Help Us Build A New Garden For 271 Women8 min read
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Happy Giving Tuesday, everyone! ♡
Over the past few years, the Gimme Some Oven community — as in, you wonderful readers — have given over $30,000 to help create large-scale gardens (plus build a life-saving bridge) to support over 500 local women working in rural Mali to grow healthy produce for their communities. These community garden projects continue to flourish and generate even more income than expected for these women and their families. So this holiday season, I wanted to share with you about a very special new group of women who have asked for our support.
For years in the town of N’Korobougou, a group of 91 women have been tending small plots in their local community garden, trying to grow as much produce as possible during the 4-month rainy season each year. They are a multi-generational, tight-knit, incredibly-hard-working group of ladies who do this work to support their families, but they face a number of obstacles. At the end of their workdays, like most gardeners in this region, they have no choice but to take shifts sleeping in the gardens at night to try and fend off the local animals who destroy their crops (due to a lack of strong fencing). And once the rainy season ends, they have no choice but to abandon their gardens for 8 months (due to lack of water access) and try to earn income instead by cutting down trees in the local forest to sell as firewood for cooking stoves. Unfortunately, the resulting deforestation has led to a vicious cycle that ultimately harms their gardens — because when the trees are cut down, the bare land can no longer soak up the rainwater, which reduces the local water table, which makes it even more difficult to grow crops, which forces them to return to cutting down more trees — that has been nearly impossible to escape.
This particular group of women also had to deal with an additional obstacle this past year when a local man bribed an official to claim that he had “ownership” over their land. All plans to improve the garden were put on hold and the women had to instead spend their days waiting outside the the local court, petitioning the judge to hear their case week after week. The judge clearly hoped to avoid the trial and kept delaying and delaying, assuming that the women would eventually give up and relent. But they not only persisted and showed up by the dozens each week to protest non-violently until their case was heard, they eventually full-on WON THE CASE, which was a huge anti-corruption victory for their community as well as for marginalized women across the region. Talk about inspiring.
Anyway, now that they are back on their land, these women are understandably eager to make up for lost time. So this holiday season, I would love to invite your help to again partner with The Wash Project to expand the N’Korobougou garden into a large-scale space that can support 271 women working in their gardens year-round, thanks to a brand-new well that will provide safe water for the entire community. In addition to the other start-up equipment and resources provided to help develop the garden (i.e. fencing, shelters, toilets, training, see more details below), we will also be offering to build a fuel-efficient stove in the home each local family that would like one, which will take critical strain off of the local tree population and also help create much safer cooking conditions in local homes.
All of this can happen in a short amount of time and will have an enormous impact on this community. So let’s help these amazing women create the garden they deserve!
What We Need
Short answer — $25,000. (Here is a link to donate.)
This divides out to around $100 to launch each individual garden. Which, again, will also launch a year-round job for each woman to support her family.
These funds will cover the startup costs necessary to build a sustainable garden of this scale that will create year-round job opportunities for the 271 women who will be working there. (So many jobs!!) You can see photos and read more details about the full 14-step garden startup process that The Wash Project has tested and developed over the years, but here is a brief overview of what these funds will purchase:
- Garden plots for 271 women: Membership will increase from 91 to 271 gardeners, and the existing garden plots will also double in size.
- A year-round fresh water well: This is definitely the largest expense (~$17K). Local engineers will perform complete groundwater tests to ensure responsible and safe extraction, then a well will be drilled to provide water to be used in the garden and local community year-round.
- Water taps: Water taps will be installed in the garden and surrounding community to easily access the water.
- Water tower: A water tower will supply critical storage and water pressure to the taps.
- Solar-powered water pump: Taking advantage of the intense sunshine in the area, a solar-powered pump will help fill the water tower.
- Fencing: Strong and sturdy fencing will be installed to provide 24/7 protection for the crops from animals.
- Shelter: A large shelter will be constructed to give women rest from the intense heat, and also serve as a place for meetings and celebratory gatherings.
- Toilets: Toilets will be installed on the grounds, which save valuable time (as the women used to have to walk back home to access restrooms).
- Training and equipment: All of the gardeners will be equipped with the equipment and training needed to make their businesses a success, in addition to training about building healthy soil and reforestation.
