Posted by: The Glove | February 10, 2012

Life’s Little Victories

As many of you may know, I have spent the last year and a half trying to start a garden at the elementary school in Dabo. So far my efforts have resulted primarily in frustration. It was with great trepidation then that I undertook my latest effort at establishing a sustainable garden project.

The school approached me at the beginning of the school year, saying there were ready to plant as soon as possible. They absolutely did not want to wait. I went to Kolda and bought seeds (that the school would pay for), brought them back, and discussed planting. Their response: we’re not ready yet.

This continued for the better part of a month, and then suddenly, right before Christmas vacation, they were ready. Or so they said. I arrived at the school on a Thursday afternoon, prepared to begin digging our garden beds, only to be told, “No we’re actually not ready yet. Maybe Tuesday.” Tuesday came around, and they had to put it off again, due to an all-school discussion about an incident that had happened. Please come back tomorrow they said.

Tomorrow came, and I rushed back from visiting my neighbor Mary (about 8 miles away), silently cursing to myself that no one would be there when I arrived to dig the beds. I entered the school, and saw no one. I sat under a tree waiting for about five minutes, when I decided it was worth checking the garden. I walked over toward the garden, to find the students already digging beds.

One of our greatest fears as Peace Corps volunteers is that our projects are unsustainable, that our work is only possible because of our dogged persistence, and the moment we leave, those projects will collapse into dust. I had resigned myself to this being one of those projects. Instead, I found the students were knee-deep in shoveled dirt and manure. That afternoon we dug 13 garden beds.

The planting was even easier. We planted a nursery of lettuce, tomatoes, hot pepper, cabbage, onions and eggplant, and when I left for a series of meetings/trainings in Thies and Dakar, they transplanted the already-growing vegetables to other beds. On their own, they planted carrots and cucumbers in the additional beds. Now we need to dig more beds in order to plant even more vegetables.

My primary motivation for posting this story though, came yesterday, when I visited the school to check on the progress. The teacher responsible for the garden proudly informed me that the first few vegetables were now ready to be harvested, and inserted into the school canteen to provide a valuable nutrition boost to students who live too far from the school to go home for lunch. Our whole purpose in establishing the garden was to provide food for this canteen program, and we had finally begun to accomplish that goal.



  1. Congratulations on your successful endeavor with the sustainable garden. I think that you should post a picture of it!

  2. Great stuff, Dave! From such tiny beginnings, great thingscan grow. Pictures would be a bonus!

  3. Glad to see you’re learning how the public sector operates, same goes here in the U.S.

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