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Building Courage, Leadership, and Equality Through Trees

Written by Maimouna Cisse
In a small village outside of Kaffrine, Senegal, one woman is leading her fellow farmers to a more sustainable and promising future. When Penda Faye and a group of 19 other local farmers joined nonprofit Trees for the Future’s Forest Garden program in July 2019, they were signing up to learn how to farm their land more sustainably and to rely on trees as a sustainable solution to hunger and poverty. The group chose the name Japoo (which means “Unit” in Wolof) and elected Penda Faye as their leader. Since then, the 40-year-old mother of four, has witnessed lasting change take root in her community.

“Penda Faye is part of a lasting change taking root in her community.”

With a woman in a leadership role, the program has not only paved a way for regenerative agriculture, Penda herself has become an example for women in her community.

“This responsibility that TREES gave me, plus the [ability] to feed my family is a way to show everyone that women can achieve everything that men do,” Penda says. “It is not a question of gender but just of the commitment of the person.”

“Penda encouraged me to better integrate the Forest Garden project, but, above all, to have the courage to assert myself as a woman,” said Amy Thiongane, a Forest Garden farmer and member of the Japoo group.

With training from Trees for the Future (TREES) staff and the leadership of Penda Faye, the farmers have planted tens of thousands of trees on their farms and have already seen the health of their land improve. They’re taught to plant different food crops with each season, allowing for more nutritious and frequent meals as well as regular paydays.

“These Forest Garden farmers have become real businessmen and women. They easily sell their products at the market,” says TREES Technician Namang Camara. “Fruits and vegetables from these Forest Gardens are highly prized by retailers for their quality. Last month, one of the farmers sold their watermelons at 800 FCFA ($1.44 USD) per kilo, which made a huge profit.”

“Penda and her fellow farmers have a reliable income thanks to their Forest Gardens.”

Penda Faye says these types of earnings are life changing for her and the other farmers in the program, but they’re even more promising for their children. Today, she and her husband are able to pay for their kids’ school supplies, something that was impossible before they learned about regenerative agriculture and Forest Gardens.

“I wish TREES had come to my village when I was younger because I could have gone to school and become a doctor [or whatever] I wanted. But seeing my children go to school and have a future gives me [hope].” she says.

To date, TREES has helped more than 152,000 people like Penda, her children, and her fellow farmers and the organization has planted more than 191 million trees. But the impact goes beyond the branches of any one tree or the border of each Forest Garden. Penda says the program has brought a new economic and social breadth to the entire village.

“I made a new life with TREES. There is a Penda before TREES and a Penda after TREES. The Penda before TREES was shy, poor and discouraged. The Penda after TREES is a courageous, determined businesswoman.”

Help transform more lives and land like Penda’s. Donate to Trees for the Future today.

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