Every year in September a group of nomad women in Niger venture out by caravan 600 km back and forth through one of the largest sand deserts in the Sahara area.
Anthropologist Ingrid Poulsen heard the story of the women’s caravan from a friend while she was working for Danida in Niger.
The journey to Fachi goes through extremely difficult desert territory that can only be forced with the aid of camels. No cars can get through. In Fachi’s oases the women collect dates, which they bring with them and sell at the markets.
Ingrid Poulsen had met Tuareg-women that have travelled with male companions over thousands of kilometres but she had never before heard about a caravan led solely by women. The question of why the women choose to do this was a challenging mystery and it inspired her to explore what was happening in this society.
The trip through the desert normally takes around two weeks. On the way the caravan passes wells distanced 2, 3 and 4 days’ journey from each other. Even though the locations of the wells are known, it is easy to miss them in the enormous sand dunes that move every year and shape new formations. With a possible marching pace of between 30 and 50 km a day, even a mistake of 1 km can have disastrous consequences.
We travelled out at the end of August 2004, and 6 weeks and many hardships later we were back in the capital of Niger, Niamey.