Yongo is a village of approximately four hundred individuals located in the Nioro du Rip region of Kaolack in the rural community of Medina Sabakh. It is situated next to an offshoot of the Baobolon, a semi-salty season river that the village utilizes as a woodlot space for Eucalyptus. This is one of its primary sources of income, along with millet, peanuts and corn. There is no formal school building; the children study the Koran in a sacket-enfenced area for a few months out of the year. There is no electricity in Yongo, and only three robinets; most people get their water from the wells if they do not want to pay.
There is very little gardening, due to lack of water and salinity. Most people engage in small gardens in the rainy season but very few in the hot season. Most of the vegetables that are used in the village are brought in from the weekly markets, not grown within Yongo. I was hoping to change that.
There is only one successful dry season garden in Yongo, which is located within my compound. The community garden that I would like to “re-vamp” was previously attempted and started by PRODEFI, an NGO that works in conjunction with JICA volunteers, but that was removed from the Nioro region of Kaolack in about 2008. The project failed because of difficulties surrounding water access and transport of water from the well to the field.
There is currently one basin in the middle of the half-hectare field, but it is disrepair. The well, which is only about fifteen meters deep in the dry season, is located about 150 meters from the field. There is also an Acacia laeta live fence on two of the four sides of the field. For this project I am requesting: enough griage to fence in the remaining two sides of the field until a life fence is established, and cement and piping to build a cistern system to bring the water from the well to the basin in the center of the field.
The garden currently has ten citrus trees in it, but with the creation of the garden we will: • Introduce proper usage of amendments to the soil so as to produce the best yields • Teach composting technologies • Explain seed collecting and storage techniques • Host grafting sessions (once the mango trees are large enough to do so) • Participate in intensive dry season and rainy season gardening • Use this garden as a demonstration plot for all of the villagers in Yongo and the surrounding areas on how to appropriately apply agroforestry, agriculture, marketing and production technologies
The garden will work as a co-operative, so that if you put work into the maintenance and upkeep of the garden, you will reap the benefits. All products will be sold in the daily vegetable market in Keur Ayib, near the border of Senegal and the Gambia, because I have found that they consistently offer the best prices for produce there, and there is a constant demand for fresh produce as well.
Due to delays with funds and work within the community, we were not able to get as much done in the garden before I left as I wanted to. I left Yongo in August 2011. Before departing, the community group and I split up the garden amongst 36 women and 2 men. Each individual had the opportunity to buy a 1,000 CFA plot of land or a 500 CFA plot of land. I bought into the land as well, where I created two intensive Moringa beds at 10 cm spacing and also a community pepeniere. At the intensive beds I conducted a training on double digging and intensive cultivation. The pepeniere was used for papaya and thorny species for the living fence. Each woman that participated in the garden was able to choose between a papaya tree, a guava tree, or a pigeon pea tree.
The group also helped me direct seed a living fence inside the chicken-wire fencing, along with outplanting thorny species, and Moringa trees as living fence posts. Most of the women were engaging in individual plot farming, but there was one space that was for the entire group, where they seeded okra in the season that I was there.
The biggest challenge was working with the mason and the timing of the project. The mason was from the village over and was very fickle about times that he could work. It took him much longer than anticipated to complete the work that we had paid him for.
My host father ended up doing a lot of the labor himself, due to lack of enthusiasm or ability, on the part of the other members of the community garden. He dug and laid the pipes for the cistern system and also helped put up the chicken wire fencing around the entire field.
The timing of the project was also a problem. No one wanted to work during the hot season, which made it very difficult to prepare for planting in the rainy season. Late planting lead to more work for the gardeners because their crops and trees did not get the head start they needed before the rainy season ended.
Lastly, my departure from the community and late start with work did not allow me to conduct as many trainings or start as many initiatives as I would have wanted to.
Start projects early and schedule in delays of all sorts. I think the project was well thought out. We had plenty of time to prepare the plots, organize the group, choose treasurers, discuss where the money was going, and seed pepenieres. The problems arose when getting the mason and other community members to help with the fencing and water systems.
Due to my departure from the community, I think the next steps would basically be to follow up. There will hopefully be a replacement in Yongo in November 2012 who can pick up where I left off, using the community garden and space that I purchased as a training site.
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