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news | February 12, 2016 | Niger | Development

Niger: Boosting economic development to enhance social cohesion

@ACTED Niger/2016 - Tabareybarey camp

ACTED teams in Niger are organizing a series of economic forums in Tillabéry area in Niger, where three Malian refugee camps have been settled by UNHCR. These events will contribute to the empowerment of Malian refugees and their integration in the Nigerien society.

On both sides of the border, economy strongly affected by the Malian crisis

Hama, a 69-year-old Malian refugee, and Seidoun, a 52-year-old Nigerien merchant, are talking seriously in Tabareybarey refugee camp, close to Ayorou in Niger. They met on the occasion of an economic forum organized by ACTED teams on 28 January 2016 in the camp in order to make Malian refugees and Nigerien suppliers and potential byers meet.

Commercial and cultural exchanges have always happened in the region along the Nigerien and Malian border. Local communities always crossed the border to trade their goods on the markets of the region, including Ayorou, which is famous even beyond the Nigerien borders. However, these habits have been heavily hampered by the Malian crisis.

Hama fled from Asongo in Mali three years ago together with the four other members of the household. Hama is a craftsman and a small cattle merchant and used to go back and forth across the border. Since he arrived in Niger, he tries to continue his activities, but faces various difficulties, like the lack of equipment and opportunities.

In turn, Seidoun needs to carry out several activities, like small business and fattening, to satisfy the needs of the 14 members of his household. He considers the arrival of Malian refugees as an opportunity for economic development in the region, although resulting from a dramatic situation – but to make it possible, successful integration is of course necessary.

From emergency to development and economic integration

ACTED’s intervention in this border region of Niger with North Mali started in 2010. ACTED’s teams perfectly know the region and its population, and witness the evolution of the Malian situation. Although the number of refugees keeps on increasing – they are estimated at over 55,000 in Niger, 33,000 of which reside in camps set up by UNHCR and managed by ACTED – the emergency situation now seems to be over, and the issue of the future of displaced households comes up more than ever.

A major part of Malian refugees, including Hama and his family, do not intend to leave Niger, at least not yet. Their socio-economic integration becomes a priority to enable them to build a decent life out of the camps and without depending on external assistance.

ACTED responds to this priority with the support of the American Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (BPRM) through vocational training and income generating activities. These activities are not random: they have been chosen after a thorough analysis of economic opportunities in the region, to maximize the chances of integration and success of the beneficiaries.

@ACTED Niger/2016 - Young people of the camp present short plays about efficient management of income generating activities and households economy on the occasion of ceremonies for the launch of the forum.

ACTED’s integrated action for social cohesion

The forum which took place in Tabareybarey camp and two other camps in the region has facilitated meetings and exchanges between refugees and host communities, and fosters not only economic integration, but also enables to engage in a dialogue between communities.

55,000 Malian refugees reside on the Nigerien territory, over 9,600 of which in the Tabareybarey camp

To avoid possible conflicts due to the massive influx of vulnerable populations on a territory already experiencing economic and climatic hazards, ACTED endeavors since the beginning of its intervention, as part of its camp management mission, to develop dialogue mechanisms, including committees for peaceful management of conflicts and consultation frameworks formed of displaced populations, local communities and authorities.

Hama and Seidoun are sensitive to those efforts and want to collaborate together for the benefit of their communities: “We are brothers and we have to help each other. Thanks to the support of organizations like ACTED, this has become possible”, they say.

Overall 6 economic forums will be organied within the project, especially for women and people with specifical needs, and to improve the means of livelihood and social cohesion of Malian refugees and host communities.