News / Africa

Senegalese Farmers Using Innovative Garden Project to Boost Productivity

Farmers in the Senegalese village of Keur Madaro are producing more crops with the innovative Super Vegetable Garden program
Farmers in the Senegalese village of Keur Madaro are producing more crops with the innovative Super Vegetable Garden program
Amanda Fortier

A new gardening project in Senegal is addressing issues of food security, poverty and climate change.  Super Vegetable Gardens are hoping to help small-scale farmers throughout Senegal and in tropical areas around the world.

Seventy kilometers northeast of Senegal's capital, Dakar, is a long stretch of highway dotted with sprawling baobab trees, leading close to Keur Madaro village.

Here, under the prickling African sun and on a land that is mostly dry and dusty, ten vegetable gardens overflow with green leafy vegetables.

Last June, a new agricultural initiative known as super vegetable gardens was introduced in Senegal.  Nearly a year later, there are more than 150 such gardens throughout the country.

It is the result of 30 years of research that was first field tested in Niger in 2007, as a collaboration between the international aid group Pro-Natura and the French firm JTS Seeds.

"It is very, very new. The only obstacle is linked to the type of person taking care of the garden.  It works exceedingly well technically, but you have to spend two hours per day to feed a family of ten people," says Guy Reinaud, president of Pro-Natura.

Each 60-square-meter garden starts with a single kit - something of a toolbox for farmers.  Inside is a selection of organic, non-genetically-modified seeds for fruits and vegetables including cabbage, tomatoes, carrots and melons.  The kit also includes soil conditioners, such as fertilizers, and growing equipment, like plastic veils to protect the plants.

Francois Sarr started his first super vegetable garden in October. He says his first harvest weighed nearly 200 kilograms.  After feeding his family of seven, he was able to sell the rest of his cucumbers, beets and eggplants at the local market.  He made a profit of more than $150.

For most farmers, stories of this kind seem too good to be true.

Like much of Africa, farming in Senegal forms the backbone of the economy, employing more than 70 percent of the population. Farmers, like Sarr, have been particularly affected by climate change.  Rises in temperature and erratic rainfalls have lowered crop productivity.

Agricultural development officials say food insecurity and malnutrition in Senegal is widespread, with more than 60 percent of people not eating enough calories every day.  Even if food could be distributed, there just simply is not enough to go around.

Moda Gueye, who directs programs for JTS Seeds in Senegal, says it is great to talk about food quality, but that there are still people dying from hunger in Senegal.  He says people now can produce more food than under traditional means, and  can make it better quality.

Another innovative part of the super vegetable garden is still in the experimental phase.  It is the use of biochar - charcoal powder has been dubbed "black gold agriculture" or "green charcoal."

It was developed more than 7,000 years ago in the Amazonian rain forest, under its local Brazilian name, Terra Preta.  It is used as a powerful soil conditioner and, among agriculturalists and academics, biochar is the hot new topic.

Biochar has the potential to increase crop productivity, reduce water consumption and even act as carbon sinks to absorb and store CO2 from the atmosphere.

"Biochar is able to address certain soil constraints, but of course not all of them," says Johannes Lehmann, an associate professor in soil management at Cornell University. "It is not a magic bullet. Farmers should, at this point, only work with biochar if they are prepared to be in research mode;  realize that they are at the frontier of experimentation and that they generate new information when they do that."

In Africa particularly, where wood is still the main energy source, alternate fuel supplies must be made available.  Biochar could help solve this problem, but for the next year it is still in its testing phase.

"There is very little money for innovation, and we are in innovation.  It is totally new.  And, it is only last year that we have been helping JTS Semences to move into Senegal, Algeria, Egypt and now into Haiti and Brazil," said Pro-Natura's Guy Reinaud.

But, without better access to information on climate and to new crop technologies and techniques, many farmers are left with few options.  Among the Senegalese young people, in particular, it is difficult to encourage agriculture as a viable means of employment.

Gueye says a country where, in 10 to 15 years, no one grows anything will be a catastrophe on an economic and social level.

In the villages, the kids tell me they would rather get on a boat to flee to Europe.  They tell me here they are already dead, because here they have nothing.



You May Like

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

'Rumble in the Jungle' Turns 40

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid