National Geographic : 1987 Aug
grain seems to have been fitted by a master mason. Elsewhere, caught in small winds, the sand rises as devils that dance along the road in whirlish steps. Here and there where dunes rise high along the shoulders, the Road of Hope is squeezed to half its normal width and makes its way through the pas sages like a shadow-darkened col. A HUNDRED MILES from Nouakchott there is a settlement beside the road. It is called Tignarg Oasis, but there are no palm trees, no pools of fresh water. And there are few, if any, adult males, for they have all left to seek work in the towns. Some have been gone along time, having abandoned their wives and children. At noontime the children of Tignarg Oasis are gathered in the small store, where bottles of warm soda sit in a refrigerator with a motor long silenced. A few packages of bis cuits covered with dust are on the shelf, along with some soap and cartons of dried milk. Nothing more than that. A boy with curly hair and pale eyes is there, leaning against the counter. When asked his name, he smiles and says "Abdullah." His father went off some time ago to the town ofBoutilimit, ten miles down the road. "I go to school some days, but mostly I take the donkey to the well to bring back water," he said. I walked the mile or so with him the next time he went to the well to fill the two large cowhide bags that hung suspended Hope takes root in the arms of a young girl (above) holding trees to be planted as part of a CARE project in Niger'sMajia Valley. Some 230 miles of wind breaks now shelterfields. Erosionhas decreased and crop yields have risen as much as 20 percent. Such successes are rare.Tree planting proceeds 50 times slower than needed. At a former oasis in Mauritania camels snack on a lonely surviving shrub (right).