Mbossedji, one of CREATE!‘s newest partner communities now has a thriving community garden and has produced more than 1,100 pounds of nutritious vegetables in just two months. This success has become possible due to CREATE!‘s partnership with Rotary International led by the Bellevue Rotary Club, Washington, USA and the Rotary Club Dakar Millénium, Senegal, who have been consistently supporting and sponsoring our work in Mbossedji. This success is also due to the strong and dynamic leadership of Ndeye Diop, the President of the community, who brought together four distinct and neighboring localities, all of whom had the same objective and vision for development. “I like my position as a leader and I always encourage my group to work,” President Diop explains. “I wish the continuity of this project and our children will use it in the future.”
Gardening for a Sustainable Future
Growing nutritious vegetables using organic cultivation methods is one of the main aspects of CREATE!‘s programs following improved access to clean and affordable water. This activity enhances food security, nutrition, health and wellbeing of the community members. After gaining access to perennial water, Mbossedji also started cultivating nutritious vegetables like lettuce, tomatoes, okra and cucumber from November 2019. The community received training on various cultivation techniques like efficient watering, cover cropping, creating organic fertilizer and compost, and many other sustainable agriculture methods from CREATE!’s agricultural technicians. Using those methods, they have turned their barren land into a lush green oasis in just a few months as evidenced by the pictures below.
Mbossedji Before (September 2019)
Mbossedji After (February 2020)
With four to five different varieties of vegetables grown every month, Mbossedji has not only improved its food security, the community members are also improving their health and nutrition. Together with that, the members are also earning income by selling their excess produce to people from within and outside their community. Word about Mbossedji’s thriving garden has spread to other neighboring villages as well as to communities further away resulting in people traveling to Mbossedji to buy their fresh organic produce. Because of the quantity of vegetables grown, people come to Mbossedji for more than just their weekly shopping. Recently, a woman traveled to Mbossedji to purchase bundles of lettuce for her son’s wedding. If not for Mbossedji’s community garden, she would have to travel 5km or more by foot or donkey-cart to the nearest weekly market where imported produce is much more expensive.
Cultivating a Garden and Friendships
Activities in the cooperative garden site have a social dimension too for the community members. For many of the women in Mbossedji’s garden group, spending time with others at the garden site planting and harvesting vegetables breaks the monotony of daily household chores. Friendships are forged here with the women singing, dancing or drinking attaya (Senegalese tea) during their break from the garden work. This zest for life cannot be hampered even with the Harmattan winds blowing sand everywhere. The women just cover their face and keep dancing or going about their daily tasks. And President Diop is present with them all along, singing and dancing and sharing the workload. She is an inspiration for the other members of the group.
Building Development Infrastructure
Building infrastructure that helps forward CREATE!‘s development program starts with the initiation of the project and continues into the second year of the activities. This year the main infrastructure that were constructed in Mbossedji are the poultry shed, the storage room and the latrine, all of which were built with funding from the Rotary clubs. The poultry shed powered by solar lights now house 150 chicks that are being raised as another income-generating activity for the group. Once the chicks are mature, they will be sold as a source of protein to the community members and in the nearby market. Poultry raising is a very profitable venture for the communities, especially during festivals like Gamou and Korité and adds to the total income each member earns through CREATE!‘s projects. Income thus earned leads to self-sufficiency and empowerment of the women beneficiaries.
Mbossedji also built their storage room and latrine in February 2020. The store allows the garden cooperative members to keep all their gardening tools safe when not in use. The latrine in Mbossedji is one of the first few proper latrines with a septic tank build in the CREATE! communities for the cooperative members to use. The community has also formed a cleaning committee for maintaining the latrine. These latrines will provide the women in the communities a safe place to use within their gardens.
Seeing is Believing
In March 2020, two Rotarians from the Bellevue Rotary Club in Washington, USA, Fred Auch and David Laub, visited the community of Mbossedji to see the progress themselves. For the community members led by President Diop, this was a proud moment, a moment for them to share their success story with Rotary. While the community members sang and danced marking their gratitude to Rotary for their help in funding the program, what made the program’s success more real was the flourishing green garden site.
Touring the garden and the poultry shed, they were also impressed by the enthusiasm and the initiative of the women who now have the hope to realize their vision for self-development. “Seeing the evolution of the self-confidence of the women from when a village starts on the program, to when it graduates 5 years later is impressive,” Fred Auch states. As the community members of Mbossedji mentioned many times, they are grateful to CREATE! and Rotary for providing them with the opportunity to have clean water and fresh vegetables available throughout the year; a feat that has made this landlocked village famous in their region.