NIGERIEN AIR BASE 201, Niger -- Airmen assigned to the 409th Air Expeditionary Group and Soldiers assigned to the civil affairs team, hosted a bazaar at Air Base 201, June 30.
The bazaar brought in 43 vendors from the local community of Agadez to sell goods to 226 U.S. military members, who spent a total of $19,011, crushing the previous bazaar’s $12,433.
“It is one important opportunity that many people from Agadez have to sell their stuff to the people here on the base, and the people from the base have souvenirs they can take home to their families,” said Mohamoud Mouta, the civil affairs team cultural adviser and interpreter.
The city of Agadez used to be a large tourist spot where vendors would make most of their profits. Nowadays, that is no longer the case. In 2007, an insurgency among elements of the Taureg people caused the U.S. Department of State to advise against traveling to Niger.
“Before the Tuareg Rebellion, the tourism was booming,” said Army Sgt. Dan Kardos, 411th Civil Affairs Battalion civil affairs noncommissioned officer and medic. “People would come here to go on safari, big camping trips in the middle of the Sahel and just experience the culture here in Niger.”
The bazaar acted as a small bandage for that. Deployed troops at Nigerien Air Base 201 had the opportunity to bring home authentic hand-made blankets, bags, masks and even had the chance to ride camels.
“We want it to be safe for them to go and get the trinkets and souvenirs and local goods they wouldn’t be able to get here on base, in a safe environment,” Kardos said. “It takes a lot of time, energy and manpower to take five or ten people out just for a normal mission. So, we bring the bazaar to the Airmen. The morale boost that it provides along with the economic boost for the outside is enormous.”
According to the civil affairs team’s records, this was the largest grossing bazaar conducted at Nigerien AB 201.
“What it means for the community is financial stability,” Kardos added. “They’re able to get food, water, clothes, an education – all the things that we kind of take for granted. They’re able to not only supply for themselves, but the community that they’re in.”
One of the vendors brought down dozens of baskets from their village. Each basket had the name of the woman who had woven it. At each sale, the vendor wrote down their name and how many they sold and what it sold for.
“When he goes back he returns the baskets that weren’t sold, but he’s also returns with the money that they had earned, and it will hugely affect the community, not just that individual,” Kardos said. “Whereas in the United States, you go to a farmer’s market, you buy a couple turnips and some lettuce and the farmer and their family benefits. Here the entire community is able to prosper and grow.”