Saphietu – First Time Gardener

I want to introduce you to one of the amazing women in our LAUNCH Program in Senegal, Saphiatu.

Saphiatu lives in Ziguinchor. She and her husband have never held a formal job. He makes money doing odd jobs primarily around electrical work when he can find it. When money really gets desperate Saphiatu mixes a homemade bleach solution to sell in the local market. They have a 15-year-old daughter and they are also shouldering the burden of caring for their twin nephews whose mother died shortly after giving birth 4 years ago. 

For Saphiatu, the garden is neutral ground, but she lives in the city and she never considered farming as an activity she could do. Her home is nearby one of DIG’s 7 clinic sites in Ziguinchor and it peaked her interest in gardening. She became curious about how she could grow nutritious produce for herself and her family and joined a group of women as part of DIG’s Farmer Nutrition Field School.

Her group meets weekly, gaining skills in restorative gardening, nutrition, and growing for the market. Perhaps more valuable than all of this, these women have formed a community of support. Friends and neighbors shouldering the burden of their unique vulnerabilities in a society that feels otherwise closed off to them.

Saphiatu has blossomed. She has taken what she has learned from the hospital garden to her home, she has transformed an unused space behind her house into a vibrant garden. She’s inspired her husband to take up the teachings. Having never grown anything before, today you’ll find a fenced in yard filled with spinach, eggplants, swiss chard, peppers, tomatoes, papaya, moringa and more. She keeps a nursery budding with new plants so she’s always harvesting and preparing for market and she’s proud of what she’s done. 

She has plans to use her earnings to send her daughter to a technical school and to get the twins into school early. 

Her garden has been a powerful leverage point for immeasurable transformation.  During the COVID-19 epidemic when markets in Ziguinchor were closed she opened up her own mobile vegetable markets selling excess produce to her community, not only benefiting her family financially but making sure that her neighbors never were short of nutritious produce.

Saphiatu is just 1 of the 450 farmers we’ve worked with in Senegal since our partnership with Rise Against Hunger started 1 year ago.  Saphiatu is strong representation of the power of what one garden can do.

Saphiatu saw the intrinsic magic of a garden that is held in the seeds. For DIG these seeds are our farmers. These are their gardens, their successes, their hard work and dreams for a life of health, and comfort, and community.  The magic of a garden is held in the seeds… our farmers are the seeds.  

Our role, yours and mine…is to come alongside them and improve the conditions for these seeds to grow.