Hospital Garden in Senegal Feeds Infectious Disease Patients

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Senegal's main university hospital has established an organic garden to provide free, healthy meals for AIDs disease patients. 

Dakar's National University Hospital is one of the country's busiest. The research and training facility in the capital's Fann neighborhood treats thousands of patients a year while conducting tests on improving antiretroviral therapy for AIDS patients.

But away from the main road, back behind the infectious disease ward is a quieter spot where the lowest-tech method of improving health is organic gardening.

The small garden is bursting with produce from raised, hydroponic beds of parsley seedlings to hibiscus growing in old tires to rows of eggplant, tomatoes, and turnips planted in peanut shells and rice hulls to improve the sandy soil.

Bernard Marcel Diop is a professor in the university's Department of Infectious Disease.

Diop says the idea behind the garden is to provide a supplementary meal, rich with essential minerals and vitamins in the form of a soup that is distributed free of charge to reinforce the immune systems of patients in the infectious disease ward, nearly two-thirds of whom have HIV/AIDS.

In the hospital kitchen, women pound peppers grown in the garden to add to a thick red soup. It is served between lunch and dinner, a meal known in the Wolof language as Ndiagonal.

Two pots are cooking over burners mounted on kerosene tanks. With the exception of dried fish, all of the soup's ingredients come from the garden and all are organic - fresh garlic and onions, basil and okra, tomatoes and local beans called niebe.

Professor Diop says all the organic vegetables are better for health because they are not full of pesticides or heavy metals that can disturb digestion.
A single gardener rotates crops within the 1200-square-meter garden to keep up productivity in the generally-poor soil.

A $4000 grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development helped start the hospital's organic garden. By the end of its first year, it produced vegetables worth more than twice that.

It now yields between 200 and 400 kilograms of produce a month, some of which is sold to hospital staff and local stands. The proceeds are used to pay the gardener's salary, buy seeds, and purchase the plot's organic pesticide based on oil from the Neem tree. 

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