Supporting a family in rural Senegal has become increasingly difficult with the effects of climate change. Environmental issues are damaging village resources, and families are losing the means to support themselves. By engaging rural villages in environmental protection projects, we are seeing people come together to lift their communities out of poverty and improve the livelihoods of their families and future generations to come.
Mother, Provider, and Sustainability Advocate
Meet Sokhna Sarr, a 20-year-old woman living in the village of Back Samba Dior. Sokhna supports her family of three by generating income and providing them with fresh vegetables every day. She also takes steps to protect the environment in her community by participating in renewable energy projects, organic gardening methods, and tree-planting campaigns.
Every day, Sokhna joins the other women in the cooperative garden, carrying her young child on her back while she works. Sokhna pauses her work in the garden to prepare lunch for her family. In the past, Sokhna cooked over an open fire. She recalls how dangerous this was for children, and that animals used to tip the cooking pot over. Sokhna says, “Before there were many fire risks in the village… but now thanks to CREATE! we have the possibility to fight against all these problems”. Today, Sokhna uses CREATE!’s improved cookstove. The improved cookstove is much safer than an open fire, and by using it Sokhna saves time, money, and trees.
Bringing Sustainability into Her Kitchen
Sokhna built two of her own improved cookstoves after participating in community trainings with CREATE!’s field technicians. She explains how grateful she is that it only takes one hour for her to prepare lunch now. Normally, it takes women over half of their day to prepare meals and much of that time is spent collecting firewood. Because of ongoing deforestation, this task has become increasingly difficult. Occasionally, Sokhna will have to purchase firewood. With the improved cookstove, however, Sokhna uses less firewood. She describes, “Before, my stock of wood couldn’t last a week but since I used the improved cookstove I can spend many days without collecting wood in the forest”. This is due to the fact that improved cookstoves only use 2-3 pieces of wood. Along with saving time and money, Sokhna is also saving trees.
Senegal loses about 45,000 hectares of forest per year. But determined individuals like Sokhna are helping bring them back. Sokhna says, “It is thanks to CREATE! that we know the importance of trees, that’s why we try to plant many trees for our children”. Sokhna and her community have engaged in a tree planting campaign every year during the rainy season since they partnered with CREATE!. The types of trees they’ve planted range from beechwood to moringa, citrus, papayas, cashews, and acacia mellifera. Acacia is used as a live-fences to protect the village’s community garden.
Sustainable Gardening Methods
Like many women in Senegal, Sokhna didn’t have an occupation before CREATE! partnered with her village. However, through CREATE!’s agriculture specialists, Sokhna has been learning to sustainably manage her own garden and cultivate vegetables. She tells us, “We are training with the technicians and know many things in gardening. In a few years, we will have skills and knowledge for developing our village.” The different sustainable techniques that Sokhna has been learning include organic composting, live-tree fencing, and using organic fertilizer. CREATE!‘s technicians learned that using organic fertilizer causes vegetables to ripen slower, at a more natural rate. While chemical fertilizers lead to vegetables becoming overripe too quickly. Because of this, vegetables grown with organic fertilizer will have a longer shelf life, and women will be able to sell them in the market.
Improving the Livelihood of Her Family
Thanks to the determination and hard work of community members like Sokhna, Back Samba Dior produced about 245 pounds of vegetables last month. Sokhna says that before her village began producing their own vegetables, she had to make the journey to the large Guinguineo market. Because of the cost in time and money, her trips to the market were infrequent and so was her family’s consumption of vegetables. Today she boasts, “Since I eat vegetables we grow in the village I become healthier and my children eat vegetables every day”. Sokhna produces enough vegetables to not only satisfy her family’s needs but to also sell in the market and generate income. She recalls, “Before CREATE!, I didn’t have any occupation, it was only my husband who worked and supported the family”.
Today, Sokhna is earning a stable income, providing fresh food for her family, and engaging in environmental protection projects to cope with the effects of climate change. We have heard community members say that CREATE! transforms their lives. We say, CREATE! supports villages with the tools and training they need, but the people transform their lives themselves.
Consider helping more women in rural Senegal like Sokhna by donating to CREATE! today.