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Niger: Traditional pregnant cows lending honoured

UN-backed jury honours traditional lending of pregnant cows in Niger

The lending of pregnant cows to neighbours who have fallen on hard times, a tradition among herdsman in Niger, has been added to a list of cultural practices around the world that best contribute to sustainable development, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) announced today.

The jury of the Harmony List, an initiative of UNESCO and a group dedicated to socially responsible investment, cited the Wodaabe people’s tradition of “habbanae” as a cultural practice that significantly contributes to improving quality of life, and integrates its culture into social, environmental and economic development.

According to habbanae (which is pronounced ha-ba-na-i and means “bond” in the Peul language), when a herdsman loses his herd each member of the community lends him a pregnant young cow to be kept for three years.

“This tradition is more than a contract designed to help people in need, it also helps consolidate the life of the community as a whole by strengthening the bond among its members,” UNESCO said.

The Harmony List was born in 2004 of a partnership between UNESCO’s International Fund for the Promotion of Culture and the Crédit Agricole Group, both of which provide jury members who pre-select up to 10 cultural practices from all regions of the world, out of which at least one is inscribed on the Harmony List.

In 2004, Bedouin hospitality of the Middle East and Cree bush schools of northern Canada were honoured. The practice chosen for 2005 was the traditional Chinese medicine of the Miao community in Guizhou Province, China.

This year, the jury also recognized the “Story-Tellers Grandmothers Programme” of Argentina. Launched five years ago by the Mempo Giardinelli Foundation, it mobilizes senior citizens to read stories to children, and contributes to dialogue between generations, UNESCO said.

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