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Hawa and Pinda in garden

In an unwitting observance of International Women’s Day, on Wednesday I took two of my village women, Hawa Soh and Pinda Jallo, to Cory and Josh’s site to see their village’s garden. My idea was for them to bring back inspiring tales and momentum for our village’s own gardening plans.

We left around 7am to walk the five kilometers to the main Tamba-Kedougou road. I asked Deya about having a charette take us, but he said that they needed the charette for hauling water and assured me that the women could walk it no problem—they could leave at 5am if they needed to. Gee, thanks. So Hawa led us on a series of dirt paths through the brush until we got to the paved road.

Wednesday is market day in Depo, a town about 60 kilometers down the road to Kedougou. Buses take people and goods from Tamba to the market in the morning and then return in the evening, so we were fairly certain we’d be able to get a ride to Cory and Josh’s village, which is before Depo. We sat at the road and watched alhams with people packed inside and hanging off the back barrel past, roofs piled high with sacks, boxes, buckets, tables, and the occasional sheep. The buses were so full with passengers that the guys who load baggage were actually sitting on top of the great mound of stuff that was often as tall again as the bus itself. Eventually a mostly empty minicar stopped for us; it qualified as a cushy ride since I had both butt cheeks in full contact with the seat for the entire trip to Cory and Josh’s village.

Maintained by the village women’s group, the garden is a quarter-hectare of giant green veggie goodness. Each woman is responsible for a two meter by twenty meter plot, which she seeds, weeds, and waters twice a day every day. Hawa and Pinda were suitably impressed and had questions for Cory’s moms, who explained transplanting, watering, etc. The moral of the story was that even though a garden is a whole load of effort on top of all the work women already do every single day, the payoffs are very attractive: vegetables to eat and vegetables to sell.

As the visit was winding down, Pinda asked to buy some veggies to bring back to our village—Fanta disappeared to the garden and came back with a bowl of onion greens and cabbage leaves that she insisted Pinda accept as a gift:

women and greens

The three of us caught a car back to our turnoff (less comfortable this time: one cheek on the seat and one squashed against the hip of the guy next to me), where we headed back through the dust. The sky had been grey-brown with it since the morning, which was nice for keeping the heat in check but tiring in some way—the light at half-strength and nothing but dust to breathe.

That night after dinner, a group of women (not everyone, but that’s normal for village meetings) gathered in Pinda Bah’s galle to hear about our visit. After a short introduction from me, Hawa and Pinda launched into a description of everything they had seen and learned—giant onions, how to make a pepiniere, watering—including details that I’d already forgotten. Normally during these meetings women are having side conversations, fussing at children, and coming and going regardless of what’s happening in the meeting. But this time there was complete silence—everyone was listening with rapt attention.

So the field trip was a success. Now all we need is a finished well and a garden fence, right? Right.

In the meantime, hows about some donkeys?

donkeys in hut

(Good luck and see you soon to the new stage, who arrives in Senegal on the 16th.)

5 Responses to “field trip”

I’m looking forward already to the series of photos documenting the progress on your village’s new garden.

Check A plus plus for Clare! Nice idea with the field trip. Did you notice that on International Women’s Day you also hitched a ride towards Depo?

i don’t think i’m going to make it over to africa on a grad student’s salary, but i’m definitely going to make it out to cali-for-ni-a, and then you might have a tough time getting rid of me.

i can’t believe you’ve only got a few months left!

hey, clare, when you get back stateside, you should compile your best, i dunno, 50 images, and package them up nicely. then send them to the maker of your little point and shoot digital and see if they would like to license them to show off the capabilities of your camera. these are great.

yay! this is one of my favorite entries.