Sustainable Community Organic Micro-gardens

A Poverty and Nutrition alleviation project for the Sahel

After 5 years of experimentation, trial and error, Vital Edge has succeeded in creating a sustainable and scalable model for rural development in West Africa.

This model employs several unique characteristics that mark it apart from the traditional approaches. Traditional development organizations have focused upon single point interventions for farmers , for example providing agricultural training programs, or financial support, or water management.

The Vital Edge model takes an entirely different approach. The difference can be summarized under two headings: COMMUNITIES & THE CLUSTER METHODOLOGY


The focus is not on individual farmers but upon communities. These communities are based upon the creation of micro-savings groups. Once formed these inherently democratic groups become a new form of social unit with solidarity, a sense of self and purpose, and a will to succeed that is entirely absent under conventional hierarchical forms of social structure. Most of the groups are women’s groups. But there are men’s groups and mixed groups as well. (Jeffrey Ashe: A Helping Hand )


The interventions are not applied as one shot answers to specific issues as in the traditional approach, i.e. water, training, fertilizer, etc.
The Vital Edge model employs a multi-faceted cluster methodology that embraces every aspect of the value chain process. In this way we create community organic micro-gardens based upon micro-savings groups where every phase of the process is addressed : land acquisition , water supply, fencing, ,drip-irrigation, animal husbandry , organic composting, tree planting, crop planting, pest control , training, and marketing. Every one of these topics presents problems and every one has to be addressed and solved in each specific location for a successful outcome.
By dovetailing these two methodologies, each contributes to the success of the other. The micro-savings group has proven to provide a successful socio-economic structure for pooling and governing the group’s resources to create an economically viable enterprise, while the micro community-gardens harness these resources and convert them into self-sustaining activities that can continue through time providing nutrition, income, and social pride with minimal monitoring .

What can be expected as reasonable outcomes from the establishment of these micro community gardens ?

The social and nutritional rewards would be worthwhile by themselves. But the economic benefits are compelling.With an estimated investment of $115-$135 per woman, the target outcome is an income of $75 to $250 per woman per year. This has to be understood in the context of a rural mother of 4-10 children whose total cash income might otherwise be limited to between $100-$200 per year, most of which might not be earned income, but income from remittances from urban relatives. (Jonathan Morduch : Diaries of Poverty)
Proof of concept.

In 2015 Vital Edge established the first trial micro-savings based community garden in Ndem, Senegal. Based upon the early signs of success, Vital Edge established three more trial community micro-gardens in 2016 One more in Ndem , and two in Tambacouda. To date, there are 350 women enrolled into the trial program in the 4 locations.

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