Les Pirogues de l’Amitié – Sani Boureima

Sani Boureima is a tour operator based at the corniche Gamkallé in Niamey (capital of Niger). He founded “Les Pirogues de l’Amitié” in 2003 which offers a wide range of customizable tours in the most beautiful sites along the River Niger. Sani’s pinnaces are very comfortable and allows long trips on the river. Leading specialist in river trips in Niger, Sani and his team are true professionals and great travel companions. Sani and “les Pirogues de l’Amitié” played a crucial role in the logistics and social contacts with the itinerant fishermen.

View ITV with Sani Boureima below

The shooting of this movie wouldn’t have been possible without Sani who not only provided the logistics, the team, his expertise and his precious social network among the Kebbawa nomadic fishermen.

Unfortunately, just like the Kebbawa who live near Kandadji, Sani has been expropriated. He owned a plot of land that his father got under the colonial administration. The plot is particularly well situated because it is close to the river Niger, not far from the main road that bridge Haro Banda, the university and the center of Niamey.

For more information concerning the expropriation of riparian folk such as Sani, please watch and read the interview of Hama Boureima (Sani’s Brother).

A support fund for Sani and his family has been made to help them overcome the unfortunate circumstances. Donate here.

English transcription of an interview conducted in French
by Lotte Pelckmans:

My name is Sani Boureima. I’m the son of a farmer. I grew up in the ancient village of Gawey which was located very close to the river in Niamey. My Father grew up there, and so did I. I inherited many of the activities my father did. We had a big garden where we grew produce, such as yams, potatoes, and rice. We also fished, even though my father didn’t fish much. Most of the fishing was done by me. We fished using various equipments, such as fishing rods, hooks and nets. It is nice in that it helps us in supporting ourselves very much. Later on, I also worked as a hay gatherer. I gathered “Burgu”, which is a great type of grass that can only be found near the river. You can see it behind me on the other shore. I was very young then, I sold each bundle at 10 FCFA. Nowadays, a bundle costs 100 FCFA. I would spend the entire day, morning to evening stocking up my pirogue with it, to sell it on the spot at the market. I would later return and share the income with my father and mother.

I started doing farming, fishing and hay gathering all between the age of 10 and 15. I kept doing these until I was around the age of 25, then the opportunity for my fourth job arose, which is based on tourism. I met a good friend of mine while selling hay. He kept coming back to buy hay from me and this occurred over and over again until we became great friends. He helped me out with acquiring the pinnace on which I do my business. He also promoted me as a sign of friendship and comradery. Nowadays I’m considered as one of the best tourist guides in Niamey. I’m doing very well my businesses and the results I share with my family and children. I’m very thankful to God for this, and also Eric.

Comment votre amitié s’est créée?

The friendship between Eric and I initiated one afternoon. I just got out on my yard and he was coming from the slaughterhouse. He asked me “Hi hay-vendor, is the hay for sale?”, and I replied “No it isn’t”. I told him that if he returns the next day, he would be able to buy some. He came back the next day and bought 1500 FCFA worth of burgu. This was a great deal for me since those 1500 FCFA came in handy that day. He also got a great deal, getting each bundle at 25 FCFA each. He kept returning weekly to buy the same amount of bundles. This went on for about 2 months. One day he asked me if I enjoyed fishing. I told him that fishing was actually my primary activity. He liked fishing as well, even though he was like an amateur, he was passionate about fishing and the river overall. One day he invited me to go fishing. We went first fishing at Djemme and then we went to the “The W National Park” and we line- fished at many different places. We caught fish and ate it, talking, laughing and learning more about each other.

What about the idea to go on boat trip…?

One day he invited many of his friends on a boat trip, including myself. We rented a large pinnace, which was very expensive and didn’t even have a roof. After spending a night with it, Eric came up with an idea and asked me “Sani, if I bought a pinnace, would you be able to steer it?” and I replied with a ‘yes’. To my surprise he one day came and gave me the money to buy a pinnace. This was the fist pinnace; it is 5-7 meters and can transport at least 6 people. I was very happy after acquiring this pinnace. Everybody in my household was very happy.

After this first pinnace, you bought other pinnaces?

I was able to buy more pinnaces later on, thanks to Eric promoting my business. He did as much as he could to bring me customers. A couple of years later I was able buy other pinnaces by myself. I currently have four pinnaces and 7 engines.

What kind of people are your clients ?

The majority of my clients are European. This is because we, Africans, are generally not very fond of the water.  People are often scared of the river because of the dangers that lie within it such as crocodiles, hippopotamuses and others. Some Africans also don’t know how to swim. Europeans on the other hand don’t mind water, they live in water. Their life revolves around water, just like me; we’re like family. I might as well be considered a fish since my life revolves around water so much.

Can you describe what friendship means to you?

Friendship to me is “Corotarey” (to be pronounced Tchorotarey’) which means friendship with no limits.
Can you hear how it (an hippo in the background) shouts?
Corotarey means that we are welded and inseparable. Anything that isn’t well consolidated with surely break if things don’t go well but a grand friendship is very well consolidated and therefore unbreakable.

Very well

Thank you

You hear that.

Yes, just while you were speaking about friendship.

It’s a young hippo that makes its show. It just plays. It’s a way to show his power because if he wants to access females he has to defeat the dominant hippo male. It fights for three days. Either one dies or one runs away. The winner shouts three times and the war is over.
You see, you hear. I heard its teeth touching one another. It makes a sound “kak-kak” . It’s very powerful.

The interview is over

Other interview with Sani Boureima regarding the River Nomads

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By Eric Hahonou