Women's Garden Improvement Project

  • Agriculture
  • Education
  • Women & Gender
  • The Gambia
This project is led by Karen Tarnow, a Volunteer from Oregon

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This project will help to reinvigorate a previously successful women’s garden by improving the reliability and accessibility of water in the garden, thus contributing to improved nutrition in the village and creating income generating opportunities for women. The project involves installing a borehole, solar-powered pump and land network of pipes that will supply water to strategic locations within the garden. Water will be distributed to uncovered cement reservoirs on an as-needed basis so the women can fill their watering buckets by dipping them in the reservoirs rather than hauling water up from the wells. This will make watering the garden beds much easier, saving time and energy for the women and the children who are responsible for watering twice a day. In addition, the borehole will ensure there is an adequate water supply during the dry season. Existing wells in the garden are an unreliable water source during the dry season as the water levels drop to the point of being unusable.

The community agreed to provide unskilled labor during the construction and installation of the water system and will provide accommodation for the water engineering construction team during the implementation of the project activities. The women have deposited 30,000 dalasi into a bank account for the ongoing support of the garden project.

The main project activities include drilling a borehole and installing a solar-powered pump, and installing a land network of 169 meters of pipes and taps to strategic locations in the garden. In a parallel effort, the community will be constructing a cement block fence to replace the decrepit chain link fence surrounding the garden. The poor quality fencing material is beyond repair and forced the women to abandon their gardening activities a few years ago.

During the years that gardening took place the women’s garden produced important outcomes for the entire community including increased food security, improved nutrition and providing a means for income generation. The garden improvement project will allow the women to reestablish the garden and produce even better outcomes than before. This project will improve the overall health and well-being of villagers and free up time for the children to attend to their education and have time to play and rest.

The PCV and counterpart are working with the Women’s Group to begin building and strengthening the structures and mechanisms necessary to sustain the project beyond the grant life cycle. This includes financial planning and training on system management and maintenance, as well as developing an agreed-upon set of practices and bylaws to help ensure sustainability of the water system and garden resources for years to come.

All of the villagers interviewed during the PCV baseline community needs survey, including the Village Development Committee, the women’s group and the Youth Development Association, identified fixing the fence and upgrading the water supply at the women’s garden as one of the top priorities for the village. The other top priority is improving the security and accessibility of safe drinking water for the village. Other needs were identified but none rose to the level of these two priorities.

Although it is a “women’s” garden it has always had the support of the entire village. The men and village youth have been and will continue to be involved in site preparation each year as well as taking the lead on construction and maintenance of the fence.

The community held several subcommittee meetings that included representatives of the VDC, Youth Development Association and Women’s Group, and several village-wide meetings during the development of the grant to discuss and get input on the project and to address the important topic of ensuring the village has the resources it needs to ensure the future sustainability of the project. The village meetings were well attended by men and women and inspired robust discussions. The villagers agreed that the established Women’s Group would have the lead responsibility for the garden project, including being involved in all aspects of project implementation and being responsible for establishing governing practices and a financial plan that ensures the success and sustainability of the solar-water supply and the garden itself. Selected individuals in the community will be given training on management and maintenance of the water system. The village will also continue to maintain several open wells in the garden to provide supplementary water when the solar pump is not sufficient to meet demand.

The Women’s Group has established a bank account and deposited 30,000 dalasi for the ongoing support of the garden improvement project. The village also approached the Regional Development Council to solicit its financial support for the project.

The initial garden was not sustainable due to the poor quality fencing material used that was selected for that project. The village has committed to constructing a new cement block fence to overcome that problem. The water supply is another key factor in the garden’s sustainability. This project will improve water supply to the garden to ensure an adequate supply is available during the dry season. These practical measures set the garden up for long term sustainability, but that is only part of the equation. The village must also actively manage the garden and ensure there are adequate financial resources on hand when needed to cover necessary expenses that arise.

It has been clearly communicated to the village that the ongoing maintenance and upkeep of the solar pump and water supply system is their responsibility, and that they need to be willing to make financial contributions to ensure the village can cover future maintenance and repair costs. The women raised 30,000 dalasi before the start of the project and will be instituting payment policies to ensure they are accruing money to cover future costs. The village also approached the Regional Development Council to solicit their financial support for the project.

To be successful, the Women’s Group must ensure that decision-making is inclusive so that members have buy-in, that decisions are clearly communicated, and that there is regular reporting on income and expenses related to the garden project. The PCV and counterpart will work closely with the Women’s Group to help them formalize and adjust policies as necessary, have a forward-looking financial plan and institute regular financial reporting.

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