Goats and sheep provide nourishment, livelihoods, and hope for people suffering the effects of drought.
Alhashini Aichatou is a widow with a teenage son. Her weathered skin, missing teeth, and petite frame make her look older than she probably is. Despite the obvious hardships she’s faced, her personality is vibrant. She often laughs, her eyes sparkling.
Last year, when her husband died, she was left with nothing except the small mud home they lived in. She and her son ate millet mixed with water every day.
“I pray, fast, and hope to die,” she said.
Her outlook has now changed, though, thanks to the work of Samaritan’s Purse. As part of our livestock project in Nassarawa village, Alhashini received the gift of goats.
Alhashini has already sold some of her goats’ offspring to bring in extra money for herself and her son. She’s also enjoying having milk to make porridge. Owning goats has also changed how she views herself.
“It’s very helpful for us,” Alhashini said. “It’s very important for us because we can now get milk from the goats, and we can also make millet porridge drink. Now that I received the animals, I feel like I have an asset. I feel important.”
Alhashini’s neighbor, Zeinavou Bakka, was another recipient of livestock. She lives with five members of her extended family, including her brother and some nieces and nephews. Her brother cuts trees to sell, but before the goats, he didn’t make enough money to provide for everyone in his house. They were hungry.
“When I received the animals, we have seen a change in our life,” Zeinavou said.
Zeinavou has sold some of the offspring from the goats and milk to get money to buy food for their family. They now have a surplus of money, and Zeinavou smiles proudly to show off how she’s spending the surplus. Her teeth are stained orange from the sugarcane she’s been eating, something she could never afford before.
Change for a Country in Need
In 2015, the United Nations ranked Niger as the least developed country in the world. Food insecurity is a contributing factor to that ranking, and as drought and erratic rainfall persist, people continue to starve.
Nassarawa is one of many villages that lacks enough work for the inhabitants. But even if there were more work, several villagers would still face difficulties because they are elderly or unable to work. The goats and sheep that people have received from Samaritan’s Purse have enriched life throughout the village.
“I see in these animals a wealth coming in the village because I’m expecting that, with these animals we receive, we will be able to overcome some of the problems that we will be facing as a community,” said Ramatou Rahim, another goat recipient.
Ramatou owned livestock before Samaritan’s Purse distributed the goats and sheep, but those animals died. She and her family were left with nothing except leaves to eat. They were starving when Ramatou received animals from Samaritan’s Purse.
This time, Ramatou has higher hopes for her animals because of Aboubacar Hamida, a community animal health worker. Aboubacar was trained by Samaritan’s Purse to provide basic medical care and vaccinations for livestock. Samaritan’s Purse also provided the initial medicines and equipment Aboubacar needed. Now he pays for his own tools from the money he makes from providing services.
“These animals are really very helpful for the village, for both beneficiaries and the non-beneficiaries,” Aboubacar said. “Many other people, some are not even from this village, they are really talking about this project because they are happy to see that things have changed in terms of taking care of animals and administering medical care for the animals.”
Samaritan’s Purse provided the initial animals to the neediest people in the community. When animals give birth, beneficiaries are instructed to give the offspring to other community members. So while everyone does not benefit immediately, soon the project impacts an entire area.
While training community animal health workers and distributing livestock, Samaritan’s Purse staff members share the Gospel. In a country that is 98 percent Muslim, people don’t always seem receptive. Sometimes people do receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, but they often feel they need to hide their faith to avoid persecution from family and friends. But even in communities where seeds don’t immediately grow, Samaritan’s Purse is finding that the Gospel is starting to make a difference.
“The sharing of their faith brought us grace and also happiness,” Zeinavou said.