Burkina Faso: Women escape poverty with urban farming

June 29, 2015
A translation for this article is available in French

Aminata Sinaré teaches mathematics to a dozen women and girls sitting in a small room in Ouagadougou, the capital city of Burkina Faso.

Mrs. Sinaré explains how to add and subtract, and then gives the class an exercise. As the students begin their task in silence, Mrs. Sinaré slips out of the room. She is taking the opportunity to check on her nine vegetable beds in a communal garden about a tenth of a hectare in size.

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Photo credit: Inoussa Maïga

About forty women have been growing organic vegetables in the community garden since 2007. Every woman has her own plot, and can do as she pleases with it. Mrs. Sinaré says: “We grow salad [vegetables] during the cold season. During the rainy season [when it’s hot], we grow okra, cabbages and other vegetables. We produce what is suited to the season.”

The women garden throughout the year. They have improved the quality of their families’ food, and are making money by selling the surplus.

Salamata Sophie Sedgho is founder and president of a women’s association called La Saisonnière. La Saisonnière works to improve women’s living conditions through activities such as literacy, numeracy and gardening. Mrs. Sedgho established the community garden after the mayor of Ouagadougou granted the plot to the association.

She says: “The land was donated to fight poverty. The money that [each woman] earns is hers. Each member has only to contribute to the monthly costs of electricity bills [and] the night watchman.”

Since the association was formed in 2007, the women have been trained to plant trees and grow vegetables. They have learned how to prepare seedbeds and how to transplant seedlings. Thanks to generous donations, the women can now irrigate their crops with an electric water pump.

Being able to garden for herself has changed Mrs. Sinaré’s life. She explains, “I used to sell wood, then peanuts, but I was going nowhere fast as I earned almost nothing.”

She continues: “I can sell what I harvest from just one bed for 8,500 Central African francs [$14.50 US] during the festivities at the end of the year. So I’ll earn a little less than 100,000 francs [$200 US] from my garden. I’ll feed my family with that and my children will go to school.”

Like Mrs. Sinaré, Sanata Kafando is happy to be gardening. She says: “Before, if the kids had to go to school, it was up to my husband to find the money. Likewise, providing food for the family was his responsibility. Today, all of us help toward our household needs. If my husband can’t provide everything, I can help him financially.”

Mrs. Sedgho thinks this type of project should spread across the city, especially in areas where many women and families live in difficult conditions. She says: “It might even solve the problem of how to supply the population with fresh, nutritious vegetables.”

Mrs. Sinaré and her colleagues are already thinking about next season, and want to introduce new crops. She says, “We will try tomatoes and strawberries and see what happens.”