Aminata Ouédraogo makes her way between lush beds of lettuce, onions, and sorrel. Watering can in hand, she smiles as she works. The heavy winter rains are generally not favourable for gardening in Ouagadougou, capital of Burkina Faso, but Mrs. Ouédraogo manages to grow several kinds of vegetables.
Until three years ago, she used conventional chemicals on her crops. But then she converted to organic production. She says the decision completely changed her life. Her income has increased significantly. The 40-year-old earns an average of 50,000 Central African francs [US$86] a month. This is significantly better than the 20,000 francs [US$35] she earned before.
Organic vegetables are usually more expensive than conventionally grown vegetables. But this does not appear to bother Mrs. Ouédraogo’s loyal customers. For the past two years, Germaine Tapsoba has bought vegetables every week from Mrs. Ouédraogo. Mrs. Tapsoba says, “I am more concerned about the quality than the price. These organic vegetables, grown without chemicals, are so good for my health.”
Indeed, the quality of Mrs. Ouédraogo’s produce is the major attraction. She says, “We sell healthy products that contain no chemicals. In addition, we use only spring water to irrigate the plants.”
Mrs. Ouédraogo was introduced to organic production by a women’s association. The association, La Saisonnière, empowers women financially through farming and literacy. It encourages its members to produce organic food because it is more profitable. The association also provides each woman with a plot of land to farm.
Other farmers have been inspired by the success of Mrs. Ouédraogo and her fellow producers. Sanata Ouédraogo farms in Loumbila, 15 kilometres from Ouagadougou, and is eager to follow in Mrs. Aminata Ouédraogo’s footsteps. She completed a week’s training in organic production at La Saisonnière. Ms. Sanata Ouédraogo is confident that she can increase her earnings with organic vegetables. She says, “If I succeed, I’m sure that the [other] members of my women’s group will switch to organic farming.”
Mrs. Aminata Ouédraogo reduced her production costs when she switched to organic farming. She no longer needs to buy chemical fertilizers or pesticides. She and the other members of her women’s group make compost with the crop residues from their plots. This replaces the need for chemical fertilizers. They also use animal manure.
To combat pests, Mrs. Ouédraogo uses simple homemade herbal preparations that include neem leaves, papaya leaves, and chilies. She chops the leaves and soaks them in water. Later, she adds the chilies. After ten days, the pesticide is ready to use. It is harmful to pests but, when used correctly, harmless to plants or humans.
Her work provides for her whole family. Mrs. Ouédraogo has six children, five of whom are in school. Her husband has been unemployed for five years, so she is now the head of the family.
Mrs. Ouédraogo says, “With my income, I am at peace. Although my husband cannot help me, I can pay for the children’s education again this year.”
This story was originally published in October 2015.