Nelly Bassily | October 26, 2009
It takes nearly four hours by truck to get from Niger’s capital city of Niamey to the rural village of Bambamgata. Amadou Moussa made this journey through winding roads at the beginning of the growing season. Now he’s standing in a field. His long shirt is covered in mud. His wife works beside him, pulling weeds from a patch of okra. This work is difficult, Mr. Moussa says. More difficult than his city job as a price controller. But as the cost of living has risen, he has come to the country to grow food and earn extra money.
Over the past five years, Niamey has seen a reversal of the “rural exodus.” People who came to the city in search of a better life are now returning to the country. It’s so common that there’s a word for it in the Hausa language – Manoma birni, or urbanite farmer. They’re also known as part-time farmers.
Part-time farmers keep their jobs in the city. Some spend the growing season in the country. Others work in the city during the week then tend to a farm on the weekend. Many cultivate their grandparents’ land. Others rent land.
Mamane Moustapha dreams of becoming a full-time farmer. He left the rural life 25 years ago. But he became disillusioned with city life. He works as a plumber. But his wage is not enough to provide for his family. Mr. Moustapha now cultivates a plot in the country. He says his family can now live decently all year.
At first, regular farmers were doubtful of part-time farmers from the city. They did not expect the urbanites to stay, since there is no electricity or running water. But, over the years, the part-time farmers have proved their determination to work the land.
Hassan Tahirou is an extension officer. He says part-time farmers are changing the way that full-time farmers think about agriculture. According to Mr. Tahirou, farmers who used to be skeptical of alternative techniques are taking note of approaches used by part-time farmers. He says full-time farmers are becoming more open to new ideas and advice.