Story by Bénédicte Kurzen / NOOR for FAO
Senegal’s Sahel region is home to some of the world’s highest poverty rates and lowest development levels, the result of various factors working in combination, including climate change, desertification, and conflict.
The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)’s “One Million Cisterns for the Sahel” project aims to spread the use of rainwater harvesting and storage systems in vulnerable communities – and especially by women, who typically play a key role in keeping families fed and healthy. The ultimate goal is to help millions of people not only in Senegal but across Africa’s entire Sahelian belt to access clean, safe water for drinking and growing food. Doing so will not only improve their nutritional status and health, it will make them more resilient in the face of droughts or bad weather.
Like many farmers in Senegal, Guilé Mané used to struggle during the dry season. Rainfall can be very low and irregular, even in the rainy season.
“We were working in the fields during the rainy season, but we did not do anything during the dry season,” says Guilé, 39, who heads a farmers’ association called Diapo Ande Ligueye (United to Work) in her home area of Keur Bara Tambédou.
The lack of water meant crop and food shortages, more frequent illnesses, and low returns on the sale of whatever the farmers managed to grow.
The programme has also empowered women financially. Through the farmers’ association, the women have created a fund with proceeds from their market sales. Each woman is able to withdraw money to meet household or personal expenses before paying it back at the end of the month. This also means that their children get to stay in school.