We all know the concept of paying it forward. From holiday films to parental lessons, if a good deed is done for you, it’s only fair you spread that smile and joy. For West Africans, paying it forward has been enshrined it everyday life for centuries.
The concept of habbanaye goes back to the Peulh or Fulani people, who live across many of the modern borders in West Africa including Senegal, Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso. Continuing the concept of paying it forward in the region today, two of NCBA CLUSA’s USAID projects in West Africa (Yaajeende in Senegal and REGIS-ER in Burkina Faso and Niger) work with communities to pay it forward, making livestock raising and wealth building a community-led activity.
Habbanaye is the concept of loaning an adult cow, goat or other animal to a neighbor or family member in need. When the animal gives birth, the original is returned to its owner and the baby is raised for milk and meat. The cycle continues as more breeding occurs, spreading the wealth of livestock throughout the community.
As part of NCBA CLUSA’s resilience building projects, the concept is tweaked slightly. Communities select recipients to receive the first round of animals as well as training on raising them and keeping them healthy through vaccination programs. This assures not only will the animal assets be healthy, but the communities can continue to raise them and the next generations will be healthy as well, continuing the cycle after the project ends.
Families that receive the first round of animals must give back the first born to a community pool. Then the second generation of animals is distributed to another set of families, also selected by the community.
“We chose women who were pregnant or had small babies at first,” said Hawa Thioube, president of the Village community group in Bow Village, Senegal. Bow Village received 30 goats as part of NCBA CLUSA’s USAID | Yaajeende project. Since then, they have passed on 90 animals to families across their community.
“It helped us to gather all the women of the village. Now all the families are connected; we know each other,” Hawa said. In partnership with The Heifer Project, which specializes in passing the gift programs, the USAID |Yaajeende project placed over 16,000 animals with almost 7,000 families in Senegal.
Habbanaye is also part of our USAID |REGIS ER project in Niger and Burkina Faso. Focused on building resilient communities, habbanaye helps to do this by creating family assets as well as increasing nutrition for children who now have access to goat’s milk and proteins from meat and eggs. When drought or economic hardship occurs, families with income potential from livestock are able to bounce back quicker.
Haro Tissa lives in Margou Village in the Eastern region of Burkina Faso. She is strong woman in her fifties who is the sole provider for over 10 people in her family. As a recipient of four female goats and a billy goat for breeding through the habbanaye program from USAID |REGIS ER, she immediately saw the potential.
In addition to the habbanaye, Haro learned conservation farming techniques for her small plot of land and also got training in village savings and loans programs. With support and training from all sides, she connected these pieces to create a robust income.
After breeding the goats for 14 months she had nine kids and passed five of them to other women chosen by the community. Trained in conservation agriculture, she created fertilizer for her field using the goat manure.
“In this field, I harvested 400 kilograms of millet. Thanks to habbanaye, I now have my own goat herd. I can get 300 liters of milk per year. By now, my children and grand-children drink it all, which obviously improves their nutrition and health,” Haro said.
Beyond the nutrition implications, Haro was able to increase her revenues through the combined farming and goat raising. She further invested that money into school for three children, including one in high school. She was able to access more credit with her participation in the cooperative savings and loans which has given her the flexibility to get a higher price for her harvest.
“Now that I have more money available I don’t have to rush to sell my cowpea in September for a low price anymore in order to pay school fees. I can store it to sell it at a more favorable moment when I can get more out of it,” Haro explained. The flexibility from multiple incomes and a bigger harvest means she can be more strategic with the markets.