Casamance: women increase their incomes by cultivating their market gardens
The clashes between the Senegalese army and the Movement of Democratic Forces in the Casamance (MFDC) in past years forced the people of the Djibidione rural community in the Fogny area in northern Casamance to flee to Gambia. The ICRC has been present in the region since 2004, when it launched aid programmes to meet the needs of the population.
After suspending operations for over a year following the death of an ICRC delegate in a mine explosion in September 2006, it was not until January 2008 that the organization resumed its activities in the region, dispatching a mission on a moving journey along the Fogny trails to meet the women's groups in Djibidione and Sitoukéne.
When the programme was launched, i.e. prior to the suspension of operations, the ICRC provided a fence, tools and a market-gardening well for each garden. Today, 25 women in Djibidione and 27 in Sitoukéne continue to work on their gardens every day, growing onions, tomatoes, lettuces, chillies, cabbages and bitter eggplants. They can thus meet the bulk of their families'needs.
The low rainfall in 2007 has taken its toll. Almost 50 women became involved in each group when the programme was launched, but some, both in Djibidione and in Sitoukéne, have meanwhile abandoned their gardens because of the watering chore,
which is exhausting. Rokhaza has not been working in the garden for two years because she has problems with her legs. " I can't even go to the market to buy fish any more, " she says. It's quite the contrary with Maimouna Badji, the president of the Djibidione group, who, with her 22 vegetable rows, manages to cover her family's needs.
In July 2007 the ICRC donated a yoke of oxen and a cart as further support for each community so that the women could transport their produce to the markets, mainly in Bignona and Sindian. When there is no produce for marketing, the carts are used for general transport, which provides extra income.
A good harvest can bring in anything up to 20 euros, and some women even cover their households'en tire expenditure, as is the case with Dialika Diémé, who was able to afford a bag of rice thanks to the vegetables she grew in 2007. Buying school stationery is no longer a problem for these mothers, who cannot depend on their husbands'incomes these days due to the decline in peanut-growing.
The women in Sitoukéne have opened an account in Sindian, on which they deposit the profits of their sales. Despite water scarcity and the poor crop year, the support and advice which the ICRC provided at a distance in 2007 have borne fruit. The 25 gardens supported in the Fogny area managed to produce 120 tonnes of vegetables, compared to 98 tonnes in 2006. Quite a success for the community!