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Some weeks ago, just before the green of the rainy season set in, I invited fellow Norwegian Katrine (working for the UN) for a ride in the Zinder bush.

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With Katrine on Arwen, my dad on Sahara, Habu on Ivory and me on Ebony – it was the first time that all four senior horses of Ishtar’s Ark were out at the same time!

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At this point, the millet had just popped up. Young seedlings covered the landscape, giving hope of a very good 2010 harvest (as is often the case following a year with little rain).

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We rode down to Dadin Serki, in an area where Eden has worked for many years giving advice on what species the farmers can sow in their fields.

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As a consequence, many fields around Zinder are being turned into fruit-bearing Eden Gardens, which provided for the families even during 2009 when many millet crops failed.

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Niger has a large flora of trees and bushes that bear fruit, even in times of need, and this huge potential is often overlooked by Westerners.

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We rode down to the Dadin Serki tapki, which at that point had just begun to fill up;

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…then up the hill towards new beautiful grounds.

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Habu pointed out a wild squirrel to me but I did not manage to catch it on picture in time before it disappeared between the rocks. This was, however, the first time that I saw wildlife other than birds in the Zinder bush. As in the Tanout region, the growth of Eden trees plays an important role in restoring nature as it once was.

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One of the things I love the most is to ride into the villages and meet the people.

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I took Katrine through some villages to give her an authentic view of daily Zinder village life.

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Unknown to many Westerners, one’s mode of transport plays an important role as in how one is greeted.

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People who come by car will be treated as rich foreigners (which is not to be recommended if one is looking for an authentic experience).

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Horseback riding, however is culturally highly appreciated and those who come by horse will be treated as  special guests.

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Riding through, we passed a number of courtyards, which gave my friend at the UN an immediate impression of the general situation around Zinder.

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Counting the numbers of animals in each courtyard gives a good indication of how the family is faring. In Niger, and especially in the village, people invest in animals instead of putting their money in a bank. Whenever a need occurs, the family will sell a sheep or a goat to cover its needs. As long as their herd remains intact, it is clear that they are not without means to take care of themselves.

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Everywhere we went, we saw goats,

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…goats…

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…and more goats!

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As we made our way through the villages, observing the general level of wealth in the area, Katrine turned to me and asked: “But how come people in these villages are doing so well?”

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Well, first of all, Eden has been working in this area for a long time now, giving the farmers advice on how to sow various trees and bushes that will grow in their fields without irrigation, producing food even in times of need. The concept of an Eden Garden is spreading from one farmer to another and during a year like 2009-2010, the Eden trees have truly proven their worth as reliable providers even when the annual crops fail.

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That said, life in reality is rather different from what is portrayed on Western television. The news refer to food crisis and expected death tolls, but who is showing how the daily life is really going about in the bush?

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Who is spending time in the villages, talking to the people and trying to understand the challenges of being a farmer in one of the most arid places on earth? For my part, every villager I have spoken to has told me that their family (including the youngest children) is doing well.

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Surrounded by so many cheerful children, full of life and joy, I think of the level of life quality they have, and how such dimensions to life in Africa that are never passed on to the rest of the world.

Now that would be something to be picked up by the media!

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