It’s scorching hot in the village of Darou Diadji, but rain clouds swell in the distance. Summer brings with it the short rainy season, and villagers like Daba Kane take advantage of the weather to help boost their crops in their vegetable garden. Before CREATE! began working with her community, though, Daba would not have imagined herself working out in the field, tending to her hot pepper plants as she’s doing now. “CREATE! is like school,” she says. “When we started I was a beginner. But now I have skills and knowledge from the technicians, and now I’m able to create my own vegetable garden.”

“Over the last two years my family food has changed because we now eat vegetables every day and have gotten healthier. Before CREATE!, we would go many days without eating vegetables because the village is so far from the market.”

The self-sufficiency and independence that Daba, age 40, has gained from CREATE!’s programs is evident in other parts of her life as well. “Chicken production in the village is a very important source of income for us, along with a source of protein accessible to the villagers,” says Daba. “And it is also a diversification of activities in the rural environment.” Between vegetable gardening, poultry production, tree planting, and their VSLAs, Daba’s community has integrated a well-rounded system of income generation into their daily activities.

Though she enjoys the variety of opportunities now available to her, Daba says her vegetable garden site is her favorite part of CREATE!’s programs. “It’s an activity I’ve wanted to do for a long time and just didn’t know how,” she says. The hardest part about it? “The weeds that grow quickly in the rainy season!” Even with such challenges though, Daba says that having her own vegetable garden has made it so she now eats vegetables daily, it saves her time from having to go buy vegetables, and now enables her to sell her own produce on the market.