In rural villages that traditionally rely on rainy season harvests, MCC-supported agricultural projects offer new ideas and techniques.
Denenadji Josephine vividly remembers her surprise when staff of an MCC partner organization suggested she set aside some of her household’s staple crops for her goats.
“I thought it was a waste,” she says emphatically.
Before, Josephine, like others in her village of Badei in southern Chad, provided little for the goats. “I just opened the gate for them and left them to go outside and look for food,” she remembers.
Today, though, some of the sorghum drying on tarps in the sun in Josephine’s family compound will go to the goats. She and other families set aside grasses, typically saved only for larger animals such as cattle or horses, for the goats, and provide salt to them.
“Now I’m convinced it’s something good for me and my animals,” she says of the new feeding techniques. “It’s not only the fact that they’re becoming bigger and they grow faster.” They reproduce more often, she says, and are more likely to give birth to multiple kids.
Healthier goats mean more income for families — and one more step toward alleviating the cycles of poverty and hunger for farmers who struggle to grow enough during the rainy season to sustain themselves and their families through the coming year.
“We help provide them with advice and materials to do what they want to do.”
In rural areas in southern Chad, MCC supports the work of a Chadian partner organization, Baobab, which provides agricultural training, helping farmers to raise healthier livestock and find new opportunities to earn an income from their land. MCC has worked with Baobab, whose name stands for Bureau d’Appui aux Organisations de Base and references the tree common in Africa, since 2007.
“We work around their interests,” explains Baobab project manager Djimrabaye Konayal. “We help provide them with advice and materials to do what they want to do.”
Baobab began working in Josephine’s village, Badei, in 2010 at the request of the community’s women, who had organized themselves into a group and asked for training and resources.
“Our problems pushed us to decide to do something,” says Josephine, explaining how families were not able to grow enough to support themselves.
Hunger, Konayal says, hits hardest during the late months of the rainy season, from July to September — a time when rain-fed crops such as groundnuts, sorghum and maize are still ripening in the fields and many families have exhausted their harvests.
To help combat that shortage, Baobab began by working with women on growing vegetables during the dry season.
In this region, Konayal says, land typically is not cultivated during the dry season. Badei, however, has a pond that holds water year-round.
MCC purchased a pump and hoses to provide irrigation from the pond, as well as a wheelbarrow, watering cans, shovels and other gardening tools. Baobab staff trained women in planting and tending vegetables, including irrigating the new crops.
Now each dry season, women gather to work the land — their hoes transforming a rough spread of brush into soft beds of soil where they will plant onion sets, as well as tomato, cabbage and okra seeds.
Later in the dry season, plants are moved to a larger, one-hectare field. Women tend the crops and then harvest them together — dividing the bounty among families and selling some to help cover the association’s costs for future harvests.
“This project changed the way we’re living,” Josephine says. “We’re able to vary our daily food with the different things we grow here. We sell and we eat.”
Koutou Melanie sees the difference in household spending. “Before I could grow these vegetables, I would buy them, and they were very expensive in the market. Now I can take the vegetables that I’m growing and eat them with my family,” she says. “It helps me to save my money and use it for other things.”
In 2013, Baobab trained women in ways to raise healthier goats and poultry. In addition to teaching better feeding techniques for goats, Baobab provided vaccines for goats, sheep and chickens, and taught women how to vaccinate their animals.
“Before, in the past, I had heard about vaccinations for chickens but we feared that if you vaccinate the chickens, they will die,” Melanie remembers.
Instead, she says, her vaccinated chickens “grew fat and big, with lots of meat.” The younger vaccinated ones soon looked larger than the full-grown chickens she had before.
But the fruits of this effort extend beyond differences visible in fields or flocks.
“We found as women, we can also do a lot of things working together,” Josephine says. “We feel we are able to do something and take charge and provide for ourselves.”
As a result, they began collecting groundnuts that can be loaned to families in need of seeds to plant and then repaid at the next harvest. They have plans to build a storehouse for harvests and tools and are talking to Baobab about future projects such as fish farming.
On the December day the group planted vegetable seeds, Melanie left her own sorghum harvest waiting in the field, choosing instead to give her time to hoe and plant together with the group.
“If I can come here one day, the next I will be able to work in my own fields,” she says. “We’re determined to involve ourselves in this work. We’re sure this can bring a change to our lives in the future.”