More than 95 percent of our worldwide team members are from the countries where they work, and as you might suspect, they’re amazing people. So every month, we’re inviting one of the many folks who make incredible change possible to give us a peek into their work and life.
This month, meet Ibro Arzika, who has been on our Niger team since 2005, when Mercy Corps launched programs there to address malnutrition. Hunger has been an ongoing issue, as the country endures cyclical droughts and food shortages. But Ibro is undaunted by these challenges — he is determined to help communities find new ways to cope, and ultimately, thrive.
My position with Mercy Corps: I am a Project Officer for the PASTORAL program, which is focused on land improvement and rehabilitation. The program is helping rural communities to recover from shocks like drought and build stronger economic opportunities and livelihoods. Some days I am in the office working with decision-makers and program managers to make sure the program is meeting our goals. But I am often supervising projects in the field, like training farmers on land management, rehabilitating wells, and helping people start small commercial activities like goat rearing.
Back to my roots: Before working for Mercy Corps, I was a reporter for a radio station in the capital of Niamey. I joined Mercy Corps through a friend who recommended me as an assistant in the nutrition program. It was an opportunity to get closer to the down-to-earth realities and challenges that people in Niger face, and to offer whatever I can to support them.
I am from a village called Kore Mairoua, a rural farming community about 140 miles east of Niamey. But I was used to working at an urban radio station in a large city. It was a big change. Now I am helping reach the rural communities in a different way, and I really like it. Especially when I am conducting a demonstration or field work, I am always so happy that I am helping change the world.
Why I love what I do: What pulls it all together and gives me satisfaction is to see that people now have a wider range of livelihood and economic opportunities to support their families. This has helped many people bounce back from hardship and develop the capital to start businesses. Their income has increased through our work and they have access to food.
I love that wherever we work, the entire community is involved to make sure our programs are helping them in the best way possible. This how the communities working with Mercy Corps are building their own resilience.
Making a lasting impact: I met a 65-year-old women named Takola in the village of Banguir Barebari who had been hard hit by the famine in 2011: 12 of the 15 cattle in her herd perished. The remaining three stayed healthy in part through vaccinations and animal feed distributions that we organized. To this day, every time I return to that village, Takola thanks me personally for being part of this assistance that helped her household bounce back.
Preparation is everything: For the next phase of the program, we plan to do a comprehensive survey of wells and water points in collaboration with the government’s water resources offices in the area. It’s necessary to have a full picture of the topography, the origin, the history and the rehabilitation needs for each site in order to build access to water that is the most effective and long-lasting.
Believe in Niger: I wish more people would understand the potential we have in Niger. People always look at my country on the bottom of the list of poorest countries in the world. But people should know that development is possible in this country with a steady commitment by groups like Mercy Corps to see and build on this potential.
Hopes for my country: I hope that in the future we will see good leadership and a good democratic government so everyone can realize their hopes and aspirations. I am committed to this goal and see that working with Mercy Corps is one piece of getting us there.