Small Steps Toward Food Security: Establishing Sustainable Gardens in Kaolack

By Natalie Dolan
Oct. 5, 2015
Peace Corps Volunteer Leader Natalie and the women's group proudly display their lettuce crop. Photo by Peace Corps Volunteer Leader Natalie

The women of Peace Corps Volunteer Natalie's village site wake up before the sun has risen every day to water their gardens.  They have organized the groups into shifts, some women watering in the mornings and some in the evenings. After the morning watering, some of the women sell in the market, remaining there until lunch time. Other women go home to prepare lunch.

Once lunch has finished, most of the women take a few hours to rest and spend time with their families before heading back to the garden in the evening. The women have an evening watering session, and also use this time, when the day starts to cool down, for maintenance activities, such as weeding and out planting. Most of the women will remain in the garden until it begins to get dark, and then head home to prepare dinner or rest.

This routine sounds commonplace, but it wouldn't have become a reality without the help of a Peace Corps Volunteer.  Over the past year, Natalie has been working closely with two women’s groups to develop gardens in her Kaolack village community.  Natalie has worked with the groups to establish internal organization and work more effectively, suggesting that they water in shifts and divide the land into individual plots.

Sam-Sam Women's Group member Awa Diouf. Photo by Peace Corps Volunteer Leader Natalie

Natalie secured funding via World Connect to help the women’s groups purchase essential materials for the gardens, such as watering cans, rakes, shovels, hoes, and a variety of seeds.  She and a nearby Peace Corps master farmer also worked with them on developing nurseries. The main output of the garden is lettuce, but the women have grown onions, hibiscus, cabbage, and peppers as well. Each group member is responsible for a plot of land to grow her lettuce, and the land is shared to grow the remaining produce. The vegetables are either sold in the community to generate income, or brought home to the women's families to boost their daily nutrition.

This project has built upon the efforts of the community in collaboration with the local government (Commune/mayor) to achieve greater environmental sustainability and make the best use of available resources. The project has also provides meaningful work for the women and built capacity for gardening in the community.  The confidence, skills, and opportunities for future work and collaboration that the women have gained through this project has contributed to the overall development of the community in a small but impactful way.

Sam-Sam's Madame Mboidj, Natalie , and Deguen Fall pose with their new watering cans. Photo by Peace Corps Volunteer Leader Natalie

Thus far, the project has proven to be sustainable, as the women’s groups continue to build upon their knowledge, such as continuing trainings and trying new best practices.  Profits from the sales of their products have allowed them to reinvest in the gardens.  In addition, they have maintained the organizational structure of the groups, resulting in the efficient functionality of the gardens.

The Community Gardens project is viewed in the eyes of the community as a great accomplishment for the women involved and the community as a whole. The project has been considered such a success because of the motivated women involved, the success of the garden's produce, and the commercial success of the product sales. Other overall successful activities include food transformation, exporting, partner establishment, and even becoming a formalized group recognized by the Senegalese government.  The women’s groups are continuing to collaborate with the Commune, Peace Corps, and knowledgeable community members to improve their work and increase their agricultural expertise.