February 27, 2013

Gardens Flourish in the African Desert

by Hadiara Diallo

As a seventh grader at the Chadwick School in Palos Verdes, CA, Kate McEvilly, was inspired when she first heard Gil Garcetti talk about the desperate need for safe water in West Africa. When she entered high school two years later and was able to formally start a club at her school, she officially launched the Wells Bring Hope Club. With her passion, drive, and determination, Kate attracted over 30 volunteers. One year later, they had raised enough money to drill a well in the village of Mossipaga in rural Niger, West Africa.

 

In mid-January 2013, I made a trip to Niger and visited that village to dedicate their well. On the certificate was a picture of the some of the members of Wells Bring Hope Club at Chadwick School.  

 

The villagers welcomed us with great jubilation.  Their joy was infectious as everyone chanted and shouted to express their appreciation.  Getting safe water in their community was huge: it meant that babies would not die needlessly and that their children would have opportunities they only dreamed about.

The villagers were astounded to learn that it was group of teenagers who made their miracle of safe water possible.  I told them about the hard work, creativity and dedication of these young people to initiate many fundraising drives in the effort to raise money for a well. The people of Mossipaga will be forever grateful for this gift and hope to someday personally welcome the students of Chadwick. After accomplishing their initial goal, these very determined students are now raising money for another well because they know how much safe water means in the developing world.

As Director of Microfinance for Wells Bring Hope, a major goal of my trip was to get a better understanding of how our microfinance program is progressing.  When women no longer have to walk miles to get water, their time is freed up to earn money and improve the quality of life of their families.

One of the most important economic development activities that women can engage in is gardening. In Mossipaga, gardening is not about planting flowers and beautifying homes; gardening is a matter of survival.  After the rainy season, there are no water sources available to sustain farming, so in the past, the land would stay idle for 8 to 9 months.  Now, the women are able to grow these lifesaving gardens, providing food on a year-round basis. 

 

The gardening activities fulfill two purposes. First, they provide food for the women’s families and improve their diets with the growing of vegetables. Second, they enable women to sell vegetables in the local market and become mini-entrepreneurs. The direct benefit of these gardens is evident: a healthier, stronger population, kids who are well nourished, and women who are newly empowered income-earners.

With help from agricultural technicians, the women are given some basic tools and taught ways to collect natural compost to enrich the soil. And what do they grow? Salad greens, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, okra, and cabbage.  The women I spoke to were elated that they had been given the opportunity to be so productive, that they can earn money for the first time in their lives. They love their work and feel so much pride in their accomplishment.

Chadwick, this is a job well done, a well-deserved ‘A+’ in global citizenship!

If you'd like to support Chadwick in their efforts to fund a second well, please click below.

 


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