Saly and Bintu live in Gao, located by the banks of Mali’s Niger River. The river is a precious resource, and many turn to fishing for income and for feeding their families. Saly’s and Bintu’s families aren’t fishermen, so they tried to grow vegetables. “We did not really know what we were doing, and we used gourds to water our 150-by-300-foot village garden. It was very hard, and we were always exhausted,” Saly told ADRA staff.

ADRA has successfully introduced drip irrigation systems to promote agriculture in many regions where the ground is sand.

ADRA assembled 12 gardening groups, mostly compromised of women, including Saly and Bintu. Together, they worked to implement the proper infrastructure needed to tend to a successful and sustainable garden. The groups installed water tanks that hold 1,056 gallons, a motorized pump to pull water from the Niger River, and finally drip irrigation lines to water the gardens.

“The first week we began using it, we had to turn the system on for six hours every day—three hours in the morning and three late in the day,” says Saly. “It took so much water for the seeds to get a good start. No wonder it was nearly impossible to grow anything using water from gourds!”

To get their gardens started, the groups were given seeds, fruit tree saplings, tools, and instructions to create a compost pit for organic fertilizer. To ensure the continuing success of the gardens, ADRA provided the gardeners with training on drip irrigation maintenance, financial management, and gardening techniques.

“Now we produce more food, and we sell more,” explains Bintu. “We use the money we receive to buy seeds and fuel and assure the maintenance of the motor pump. We also bring vegetables home for our families to eat. We no longer need to buy those vegetables in the market.”