It is nearing the end of the rainy season in Senegal, and Ndeye Diop, 25, of Walo is out harvesting her watermelon crops. The big, sweet, juicy fruit, along with the rich harvest of vegetables coming from the community garden, will be more than enough to feed her family of 8 in the coming months, with plenty of surplus to sell on the market. “Since we started working with CREATE! we no longer need to buy expensive vegetables from the market, because we have a big garden site where we can grow all the vegetables we need for selling and for our family’s consumption,” she says.

Utilizing CREATE!’s integrated approach, Ndeye participates in the community garden, VSLA program, poultry production, and tree planting campaigns.

Ndeye emphasizes how all of CREATE!’s projects in her community work together in connection with one another, an integrated approach in action: “I like all CREATE! programs because each one is profitable, and none of them can go without others,” she says. For instance, when CREATE! first came to her village, the technicians taught her how to build improved cookstoves, of which she now has two. She notes that although the improved cookstoves use far less wood than the traditional three-stone fires she used to cook on, it is still important replant the trees they cut down for firewood. “Many people do not know that trees are our life-givers,” says Ndeye. “From trees, we get the oxygen and we meet many of our needs. It is our duty to plant trees for the future of our children.”

Along with the tree planting campaign working to replenish firewood and shade in Walo, they also have a working poultry shed to raise chickens for selling on the market and eating alongside the vegetables they grow in the community garden. Women from the cooperative invest their earnings in their VSLA group, so their funds can be used to provide loans to members or fund community projects. With this integrated approach, Ndeye has seen an obvious change in her community. She says, “In Walo, men and women participate in CREATE! programs together, and there has been a big positive change in our living conditions.”