October, 2018. Niamey, Niger.
We drove hours through bumpy dirt roads to reach this community in rural Niger. I bounced around in the backseat while the driver maneuvered the uneven terrain unfazed (and amused at my inability to stay in my seat). When we arrived at the village, I was greeted by a large group of women whose bright, beautiful clothes were only out-shined by their bright, welcoming smiles. They were excited to show us all of the progress they had made with the resources Islamic Relief had provided.
The women were peanut farmers and had been selling their crop for some time when a very simple innovation from Islamic Relief allowed them to take their business to the next level.
Islamic Relief provided a tool that allows them to easily shell the peanuts and extract their oil. This opened up the possibility of new products they could sell: peanut oil, peanut butter, and cake. Before, they would sell the peanuts to other businesses who would make these products. Now, they make them on their own and have multiplied their returns. And they are excited about what the future can hold with even more support.
It was amazing to see that the whole community was involved in the process. I visited the crops themselves and saw women tilling the land and carrying the yields. Later, they all gathered under a large tree and different groups minded different tasks: shelling the peanuts, roasting them in an open fire, grinding them to separate the oil, and frying the butter to make delicious cake. Women and children of all ages sat around and helped, laughing and joking as they worked. They did everything with perfection and took pride in their product. I spoke to many of them, and learned that they use the profits for education and healthcare, and also set aside money to save in case any of the women face hardship.
Most of all, it inspired me to see how they all looked out for each other and worked together to achieve a goal for their community.
I asked one woman what she would like people to know about her community, and she simply replied, “The women here are brave.”
You can support Islamic Relief USA’s humanitarian fund for women here. Our women’s programs help vulnerable women with essential areas of need, including livelihood, education, and health.