agricultural projects

Thread Gardens

The gardens surrounding Thread have become an important site for agricultural development. In 2015, our team encouraged a group of women in Sinthian to form an association and use Thread’s gardens to grow crops for personal consumption and sale. Meeting under the eaves of Thread, this association began small, but quickly grew to over 100 members once the positive economic impact became clear to other villagers. The Sinthian Women's Association, which is self-governing and has its own administrative structure and bank account, now has over 125 members. Thanks to the women’s diligence, in 2016 they were able to expand to a one-hectare site on the edge of Sinthian, where they cultivate larger crops of onions, carrots, tomatoes, okra, eggplant, and chili peppers, all of which provides an invaluable source of food and income. Thread’s team, including Moussa, Habib, Augustin and Mamadou Kanté, provides regular instruction in agricultural techniques such as crop rotation and bio-composting. They also work with the women, many of whom have no formal education, on how to use arithmetic to keep balanced records of their profits—all of which go directly to the women and their association. 

Because of the larger garden in Sinthian, Thread's gardens are now primarily used as a training facility, where Habib can test new crop varieties and teach advanced gardening techniques, such as mulching and composting, to our many partners in the region.

Soap to NUTS

In 2015, a nun from a neighboring village came for a weeklong residency at Thread. She taught a large group of women how to make soap from materials we had provided for 80.000CFA (about $160). They sold the soap they made for a profit, invested that in an area of land to grow peanuts, and later sold the peanuts at market for over 350.000CFA (over $700). The women plant and harvest this field each year, and it has become a sustainable source of income for them. It’s a testament to Josef Albers’s belief in “minimal means for maximum effect”—Thread’s initial 80.000CFA in knowledge sharing has yielded ongoing results for the local community, helping them to improve their lives. The women continue to make soap, and have gone to neighboring villages to teach the craft there, too, so the knowledge sharing has continued.

Regional Market gardens

Because of the success of Thread's agricultural programs, we naturally wanted to share them with neighboring villages. Our team has helped initiate a women’s gardening association in Dialico, located a few kilometers south of Sinthian, as well as in Fass, which is located on the other side of the Gambia River from Sinthian. In each of these villages, Thread funded the installation of a bore-well, which allows the women to garden year-round, and provides ongoing training through Habib Dieye and Mamadou Kanté. Both village gardens are thriving, providing a crucial source of food and income to the women’s associations.

fonio pilot project

Fonio is known to be the oldest cereal in West Africa. It is highly nutritious and thrives in the arid climate of Senegal, making it a potentially important staple crop. Our team learned, though, that not many people surrounding Sinthian were growing it. In 2017, we decided to launch a pilot project in four villages—Sinthian, Koar, Dialico, and Fass—to see if fonio could again become a good source of food and income for the region. So far, the results have been encouraging—local farmers have had success with growing the crop, and they have been able to sell what they have grown. Our team is currently exploring options for expanding the project.

For more information on these agricultural programs, please contact Moussa Sene at msene@aflk.org