Saturday, June 17, 2006

The transhumance: a reason to live

The period between July and September is a capital moment in the life of the nomadic cattle breeders.

Living in one of the harshest environment of the planet, the Fulanis and Tuaregs, who constitute the pastoral class of Niger, are confronted to great difficulties in their daily life once the rainy season is over, but...

Right after the first rains start, as soon as the grass starts to grow, men and animals converge towards the salted marshes of the region of In-Gall, full of minerals indispensable to the animals. Some stockbreeders cover more than 400 kilometers to reach the salted marshes.

The men lead the convoy and are in charge of herding the animals (camels, cows and sheep), by foot or on camelback. Women, who are in charge of the tent, the traditional nomadic shelter, follow them on their donkey and transport the domestic equipment.

The abundance of water and pasture makes the stockbreeders' work easy and they take advantage of this prosperous period to organize big festivities at the first opportunity.

"Tendé" (evening of chants and traditional dances to the sound of the drum) and camel races are organized.

For young people, it is the moment to dress up. It is time to show off one's beautiful clothes and precious jewelry and to richly harness one's camel.

The three stages of the transhumance:


It is the trip to the salted marshes. The stockbreeders move their camps daily and it is during this time that the festivities are organized, because water is everywhere on the way and people are happy.


After three weeks of daily displacement, the stockbreeders establish their camp in the Ighazer, the salted plains, for a bout a month, so that their animals can replenish their strength and benefit from the salted water and pasture.

At this time the different nomadic populations organize the event know today as "The Salted Cure".

The official Salted Cure, organized in september in the city of In-Gall, is inspired from the traditional festivities celebrated in the wilderness by the stockbreeders.

To take part to one of these huge nomadic gatherings, you just have to happen on a Tuareg encampment. You will be a spectator of spectacular camel races, chants and dances, all day and all night long.

At the end of September, "Gerouels" are also organized. These are the festivities of the Bororo fulanis, or Wodaabee, during which beauty is celebrated. In fact, the goal of the festivities is to choose the most beautiful man of the yar. the candidates to the prize must chant and dance during several days to let the jury make its choice. The most beautiful young women of the community are in charge of this task.


It is the return of the stockbreeders to their land. This trip is very difficult because water is becoming scarce on the way. The nomads must travel twice a day and cover long distances in order to reach their well as soon as possible.

For the Tuaregs the transhumance is not only an asset for the social and cultural balance of the community, but it is also a reason to live, the most awaited event of the year whose thought helps them through the difficult stages of their lives.

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