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

Arab League Delays Forming Joint Force

Delay grows out of one of original obstacles facing pan-Arab force, analysts say: 'They may agree on the principle, but they continue to argue about how to implement the project' More

Pakistan Demands Afghanistan Protect Its Kabul Mission, Staff

Officials in Islamabad say Afghan agents are harassing Pakistani embassy personnel, particularly those living outside of mission’s compound More

US Survey: Trump Lead Grows in Republican Presidential Contest

Quinnipiac University poll shows brash billionaire real estate mogul with 28 percent support among Republican voters 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs