Project Update, March 21, 2019:
Trees for the Future’s (TREES) Loxo Loxo Project is bringing sustainable water access to Senegalese farmers. To date, the team and project farmers have installed 330 water spigots on farmers’ farms. About 130 more spigots will be installed in the coming weeks with resources and capacity to increase that number in the near future.
“Senegalese farmers are working tirelessly to get this vital resource to their property and that work is evident in how quickly we’ve been able to install 330 spigots, it’s taken less than three months,” says TREES Executive Director John Leary. “We are thrilled with the progress of the project and really look forward to seeing the improved growth and production of each of these farmers’ Forest Garden crops.”
Read the original piece below for more on this project.
Original Publication, January 30, 2019:
Water is the Limitation
Trees for the Future’s (TREES) Forest Garden Approach teaches farmers how to get the most out of a vital resource – water. Water must be considered at every step – from selecting the right tree varieties to choosing the right nursery location, to planting at the right time. TREES technicians teach farmers to use agroforestry and conservation techniques to get the most out of available water and encourage healthy growth. They teach farmers to plant rows of trees around and throughout Forest Gardens to cool the land, slow the wind, reduce water evaporation, and recharge groundwater. Technicians also show farmers how to make compost and apply mulch to trap and conserve soil moisture where it’s needed most. But despite teaching farmers to use every water conservation technique imaginable, water is still the top barrier inhibiting families and farms from reaching their full potential.
“Water has come up as a key limitation in just about every focus group, farmer visit, and partnership discussion I have had in Senegal in the last 15 years.” says TREES Executive Director John Leary. “A rain-fed Forest Garden gives chronically-hungry families many more options for what to eat and sell, increasing their income by 3, 4 or 5 times.” explains Leary. “But it takes running water to enable the farmer to make the astronomical jump in income we see with the Forest Garden Program’s highest income-producing farmers.”
Catalyzing development that is economically, socially and environmentally sustainable has required Trees for the Future to expand its role beyond the Forest Garden. The same farmers taught to plant trees are also taught to form savings groups and install sustainable water systems in the TREES program. By adding some of these key capabilities to the Forest Garden model, Trees for the Future is building a network of thousands of sustainable farmers with the potential to transform degraded landscapes from an expanse of parched fields to a flourishing collection of lush, green farms.
In Senegal, the need for water has attracted a long history of short-sighted water projects with mixed results. Far too often, there is a sharp intensification of farming activities around a water tower, one access point created for the benefit of entire communities. Farmers clear land to farm near the water source, others bring massive herds of animals to drink, and still, others walk miles to access the water. The increased activity and traffic quickly exhausts both the soils and trees extending out from the new life source. Groundwater recharge slows, soil moisture evaporation begins to rise, and a ‘circle of death’ begins to form around the tower. (Learn more about the ‘circle of death’ in John’s book One Shot.)
The key to sustainable water is to expand access beyond the main source and practice techniques that conserve water on the surface and restore water below ground. With these challenges in mind, TREES launched its Loxo Loxo Program in Senegal in 2018 to help 600 Forest Garden farming families bring a sustainable, lasting water source directly to their farms and unlock their earning potential.
Reaching Water, Loxo Loxo
Trees for the Future is grounded in sustainability and education, and the Loxo Loxo Program is no exception. Loxo Loxo (pronounced “Lokho-Lokho” in Wolof, the local Senegalese language), means “hand-in-hand.” TREES is working hand in hand with farmers to tap into an existing water grid to gain sustainable, life-changing access to water. Existing pipes currently carry water from a central tower to the outskirts of the village, the Loxo Loxo Program will bring it all the way to farmers’ Forest Gardens.
The program works to bring farmers a funding source to ensure families have water access in some of the hardest to reach areas of the region. In partnership with the Tony Robbins Foundation, Trees for the Future is funding 50% of the project, providing PVC piping and spigot equipment. In turn, the farmers contribute tools, materials, and labor needed to install the water system.
Of the nearly 2,000 families planting Forest Gardens in TREES projects in Senegal, over half live close enough to water networks to participate in Loxo Loxo.
“Communities across Kaffrine’s landscape are talking about Loxo Loxo,” explains Fatoumata Diedhou, the Senegal Program Coordinator who oversaw the launch of the program. “We quickly registered about 600 families in December and we will complete over 267 installations in the next two weeks.”
To date, the team has installed 70 water access points in just a few weeks. The first 300 installations are expected to be complete by the second week in February, with enough equipment to complete another 200 installations in the coming months.
The Loxo Loxo Program also takes care to work with a typically disadvantaged farming group – women.
“We are especially focused on helping women through Loxo Loxo ” explains Fatoumata. “They are traditionally responsible for collecting water, watering gardens, and preparing meals. Running water will make their lives easier, and sales from vegetables and fruit trees will pay their water bill.”
Trees for the Future will continue working with each farmer to train them on managing a monthly water bill and sustainably using their new water resource. These trainings include financial readiness workshops to make sure that farmers are saving enough to pay their water bills based on what they use. They are also trained in on-farm water management in the Forest Garden Approach, which helps them understand how to avoid overwatering plants, to water in the mornings and evenings when there is less risk of evaporation, and to mulch to help keep soil moist near plant roots. Once this pilot of the Loxo Loxo Program is complete, TREES will assess the successes and challenges of the project and determine if it can be replicated in existing and future Forest Gardens across other locations in Sub-Saharan Africa.