A 17-year-old secondary school student from Niger’s 2nd largest city Zinder Faiza Habu and her mother earn a living out of cracking nuts and pounding wild fruits on contract under the Sahara Sahel Foods.
“These fruits were a delicacy back in the village while growing up. My mother worked as a house help to feed and educate our family of 12 children until the packaging of the wild fruits started in 2014,” Habu told the Africa Climate Conversations. “Cracking the wild fruits has enabled us to go to school, afford daily bread. Someday, I dream of becoming a judge”
Habu is among 300 urban women subcontracted by the Sahara Sahel Foods with about 1500 rural smallholders farmers — 80% women and youths from 70 villages from the south-central and southern-eastern Niger harvesting the fruits from the wild or naturally regenerating them on their farms.
Josef Garvi, the executive director at Sahara Sahel Foods, told the Africa Climate Conversations Podcast that Sahara Sahel Foods had produced 60 food products based on 19 different native tree species. The fruit’s trees include tamarind, hanza, marula, jujube, desert dates, baobab, sahel raisin, christ thorn, doum palm fruits, and the black prune.
The processed edible fruits and powder are sold in supermarkets in Niger; some are exported to neighboring countries like Nigeria, Benin, or Burkina Faso, while the desert date oil is shipped to the United Kingdom.
The Sahara Sahel Foods works together with Rewild.Earth a research institution to train fruit collectors on tree propagation techniques.
Garvi says the revision of forestry and agroforestry policies recognizing Farmer-Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) has allowed farmers to own trees on farms encouraging them to incorporate trees alongside millet, sorghum and groundnuts.
In the past 25 years, the International Food Policy Research Institute notes that the Niger Republic has rehabilitated over 10 million hectares of bare land.
Mieke Bourne, the Regreening Africa Programme Manager at the World Agroforestry, told the Africa Climate Conversations Podcast that creating value for the food products improves the value of the wild fruits, a catalyst for protecting these indigenous people landscapes.