Nelly Bassily | November 11, 2013
The afternoon sun shines on the banks of the Niger River. In the stifling heat, farmers tend to their gardens.
Salamatou Abdou, dressed in traditional Nigerien clothes, carries a watering can around her garden, caring for her crops. She is able to both feed her family and earn cash by selling produce at the local market, thanks to the harvest she gathers from her well-tended field. Mrs. Abdou, a mother of eight children, has spent most of the last four years working in her field.
She says: “I inherited this garden from my father. After my husband’s death in 2008, I was struggling every day to provide for my family’s basic needs. I decided to start up a market garden, so I borrowed 150,000 [Central African] francs [$309 US] from a friend of my late husband.”
She used the money to buy a motorized water pump, fertilizer and seeds, and tools to dig the garden. She grows tomatoes, lettuce, green beans, carrots, cabbages, peppers, eggplants and onions in her one-hectare plot. The 49-year old widow sells the majority of her vegetables at the small market in Niamey, Niger’s capital city.
Smiling, she says, “I hate to do nothing, especially as I have my children to feed. My secret is that, when I was a child, I learnt from my father how to work hard.”
Mrs. Abdou does not only grow vegetables. During the winter, she grows millet and sorghum on the banks of the Niger River, at the edge of the family field.
She says, “Now, I manage to feed my children without difficulty. I have cereals and vegetables to eat at home.” Selling her vegetables means that she has enough money to meet her family’s expenses. She explains, “Sometimes I can make up to 10,000 francs [$20 US] a day by selling vegetables in the market.”
Abdoulaye Hassan is Mrs. Abdou’s neighbour. The 49-year old rice farmer says that Mrs. Abdou is a role model for women. He continues: “She is a real fighter. She carries her vegetables to the market early in the morning, and then returns to her garden to water her plants. She has never received any support from the government, or any women’s organizations, associations or NGOs.”
Ousmane Moussa is an agro-economist. He agrees, saying: “This is a woman who deserves support. In a country like Niger, poverty often affects women more severely than men. She is a good example of women who struggle courageously against poverty every day.”
Mrs. Abdou has a dream. One day, she would like to start a poultry farm next to her plot. The farm would create jobs and provide her and her family with stability, and even prosperity.