Operation Market Garden – in Niger

June 26, 2012

Image                                           Tending to the market garden in Dioga, Niger

The Rio Summit has resulted in an appalling declaration, which privileges “sustained growth” at the expense of the environment. At best, it mixes sustainability, human rights and economic growth (read:profit) in an incoherent mush. So where do we look for hope that our environmental and social challenges can be tackled without sacrificing human well-being or sustainability?

Not our leaders. But why not look to the market gardeners of Niger? In the village of Dioga, a group of women gardeners called Cernafa has been cultivating small plots since 2002. Responding to a lack of water and the insecurity generated by monoculture farming, members of Cernafa now cultivate an impressive variety of crops, including “Lettuce, tomatoes, cabbage; onions and peppers, aubergine, okra, and squash.”

This has helped 100 women to improve their own status and standard of living. As the village’s school principal, Salou Moumouni puts it, “Immediately following the harvest each year, their husbands leave for cities in the region, often leaving the women and children without enough food. Now they look after their households with the income from selling vegetables while the men are away.”

Support from NGOs based in the country’s capital, Niamey, has allowed Cernafa to install drip irrigation technology and allowed access to seeds and education, but this is a predominantly local initiative, and one driven by the needs of mothers and grandmothers. By working together and innovating, the women of Cernafa have taken advantage of potentially long growing seasons, and are improving their communities.

If this could be replicated elsewhere, stunts like Rio would hardly be needed.

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