At the request of local authorities and community members last month, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) installed 55 solar lamp posts in the Bilma department, region of Kawar in Niger, through its project Community Stabilization Initiatives in Northern Niger (COSINN), financed by the German Federal Foreign Office.
Mamadou, 25, a shopkeeper in Dirkou, used to close his business early in the evening out of fear of getting attacked. One of the lamp posts in Dirkou is now proudly displayed in front of his shop. “I am grateful I can now extend my working hours in safety,” said Mamadou.
The project COSINN is implemented in northern Niger in the Aïr and Kawar regions (Arlit, Agadez, Dirkou, Djado, Fachi and Bilma), where the volatile security situation is closely linked to current events in Algeria and southern Libya, where conflict is persisting.
The project aims to contribute to the stabilization of the communities in northern Niger and to prevent a regional crisis, by seeking to enhance the communities’ support of and their engagement with the authorities.
Seeing the unreliable electricity system, the high prices for fuel and lack of generators in the region, solar energy has proved to be a far better, cheaper, and above all, renewable alternative in the Kawar.
Four communes in the region of Kawar have received solar lamps posts so far; these are Dirkou (23), Bilma (12), Djado (10) and Fachi (10).
During the reception ceremony on 14 May in Dirkou, the mayor of Dirkou, Attoumani Ibrahim, emphasized the need for such lamp posts in this region.
“Seeing the high temperatures in the Kawar, most people tend to rely on night time to set in to start working,” Attoumani said.
After completing the consolidation works at the health centre in Dirkou, three lamp posts were installed around the clinic in order to improve the well-being of both patients and nurses.
“There is light everywhere now which makes our patients feel much safer,” says Ababoucar, nurse at the health centre. “There is a high death risk caused by scorpions in this area, so this light helps protect us from getting bitten.”
Twenty-three solar lamp posts have been installed around the local market in Dirkou where most inhabitants have their shops, allowing people to work late into the night. These designated lit-up social spaces now lure residents into social gatherings, and students into finishing their homework.
This new infrastructure also encourages women to be autonomous and go to work after putting their children to sleep and returning home safely late at night.
Community stabilization activities in Niger focus on spurring economic development through the implementation of activities such as cash-for-work, youth employment, use of local resources, agricultural projects and the creation of cooperatives, with a gender approach in mind.
By creating a space and opportunity for exchange, community stabilization activities also look to strengthen community dialogue, and trust between communities and authorities.
In order to create a sustainable model, the community together with the authorities propose a Monitoring Committee to choose and manage the activities in each zone of intervention while letting the community’s needs be heard.
As means to facilitate social cohesion and community engagement, different awareness-raising activities are organized, such as radio debates, participatory theatre or sports tournaments.
Since its launch in May 2018, the COSINN project has developed 35 infrastructures and implemented 129 activities for close to 289,000 beneficiaries.
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