Moussa has been cultivating crops for years without any proper technical guidance.
Last week, the young man from Fachi, northern Niger, participated in a workshop in market gardening organized by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) that has provided him the tools he needs to improve and diversify his yield.
"I thought I was experienced, but after this training, I now realize that I was making mistakes," he said. "We also learned new farming methods that will allow us to increase our productivity and diversify our crops."
The implementation of Niger's law N°2015-36 criminalizing the smuggling of migrants in the country and the subsequent reduction in migration movements in the Kawar region, North-East Niger, has had a dramatic impact on economic opportunities, especially for young people.
To address some of the economic difficulties faced by the Nigerien youth, IOM organized last week several training courses for close to 100 community members in the municipalities of Dirkou, Djado, Fachi and Bilma in the Kawar region.
The aim of the trainings was to equip youth with the knowhow to practice market gardening as a viable alternative.
During the trainings, the young gardeners learned about the right conditions for production, techniques for growing different types of vegetables in a desert environment, as well as maintenance methods. These technical sessions were delivered by experienced field trainers, working in close collaboration with authorities and monitoring committees.
Most of the participants had cultivated crops without having received any specific training.
The different phases of the five-day course included theoretical classes, practical exercises and an assessment of their newly acquired skills. The gardeners are committed to putting their learning into practice after the training.
"The outdoor exercises were really useful. I will surely be able to reproduce the pest management techniques we learned during the training," said Salah, trained in Dirkou.
IOM's community stabilization activities in Niger focus on boosting economic development in communities affected by migration through the implementation of activities such as cash-for-work, youth employment, use of local resources, agricultural projects and the creation of cooperatives.
By creating a space and opportunity for exchange, community stabilization activities also aim to reinforce community dialogue and improve social cohesion. The training courses helped to strengthen the youth's confidence in local authorities and reduce their frustrations linked to the lack of economic opportunities or technical support.
"Support for market gardening is one of the region's priority needs due to its power to revitalize the local economy," said Salifou laoeul Haliloumi, Mayor of the Fachi Department. "This training is of great importance to us because it will boost our youth's productivity and create a climate of trust between authorities and community members."
Through the monitoring committees set up by local authorities together with the communities, close to 40 field visits were carried out to monitor the progress of the project's implementation and to identify the priority needs, such additional motor pumps.
Participants will receive this week their own market gardening kits and agricultural equipment which will enable them to create new gardens. Furthermore, crop irrigation systems will be installed in the coming weeks to improve the beneficiaries' access to water in Kawar's barren lands.
The initiative was supported by IOM under its community stabilization programme financed by European Union in the framework of the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration.