Forest Gardens in Senegal Help Subsistence Farmers Thrive

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Forest Gardens in Senegal Help Subsistence Farmers Thrive

A Senegalese Farmer’s Quest to Feed His Family

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Monday, May 9, 2016 - 10:25am

CAMPAIGN: The New Global Citizen

CONTENT: Article

After decades of backbreaking subsistence farming, Malik Ndao faced a bleak future. Despite years of work cultivating his fields, Malik could barely grow enough crops in Senegal’s barren land and arid soil to feed his family, much less make a living. He was often forced to leave his wife and five children for months in search of additional work to support the family. “I used to leave my mother and wife for the entire dry season, and still I struggled to bring home $20,” Malik recalls from years earning tips pushing wheelbarrows and carrying boxes. Hunger drove him to scavenge the local forest for wood and fruit, where he gathered anything he could eat or sell. Barely surviving, he could only dream of a better life.

Then, three years ago, after seeing his neighbors begin planting Forest Gardens, Malik and his wife adopted a new farming approach. They transformed a two-acre plot formerly used to grow a cash crop into a diversified permaculture panacea. Malik fortified his garden by transplanting Jatropha curcas saplings to serve as living fence posts. He wove the thorny, fruit-bearing Ziziphus mauritiana, and razor wire Acacia mellifera, both fast-growing drought-tolerant trees, to protect against pests and erosion and secure the Forest Garden for years to come.

After just one year cultivating this living fence, Malik was able to diversify his garden with more common fruiting trees, like mangoes, cashews, papayas, and cassava. Today, his cashew trees yield both nuts for supplemental income and cashew apples that provide vitamin C and a juicy snack for his children. His fatigued soil and backbreaking manual labor both improved. He no longer has to be away from his family for weeks or months at a time and his family, including his mother, wife, and five children, are all well fed.

Last year, Malik’s two-acre Forest Garden generated over $1,260 of family income, five times more than what maize and peanut farmers earn from the same amount of land. Now, Malik is doing something he never even dreamed he could accomplish; he is saving his hard-earned money to one day finance his dreams.

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