Kerry and Concern Worldwide partner to help Niger communities

By Jim Cornall

- Last updated on GMT

A community market garden, part of the RAIN program. Pic: Concern Worldwide/Ollivier Girard
A community market garden, part of the RAIN program. Pic: Concern Worldwide/Ollivier Girard

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Taste and nutrition company Kerry and Concern Worldwide, the Irish humanitarian organization, say through their three-year-long partnership in Niger, nearly 500 farmers have been trained over the last year, resulting in improvements including clean water access, increased food production and improved health and nutrition practices.

The announcement was made on World Hunger Day (May 28).

The Realigning Agriculture to Nutrition (RAIN) program focuses on improving food and nutrition security while enhancing the livelihoods of the most vulnerable households in Tahoua, a region in the south of Niger.

Niger is one of the poorest countries in the world, with more than 9.5m people affected by extreme poverty. As the country is highly dependent on agriculture, even minor climate shocks directly affect the livelihood of thousands of households. RAIN helps build sustainable futures for farmers by equipping them with the tools and knowledge to enable them to build livelihoods for themselves, while also working to promote key health practices for improved maternal and child nutrition.

As part of the program, farmers are trained in climate smart agriculture techniques, which includes promoting water conservation and improving soil protection. As a result, 98.6% of RAIN households have now adopted at least one new conservation agriculture technique. There has also been an improvement in crop yields, with the average yield of millet in 2020 reaching 796kg per hectare compared to 568kg in 2019. For the first time, farmers were in a position to sell some of their millet harvest to a local flour mill, generating a source of revenue and creating sustainable livelihoods.

Meanwhile, two community tree nurseries supported the cultivation of fruit and forest trees, with more than 15,000 local trees preserved and nurtured and a further 2,600 planted in 2020. The program has also delivered improved access to clean and potable water, which is now up to 39% of households in the villages RAIN is operating in, compared to 9% before the project started.

Jean Patrick Masquelier, Concern Worldwide’s program director in Niger, said, “Three years into our four-year program we’re seeing the incredibly positive impact of RAIN. Some 20,000 kilograms of vegetables were produced by 7,000 people in 2020 through our market garden activities, with the average number of different crops per household increasing from 1.5 in 2018 to 4.9 in 2020, greatly improving people’s diets and nutritional diversity. Solar powered irrigation systems have been installed in these sites, providing a reliable source of water for vegetable production. The legacy of RAIN is to leave communities with the ability to sustain the achievements made, well after the project ends.”

Catherine Keogh, chief corporate affairs and brand officer at Kerry Group, said, “Access to healthy food and good nutrition remains difficult for too many people, with the pandemic and climate change making it even more challenging.  We are proud to see the positive impact of this program, enabling farmers and communities to grow more nutritionally diverse food and build more sustainable livelihoods.”

Kerry Group’s partnership with Concern Worldwide in Niger builds on the previously-funded RAIN project in Zambia, which concluded in 2015.  Concern Worldwide has been working in Niger for the past 18 years, implementing both humanitarian and development programs to provide basic needs and at the same time, improve the resilience of local communities.

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