Organic Garden Grown for Senegalese AIDS Patients
Organic Garden Grown for Senegalese AIDS Patients
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Senegal's main university hospital has established an organic garden to provide free, healthy meals for AIDS patients.

Dakar's National University Hospital is one of the country's busiest. The research and training facility 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 in raised hydroponic beds, in old tires, and in rows of carefully planted crops sown 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. "The idea was to give a supplementary meal, rich with essential minerals and vitamins in the form of a soup that is distributed free of charge to reinforce patients' immune systems," he says.

In the hospital kitchen, women pound peppers from the garden. It is part of a stew that is served between lunch and dinner at a meal known in the Wolof language as Ndiagonal (n-joe-go-nahl)

Nearly all of the ingredients come from the hospital garden, to help supplement the diet of patients in the infectious disease ward, nearly two-thirds of whom have HIV/AIDS.

Even the garden's only pesticide is organic. It is based on the oil from the Neem tree.

Professor Diop says the organic diet is far healthier than the standard rice and meat. "All the organic vegetables are better for patients' health because they are not full of pesticides or heavy metals that disturb digestion," he says.

Crops in the 1,200-square-meter garden are rotated every planting season to keep the soil fresh.

In its first year, the garden produced vegetables worth more than twice the $4,000 start-up grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development. It now produces between 200 and 400 kilograms of produce a month. Some of those vegetables are sold to hospital staff and local stands to pay the gardener's salary and buy organic seeds.