, and the University of Florida.
Nine students, all female, arrived in Niger on Jan 22 for the spring 01 semester of the Boston University/Niger program. They hail from BU, Georgetown, Occidental College, and Fordham/Lincoln Center.
There have been a number of recent changes to the FON website - http://www.friendsofniger.org. In addition to posting of the latest issue of The Camel Express, their has been a new section added, entitled Photos from Niger, and updates to the Niger Art and Niger Books and Niger News pages.
For any of you hoping to attend Celebration Niger 2001 in DC this August, the Bulletin Board at the website is a great tool for letting old friends know that you are going and for making group plans for the weekend. Scroll down the left hand column at the site until you locate the link to the BB. Click and follow the directions.
City/State________________________ Phone (h) ______________________
Zip______________________________ Phone (w) ______________________
E- Mail Address ______________________________________________________________________________
Connection to Niger (RPCV, etc.) ________________________________________________________________
Dates in Niger_____________________ Location in Niger _______________
Program or Involvement in Niger ________________________________________________________________
Membership Dues & Contributions Help Fund FON Activities, including The Camel Express
Please Check Appropriate Boxes
Enclosed is $20 for an Individual Membership in FON
[ ] $45 to cover Individual Membership in both FON & NPCA
[ ] Enclosed is $35 for a Family Membership (2 Members at One Address)
[ ] $67.50 to cover Family Membership in both FON & NPCA
[ ] I am a New RPCV, entitled to a 1-Year Free Membership
[ ] Please send me a Copy of FON’s Bylaws (Members Only)
[ ] In Addition to my Membership, I have enclosed a Contribution of ____________
[ ] Instead of Joining FON at this time, I have enclosed a Contribution of ____________
[ ] Please send _____ Friends of Niger T-Shirts at $18 each (Shipping Included) __________
T-Shirt Sizes: M _____ L _____ XL _____
TOTAL AMOUNT ENCLOSED _____________
Make Check or Money Order Payable to Friends of Niger and mail to:
P. O. Box 33164, Washington, D. C. 20033-0164
(Please Enclose Membership Form)
Indicate your interest with a check mark. Or add something new at the bottom. Tell us how to reach you on the Friends of Niger 2001 Membership & Order Form (see above).
× ___ Will help set up local FON group
× ___ Would participate in local FON group
× ___ Will Attend Reunion 2001 in Washington, D.C.
× ___ Trip back to Niger in 2002
× ___ Will be local FON contact person
× ___ Will help with BU/FON Vitamin Campaign
× ___ Will help with Celebration 2001 (please contact me)
This edition of The Camel Express was prepared, produced and distributed via hardcopy, e-mail and website posting with the contributions Sue Bracken, Irma Poots Sarata, Judd Lyon, Jim Bullington, Lucy Spoerk, Sue Rosenfeld, Jai Evans, Don Bracken, Penni St. Hilaire, Betty Hutchinson, Justin Kirk, Gabriella Maertens, John Soloninka, Larry Koff and our friends from Burkina Faso. Please send address changes and corrections, as well as any queries to The Camel Express at any of the addresses below.
Camel Express is the periodical newsletter
of Friends of Niger (FON).
FON can be contacted via the post at P.O. Box 33164, Washington, D.C., 20033-0164;
by e-mail at email@example.com; and you will find FON on the web at the following Internet
Board of Directors Friends of Niger
Jim Schneider, President
Gabriella Maertens, Vice-President
John Soloninka, Recording Secretary
Larry Koff, Treasurer