Since our update last month, our teams have been putting the finishing touches on the three new solar-powered pump systems in our partner communities this year.
Beginning earlier this year, we met extensively with village leadership as well as the women's cooperatives we would be working with to firmly establish guidelines, expectations, timelines, and responsibilities. Since then, in partnership with volunteer labor from many in the community, we have built a fences to surround the gardens, completed the hand-dug wells that will feed the gardens, and built all the required infrastructure that will support the gardens for years to come.
The first step – beyond the negotiations detailed above – was to build fences around the perimeter of the gardens to protect them from the roaming herds of animals that are everywhere in this pastoral society. Working with a local contractor, we constructed solid and secure fences to maintain and delineate the properties from adjacent landowners. Further, this firmly establishes the land as property of the cooperatives themselves apart from the other farmers’ lands around it, which helps to mitigate landownership issues in the future. It also protects the investment that we have made in the equipment and infrastructure of the garden and deters theft and other disturbances.
While the fences were being constructed, we worked with local well-digging experts to finish the construction of the wells that will be used to feed the gardens. Working with very basic technology – often just a shovel and buckets – these laborers worked hard to make the wells durable and effective long-term solutions to the lack of water access in the area. These are open wells that we will cover with openable lids, with the pump and supporting wiring down under the water line.
Partnering with a well-qualified and experienced solar pump system company based in Dakar, we then installed the solar-powered pumps that will bring ample fresh water to the surface to be distributed throughout the gardens. These are the same high-quality systems backed by a warranty that we have used very successfully in the past in other communities. With no electricity in these locations, these systems are stand-alone units that are fully self-sufficient and do not require any interaction from the users, limiting the possibility of interference or misuse by participants.
Utilizing the power from six 250-watt solar panels, these systems will bring water from a depth of about 20 meters up to 5000L storage tanks sitting atop a garden storage shed, that will be used for storing various garden implements, seeds, and tools. When full, the tanks have an automatic shut-off valve, and will hold the water until it is used.
From this elevated height, the water is then gravity-fed through a plumbed distribution system throughout the garden, where it is held in large basins, also with automatic shut-off valves. The women fill their watering cans at these basins and water their various beds throughout the garden, effectively making the desert come to life! As the women use the water to irrigate their plants, the pump automatically comes back on and keeps the system going.
In just the last few days, we are very excited to announce that all construction components of these systems are now finished!
We are now in the testing phase of each of the components in order to guarantee each will effectively stand up to the daily demands of use in the garden.
We have stationed one of our experienced and capable garden technicians in each of these communities that will oversee all aspects of the opening developments of the garden, and work daily with the women to clearly establish beds, delineate groups and their respective work spaces, and coach them on new and sustainable organic gardening techniques. This will ease the transition of the women from a very small work space into a full-fledged market garden with daily operations, growth, and sales.
We will now begin our work with the women over the next several months of daily consultations, workshops, and mitigation of issues. This will proceed on a sliding scale, with involvement decreasing as the women become more and more adept at agricultural techniques, as well as sales, marketing, and cooperative management.
As we move forward in this process, we anticipate a dramatic transformation within the community in terms of available nutrition, as well as a massive increase in income potential among these women and their families. We look forward to witnessing this transformation firsthand among these peoples whom we care deeply about. In the coming months, check back in with us as we continue to see improvements in the daily lives of all those participating in the program. Thank you for your partnership to help put these communities on the path toward a brighter future!