In the heart of the Linguere region of Senegal lies Ngaraaf, a rural community of 700 people practicing trade, agriculture, and livestock raising. This community, like many others in rural Senegal, faced the significant challenge of accessing clean and affordable water, a critical resource for sustaining their agricultural activities. However, Ngaraaf’s women took it upon themselves to ensure a sustainable future for their village. With the support of CREATE! and the Silicon Valley Community Foundation Donor Circle for Africa, Ngaraaf embarked on a transformative journey driven by women and centered on community development.

The Path to Sustainable Water Access

Before partnering with CREATE!, the women in Ngaraaf were cultivating vegetables in their backyard using expensive commercial tap water. While it was a testament to their commitment to grow their own food, it was not a sustainable practice. However, in early 2023, Ngaraaf initiated its journey towards self-sufficiency by working with CREATE! to establish reliable and cost-effective water sources powered by renewable solar energy. The first phase of the project involved the rehabilitation of an existing village well. Before this crucial step, the CREATE! team ensured that the well had an adequate water supply to sustain the program. The well in Ngaraaf, with a depth of 95 meters and a 12-meter water column, proved to be a valuable and reliable source of groundwater.

The rehabilitation work involved cleaning and refurbishing the well, followed by the installation of solar pumps and panels, as well as the construction of water basins and a platform for the water reservoir. As of this year, Ngaraaf became the pioneer community in our project to redesign raised platforms, which now include storage sheds for gardening equipment underneath, and solar panels are integrated above the reservoir instead of on separate poles. These changes improve efficiency and wind resistance.

Women take a break at one of the water basins in Ngaraaf’s community garden. CREATE! combines gravity-fed irrigation methods with solar pumping systems, ensuring efficient water distribution for a community garden.

Empowering Women Through Water Access

With the new infrastructure in place, Ngaraaf began enjoying regular access to water in May 2023, with a steady increase in supply. To ensure responsible water usage and avoid over-extraction, the women of Ngaraaf received training on the importance of conserving this precious resource and monitoring their daily water consumption.

The availability of water not only benefits agriculture but also addresses domestic water shortages, significantly improving the community’s daily life. In a region where vegetables were traditionally bought from markets at a high price, the women of Ngaraaf can now cultivate more than 95% of their community garden. This transformation began with the community members clearing and preparing the garden site.

Agricultural Training and Sustainable Practices

The agricultural training in Ngaraaf began with the purchase of essential equipment and a variety of vegetable seeds. Under the guidance of CREATE! Agricultural Trainer, Codou Gadji, the women began plowing the land, creating organic compost, preparing vegetable beds, and establishing nurseries. They were committed to sustainable practices, even collecting organic matter for composting well in advance.

Organic composting techniques will help Ngaraaf’s garden thrive year-round.

Proper tool use and maintenance were also part of the training to ensure their longevity. To streamline their work, the women formed three watering groups, with each group responsible for morning and evening watering sessions after garden maintenance. The first vegetables sown in May 2023 were okra and tomatoes, both staples in the Senegalese diet.

Harvesting Success and Economic Impact

By June, the okra plants showed promising signs of production, leading to a bountiful harvest in August. The community also began selling their excess produce in local markets, generating income. To date, they have earned CFA 377,750 ($602.47) from these sales, translating to about $9.72 per beneficiary in August alone. And this is just the beginning.

Women in Ngaraaf celebrate the okra harvest.

Ngaraaf’s journey towards sustainable development is a testament to the power of community engagement, renewable energy, and women’s empowerment. With access to clean and affordable water through solar energy, the women of Ngaraaf have transformed their lives and their community. They have demonstrated resilience in the face of challenges and are already reaping the rewards of their hard work through agricultural success and economic empowerment. As they continue their journey, Ngaraaf serves as an inspiration for other communities seeking a path to sustainable development.