Every year, cooperative members in CREATE!’s partner communities will plant a total of 19,000 tree seedlings, supporting reforestation in Senegal. The trees are planted during the rainy season which runs from late June to early October. The village of Santhie first partnered with CREATE! in late 2017 and had their first tree-planting campaign this year! Santhie maintained around 2,000-3,000 tree seedlings in their nursery before the campaign started. These small trees are cared for in “sachets” which are small black bags donated by the Senegalese Department of Water and Forestry.
Supporting Reforestation in Her Community
Awa Diop is a mother of eight living in the village of Santhie. She tells us that Santhie looks like an oasis in the desert now because of the tree-planting campaign. Awa is excited for what the future will hold for the next generation. “Our children will benefit from the trees we are planting today,” She explains. The trees provide shade, windbreak, and help moderate temperatures. These are all important aspects as Senegal heads into its dry season which will run from November to mid-May. Awa and her community also planted trees for fruits, nuts, live-fences, and firewood. She describes the importance of firewood in her community, “tree-planting is playing a big role in our community because we will always need firewood.” However, Awa and the rest of their community are also doing their part to limit the amount trees they cut down for firewood.
Saving Trees with Sustainable Cooking Methods
Santhie participated in a community-wide training to learn how to build improved cookstoves. These improved cookstoves help community members save trees, time, and money. The design of CREATE!’s improved cookstove results in faster and more efficient cooking. “I’ve gained more time since I use the improved cookstove because I don’t need to stay in the kitchen,” Awa boasts. “I have the possibility to do many things at the same time.” Awa has two cookstoves in her kitchen and tells us that she only uses two pieces of wood per meal. Because she uses less wood per meal, Awa says that she just needs to collect a few sticks outside her hut. Whereas before she used to purchase a large bundle of firewood every week.
Awa happily cooks nutritious meals for her family of eight every day on her improved cookstoves. She makes sure that they get their daily-dose of vegetables from Santhie’s community garden. Awa is part of Santhie’s Cooperative Garden Group and helps maintain the garden. The group is dedicated to learning sustainable agriculture techniques from CREATE!’s technicians. “The technicians are like teachers to us,” Awa says. “We always learn new things, and after graduation we will be able to maintain the garden ourselves.”
Expanding the Oasis with Garden Projects
Through community gardening, Awa is increasing her family’s health and saving money. She tells us that she has noticed a change in her children’s health as well as her own since they started eating a variety vegetables regularly. Before Awa began growing her own produce, she used to have to travel to distant markets to buy food. The vegetables were very expensive because many merchants traveled from distant regions. “Vegetables were very expensive when we had to buy them in the market,” Awa describes. “But now vegetables are available and cheaper in the community.”
Bringing Water to the Desert
Awa says that her community tried to sustain a garden in the past. She notes how difficult it was to maintain the garden without having easy access to abundant water. After Santhie and CREATE! agreed to collaborate together, CREATE!’s technicians rehabilitated Santhie’s well and installed a solar-powered pumping system. Now, community members no longer need to pull up buckets of water by hand from wells over 150 feet deep. The newly installed solar-powered pumping system pumps water into an above-ground reservoir and basin. Women can now fill their watering-cans in the basin located in their community garden. Thus, providing community members with easier access to water to sustain their cooperative garden and newly-planted trees. “I like all CREATE! programs,” Awa tells us. “But my favorite one is the water program because without water we can’t do anything.”
Awa and her community have turned Santhie into an oasis in the desert, but they aren’t finished yet. Santhie has only completed the first year of training out of CREATE!’s five-year program. In the future, Santhie will have a Voluntary Savings and Lending (VSLA) group for women in the community. This group helps its members save their income as well as take out small loans. Santhie will also have a community poultry shed for raising chickens. This way, they will have the opportunity to feed families in the village as well as sell the extra poultry in the market. Turning a desert into an oasis isn’t just about making a village physically greener in an otherwise barren land. It’s about creating self-sufficiency. Which is exactly where Awa and her village are headed!