UK Registered Charity No: 1087744

Market Gardening

Women’s market garden cooperative being shown how to protect seedlings from the fierce sun.

Tending a banana plant.

Some Doggol Rewbe Sylla Women’s Cooperative committee members.

Small compost piles beside perimeter fence: compost, or ‘brown gold’, can radically reduce input costs for vegetable farming whilst increasing harvesting times and yields dramatically.

It has taken only one year for these eucalyptus trees, which form a windbreak around the project, to grow from seedlings (above) to over 15 ft tall (below).

Some of the 329 cooperative members preparing seed beds.

Woman showing Okra, or Ladies Fingers, grown on her plot: vegetable growing seasons have been extended into the hot season, from April to September, which is when Okra grows best.

ADMAPE agronomist Djiby Ba (right) and manager, Mohamedou Sall, beside the small 2-cylinder water pump which, using careful water conservation techniques, will irrigate most of the 9-hectare site.

Market Gardening is an activity undertaken almost exclusively by womenn’s cooperatives. Whether working small plots of half a hectare, or more ambitious ones of a number of hectares, the vegetables and sometimes fodder crops grown on these schemes are for the benefit of women. Sometimes irrigated by small pumps from nearby water courses, but mostly watered by hand from wells, each cooperative member will have a number of small gardens where she grows her produce, selling some, giving some as payment to the cooperative for its running costs, and eating some along with families and children.

The benefits of women participating in these schemes are far reaching: increased nutritional health for them and their families; extra money to be spent in manners the women, not their husbands, want; better health and access to education for children due to the extra money available; the empowerment of women who now have financial clout within the family; increased amounts of vegetables available in local markets.

Over the years we have worked with many women’s groups. At one end of the scale are the women wish to set up small schemes but lack the knowledge and confidence to do so. We might assist them with the legal process of registering a cooperative and help them with some start-up seed packs. Then there are the cooperatives that already exist but for various reasons are not actually operating. We might help them organise a village meeting to discuss the problems, or we might pay for their well to be dug deeper so as to produce more water. And then there are the cooperatives that are up and running, but often at only a low level of capacity. We will introduce them to better methods of planting seedbeds, the making of compost pits or the fabrication and use of natural pesticides.

One of the most important aspects of the help we give to women’s market garden cooperatives is the training in improved managerial practices they receive. This is especially true of the larger cooperatives where two or three hundred women may be involved. Without good management, human and financial as well as the management of cropping and irrigation routines, cooperatives can soon find themselves in trouble.

Gradually, we are helping create a network of cooperatives that have developed successful schemes showing how with good management and leadership, large set-up or running costs are not required in order for profits to be made from farming in even the most marginal of areas. The enthusiasm and animation of these successful market garden schemes is a good demonstration of a farming model that many are interested in.

Produce that conserves better (and so can be brought to market at unseasonable times), produce that is more marketable because it looks and tastes better, better water retention in soils (meaning cropping seasons can be extended into, again, more marketable periods), a reported general sense that organic crops are healthier, and an enormous reduction in input costs from fertilisers to pest-control products and water-pumping fuel are just some of the benefits of the new agricultural methods taught to women’s market garden cooperatives.