BURKINA FASO • Women in this West African country have been able to grow organic food and climb out of poverty, thanks to the non-profit association La Saisonniere (French for The Seasonal One).
"When I started coming to La Saisonniere in 2006, I had no bicycle, no idea how to take care of a garden and no income generating activity," said La Saisonniere's team leader and producer Aminata Sinare. "Today, I know how to garden, and I own a motorcycle."
Since 2007, La Saisonniere has helped disadvantaged women in the 10th district of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso's capital, on land granted by the city council.
The association has a market garden with an array of African agricultural products, but its activities also include sewing, weaving and carpentry. About 30 women are learning gardening, while another 80 are taking part in weaving and sewing workshops.
Convinced that the empowerment of women can be achieved only through education, the association teaches beneficiaries reading and mathematics.
Since its creation, the association has promoted organic farming. Its efforts paid off last October, when it received the SPG organic certification label issued by the National Council of Organic Agriculture, which guarantees production according to the Burkinabe organic farming standard. Chemicals are replaced by a mix of rice husks, peanut shells and compost made by the women.
In 2015, La Saisonniere also started focusing on soil-less culture, after being introduced to a micro-gardening method by an Italian NGO. Building 1 sq m cultivation tables on site, the method makes it possible to keep vegetables clean throughout the growing process and to consume less water, thanks to drip irrigation.
Ms Sinare said women who do not have access to arable land can produce what they want for their own consumption , and sell the surplus at the local market, where a full table of spinach sells for 1,000 CFA francs (S$2.30).
Ms Sophie Sedgho, president of the association and a retired professor of natural sciences, said each woman is entitled to a cultivable surface of 6 sq m. Some crops are grown for the family and the rest for the market.
"They can keep the proceeds of what they sell, but we are there to follow them through training, behaviour management and marketing strategies. Each woman contributes 1,500 CFA francs a month to pay for a night watchman."
The association still faces one major challenge: poor yields, especially during the summer heat waves and winter floods.