By Paul Ndiho
October 24, 2012
Bordering on the vast Sahara desert, the Sahel stretches across the African continent. Eking out any kind of living here is tough, but a group of women in northwestern Burkina Faso are turning their corner of this harsh, arid region into a lush and productive garden.
In a place where people survive mainly on the staple, but nutritionally poor grain, millet, the vegetables these women produce are changing their families’ diets and lives.
“The nutritional situation of children before the setting up of the project was severe. The children were falling sick regularly. But since we started to work here and the garden started producing vegetables, the children have been less sick and we have changed our diets.”
Poor nutrition is widespread as families rely primarily on grains. Vitamin rich fruit and vegetables are expensive and many mothers are unaware of their importance to the family diet.
“We couldn’t afford vegetables before. Now we can eat them and sell the surplus and generally the situation has improved significantly.”
The women receive training on farming techniques and funding towards the construction of wells. Through crop selection and rotation, the garden is productive year round– and it’s giving the women a more active role in their community.
“The benefits are huge for us and the community in general; it allows us to feed our families better. It also allows us to be a breadwinner for the family; we can help with our children’s school fees, their health and also assist friends and family.”
This project is part of a 1.7 million euro joint action between unicef and the European Union. The four-year project is aiming to reach almost 15-hundred villages across the country. It’s not an emergency response, but an effort to improve nutrition security across the country, so that when nutrition crises occur, families, especially children are better equipped to handle the impact.
Some of the excess fruit and vegetables end up here, at the food market in Ouahigouye where vendors have been taught the nutritional value of their produce and share it with their customers.
“My name’s Sawadogo Detu and this is my stall. I sell yams, potatoes, vegetables and mangoes. I received training about the causes of under nutrition and how to prevent it, so when customers come to buy from me i explain the benefits of each item to their diet and how they should prepare them.”