Months after the village’s main harvest has been brought in – and eaten up – the irrigated green of the garden is welcome relief in a part of the country where hunger never seems far away.
The three-hectare garden is managed by women from this village and surrounding settlements in the rural district of Torodi.
Lettuce, tomatoes, cabbage; onions and peppers, aubergine, okra, and squash – Aminata Douramane may be 60 years old, but she shows few signs of slowing down as she ticks off the list of vegetables she grows here. Oh: and mango, guava, lemon and orange trees.
“I’ve also been growing moringa for the past three years,” she said, showing off a plot of land adjacent to her lovingly-cared-for vegetables, where she has a stand of 80-odd Moringa oleifera trees.
“The three children that you saw helping me are my grandchildren. The eldest is 13, and the youngest is eight. They’re all going to school, so it’s only when they’re not in class that they come to lend a hand,” Douramane told IPS.
Elsewhere on the lushly green site, covering an area of three hectares, other women are also busy caring for their plants.
“I’m here to make sure the labourer who helps me waters the plants well,” said Zeïnabou Boureïma. “It’s very hot now, so it’s important to do it right because the plants need lots of water.”
The women all belong to an association called Cernafa, which means “cooperation” in the local language, Djerma. “We were about fifty women at the beginning in 2002, when we got started here on a plot the chief made available to us,” said Douramane, who is president of the group.
“It was very difficult at the start, because of a lack of water. People took us for fools,” she told IPS.
“But now the group has more than 100 women, and through this garden we have become the pride of the village and the Torodi district. Three years ago, we had saved enough to buy 4.2 hectares of land for about 400,000 CFA francs (around 772 dollars) to respond to requests and diversify our range of produce,” she added.
“What motivated the women of Dioga to start growing vegetables was food insecurity, which is chronic in this region,” said Salou Moumouni, principal of the village’s school and an informal advisor to the group.
“Immediately following the harvest each year, their husbands leave for cities in the region, often leaving the women and children without enough food,” he said.
“Now they look after their households with the income from selling vegetables while the men are away,” Moumouni told IPS.