June 14, 2010—Last fall, residents of Agadez, Niger, awoke to a loud noise. Rains, unusual at any time, but especially during the dry season, had fallen on the mountains to the north. The water moved south, rolling over the sand unchecked. In farming villages, gardens of tomatoes, cabbages, peppers, and maize were quickly submerged. Mud brick houses were destroyed and livestock washed away.
Malassane Boungoudou dealt with the sudden deluge by stacking three beds on top of each other and perching her children on top. When the walls of the house started to crumble, she got out. Following the flood, she and her family spent two months in a relative's garage, afraid to return.
The World Bank-financed Community Action Program (CAP), already working in Agadez, provided immediate assistance to villagers. Commune leaders came together to evaluate immediate needs, and with the help of the CAP, secured pumps, cattle, seeds and fertilizer, as well as tools.
Residents contributed to the project by providing in-kind labor to replant crops and vegetables, construct an irrigation system, reinforce dikes, and build new fencing. With renewed access to irrigation, women were able to start community gardens for staple crops, which they share and use to feed their families.
In addition, a women's self-help group called Alhéri Mai Yawa is using revolving funds to recover assets lost in the disaster. The funds allow women to sell spices and take in sewing, securing a regular income for their families.
As one mayor said, “The program breathed new life into our community.”
Local Communities Decide Priorities
CAP, which began in 2003, improves the capacity of two-thirds of Niger’s local governments (communes) to design and implement development plans with small capital grants, thereby enhancing livelihoods, and "priming the pump" of decentralization.
Co-financed by Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the program also reduces land degradation and promotes sustainable land management.