- Fuel-efficient stoves: A team of professionals will come to construct a fuel-efficient cooking stove in the home of every local family who would like one, which reduces the need for local firewood and creates much safer cooking conditions.
How To Help
We know that this is a huge ask, but we would really love to make this garden happen! Here are three ways to get involved that would be hugely helpful:
- Donate: Click here to donate. 100% of your donation will go directly to this project and will be tax-deductible.
- Share: If you’d like, you can create your own mini-fundraiser to invite other friends and family to donate to this cause. Or of course, any shares that you can give this fundraiser on social media would be incredibly appreciated!
- Stay informed: Sign up for our monthly emails with The Wash Project to stay updated. And please keep an eye out for updates on Mali in the news. It’s been an especially challenging year for this beautiful country (terrorist groups are closing in on the area where we work), but headlines of these sorts often get buried.
What is The Wash Project? The Wash Project is a community-led initiative in Mali focused on developing economic opportunities for women through garden-based food production, access to clean water, and a commitment to environmental stewardship. Here’s a 4-minute video explaining a bit more about The Wash Project and what we do. And yes, full disclosure, my husband and I both work with this organization! Many of you know that, after full-time blogging for over a decade, I recently made a transition and now split my time working part-time with The Wash Project too. And I can’t even tell you how wholeheartedly I believe in the work this organization is doing. After having spent time working with a number of non-profits over the years, I just appreciate so much how TWP always follows the lead of the community (since locals are always the ones who know their specific challenges and resources best). And I appreciate that TWP intentionally keeps the organization small, in order to properly invest in relationships with each of our partner gardens and have the agility to respond to needs quickly. If you have any questions about TWP and how we work, please don’t hesitate to ask in the comment section below.
Is my donation tax-deductible? Absolutely. The Wash Project is a registered 501c3 non-profit organization, and you will receive a tax-deductible receipt for all donations.
How much of my donation actually goes to this project? 100%. Gimme Some Oven has been covering all of the overhead expenses of The Wash Project for a few years now (including all staff salaries) so that 100% of your donation can go directly to projects on the ground. For me, it’s essential that my work creating recipes here for people who have access to food is also balanced by supporting those who struggle to have access to food. So we invest a portion of Gimme Some Oven’s profits back into The Wash Project and other organizations helping to target food insecurity around the world. It’s truly your clicks here on this website that help to make all of that possible — so thank you!
How does the budget divide out? It will cost roughly $17,000 for the water system (well, water taps, water tower, etc), $6,000 for the garden infrastructure (shelter, fencing, toilets, etc) and $2,000 for the trainings and equipment.
Is The Wash Project a religious organization? No, it is not affiliated with any specific religious organization.
What do women grow in their gardens? Up until now, the 91 gardeners have had very small plots and have only been able to grow crops that can be harvested in the 4-month growing season. But once the water source is installed and they can garden for 12 months of the year, they will be able to diversify and grow much higher-value crops.
Is this garden sustainable for the long-term? Yes, it is built to be. One of the primary responsibilities of anyone extracting groundwater through drilling is ensuring that the water table will be replenished. If more water is taken out of the ground than is put back in, the water source is simply not sustainable. So we work with every garden partner to use all appropriate water harvesting techniques to ensure that the rainy season replenishes the water table, ensuring a reliable water source for years to come.
Additionally, the women of our partner gardens have organized small-scale loan programs that allow women to access funds for unforeseen expenses. As part of the savings program, they also have money set aside for the maintenance and repair of their garden as needed. This gives each gardener the resilience needed to navigate the uncertainties of each growing season.
How can I follow along? Sign up for our monthly emails with The Wash Project (which, hi, I help to write!) to follow along and learn more about this project. We would love to have you follow along on Instagram too!
A Word From Ali
I always struggle to find the words to say how grateful I am that you all continue to express an interest in partnering together for initiatives such as these. But from the bottom of my heart — thank you.
Thank you for being kindred spirits who care about good food and making sure that people have access to it all around the world. Thank you for your continued clicks and support of this blog, which also help to make this work in Mali possible. Thank you for generally just being such generous and awesome people over the years. It means so much to me that we can all join together — somehow amazingly united by screens all around the world — to help make a beautiful garden such as this possible. I look forward to coming back to share more updates with you soon.
Much love to you and yours this holiday season. ♡