Planting Seeds of the Future
Monocultures don’t just destroy land, they also threatens lives. The children of Senegalese subsistence farmers know hunger and want. Rather than attending school they work the fields with their parents, struggling to grow enough peanuts or maize to feed the family and earn an income. When the fields can’t yield crops plentiful enough to make ends meet the family often goes into debt, so children leave the village in the offseason to compete for dangerous, low-paying jobs. Forced to cross the Sahara and the Mediterranean in search of a better life, many never make it there. Many never return.
Mate’s children now have the opportunity to grow their own future one seed at a time.
Mate Mbaye’s family faced that kind of desperation. Mate has nine people in his immediate family, but when his uncle died he started taking care of that family as well and now has 25 mouths to feed. His peanut crop withered each year in the dying soil. Not even repairing radios in the market produced enough to make ends meet, and Mate’s debts began to mount. But Mate didn’t want his family to cross deserts and oceans to survive. He wanted them to learn to grow their own future, so he joined our partner Trees for the Future’s forest garden program and learned to revitalize his old farm by planting beneficial trees and grafting valuable fruit trees. Today seven patches of vegetables and a dozen types of fruit trees feed his family throughout the year.
Mate’s children now have the opportunity to grow their own future one seed at a time. They learned to produce and sell mint and other vegetables under the trees their father planted and bought chickens, clothes, and a radio with the proceeds. They even pay workers to help them continue expanding and diversifying the farm. But Mate wants an even stronger legacy. He volunteers as a lead farmer in our program, assisting 20 more families in planting thousands of fruit trees throughout his village including soto ajana (heavenly fig), which he remembers from his own childhood and which is nearly extinct. Thanks to Mate, Trees for the Future, and Paper Culture’s customers, children throughout Senegal are living safe, productive lives.