They were going to visit Oumou.*
At the age of 12, Oumou contracted polio and never walked again. Now, as a woman in her 40's, Oumou sits with her legs curled up beneath her. But as our Djarma-to-French translator says, she has no interest in keeping her arms crossed!
In 2006, CBM financed the digging of a well on Oumou's land. Then, they taught her how to plant a garden, maintain it, harvest the yield, keep seeds, and rotate plants with the seasons. As the CBM director stated over and over again, Oumou's garden has produce 12 months out of 12!
We were welcomed by a small hoard of young women . . . Oumou's nieces. They ushered us to Oumou's house, where we were warmly greeted by the woman we came to see. Within minutes, her sisters arrived as well. Together with all the children and grandchildren, we were becoming quite the crowd.
The women offered us mats to sit on as it was explained to us the criteria for the five-year Garden Subsidy Program:
- The person must be disabled.
- The person must own his/her own piece of land . . . either through inheritance or purchase.
- There must be two able-bodied individuals willing to help with the necessary labor.
Eventually we were taken to see the garden first hand.
Oumou uses a velo, a hand-powered tricycle, that was provided for her by CBM as well. The problem is, the terrain around her house is incredibly sandy, so she cannot actively push herself through (that and the bike chain broke) . . . but not to worry, she has plenty of grand-nieces and nephews to propel her!
|Oumou crawls through her garden|
She showed us her routine. Someone draws water from the well and fills up buckets for her. Oumou descends from her trike and crawls over to the line of buckets. She lifts one to her head. Without spilling or splashing, she balances the plastic bucket and crawls around the gate and into the garden.
Stopping at the first row, she lowers the container and gently waters her plants. When the bucket is empty, she searches the ground for weeds. She checks for mature peppers, plucks them, and places them in the watering bucket.
This is a daily routine that takes hours.
In her garden, Oumou currently has an abundance of peppers, corn, pumpkins, watermelon, lettuce, cassava, maringa, and a few things they only knew the Djarma name for.
Her interview was fantastic!
When asked how she felt about her garden, she humbly admitted that it made her very proud. She feeds her family. She works hard and watches as her garden grows.
When asked how her garden has changed her life, she told us that before her life was limited to her house. She sat around all day, doing nothing. There was very little she was able to contribute to her family. But now, she has work. She has purpose. She has changed everything for her whole family.
When asked how she felt about her friends and neighbors who have been displaced or are suffering because of the food crisis, she said more people need gardens like her's, because 'at times like this, the disabled are always the last to receive help'.
|Oumou waits for the interview to start.|
With seeds saved from past crops, each of Oumou's brothers and sisters and their respective families all have their own individual gardens. Their children eat until they are full and together the larger family sells the excess in Niamey. With this income, they can afford school fees . . . and since their home is in such close proximity to the well and their gardens, the children have time to go to school.
In a society where the disabled rest on the bottom rung, where a girl is not a woman until she is married, and woman's worth is measured by the number of children she has, we find a handicapped, unmarried, childless WOMAN who has rescued her family and given them hope for generations to come!
If only the world were filled with Oumous!
|Some of the kiddos of the family play in Oumou's garden while their|
|Oumou's niece carries maringa leaves back to the house.|
|After collecting branches, Oumou's sister-in-law and nieces pluck|
|The older girls carry buckets of water back to the house as the|
younger children push Oumou's wheelchair.
*Oumou gave us permission to use her name and image.