The Tuaregs, a nomadic people once known for their fiercely independent lifestyle, used to haul products by camel caravan across the Sahara Desert to sell and trade. They had also been slave traders in earlier days, earning themselves the enmity of black Africans to the south. However, a series of severe droughts and political changes―including the fixing of national borders―have swept aside their traditional way of life. The expanding Sahara has reduced the amount of food available for the nomads' animals, and the great drought of l984 killed many of their camels. At the same time, trucks and cars began to usurp the nomads' role as cravanners. “That's when people saw those who were gardening had suffered less,” said Ousarnane Goda, a retired teacher. “People realized that the earth is our mother and she will help us tend her gardens. “The Tuaregs found that their mastery of the desert could be applied to successfully cultivating the scorched earth, and fewer of them are now living the borderless, rootless lives of nomads. But changes to their time-honored lifestyles didn't come easily. In the 1990s, the Tuaregs fell victim to what they saw as discrimination by black Africans in Mali and Niger who were unsympathetic to their former slavers. This unrest led to u violent rebellion by the Tuaregs and other minority groups. The Tuareg rebellion in Niger ended when the government offered 2,000 former rebels employment in the military, the police, customs, and other branches of the government, “Now almost all the leaders of the rebellion have positions in the government,” said Mohammed Rabda, the chief of Timia, a village and center for the Tuaregs. Once a resting stop for the nomadic Tuaregs, Timia grew as more Tuaregs settled down to gardening for their survival. Now about 6,000 people reside in the oasis village, cultivating 150 gardens. Iliass Zakaria admits that he makes a lot more money gardening than he did when caravanning, but he also muses that the changes have come at great cost. “We were free back then.” Said Zakaria. “We camped wherever we stopped at night, we were with friends, and there were no wives to bother us.” Since Zakaria gave up his nomadic life, he has been tending his gardens of oranges, grapefruits, dates, and corn. However, conditions in Timia have not greatly improved for many residents in the half-decade since the rebellion, as 3,500 former rebels are still without substantial work. “The will exists, but so far we have not had the means to consolidate peace,” said former rebel leader Mohammed Anacko, who now serves as Niger's minister of national reconciliation. Despite political turmoil, the recently elected democratic government in Niger has brought back relative stability, in part thanks to the nomads' recognition that it is too late to turn back the clock. Most of the Tuaregs have forsaken nomadic life, and few will ever return to their old desert ways.