I had the privilege of hiring Nadege to work with me on a new program in the Central African Republic titled Women and Children Gardening for Health, in 2006. The program works with women whose children have been hospitalized with severe malnutrition, teaching them how to care for vegetable gardens, fruit trees and improved staple crops, as well as how to prepare nutritious meals for their families. In 2007, Nadege took over the garden and I began to learn more about her story. She is 9 of 12 children and was raised by her older sister in the city. She didn’t go past grade 5 and was widowed in her twenties with four small children. Unbeknownst to me when I hired her to manage a rather large garden, she didn’t really like gardening. But she did need a job. Over time, Nadege not only came to love gardening, she has since motivated hundreds of others in her community to take up gardening for the health of their own families. Nadege is also one of the best cooks I know, and is able to create gourmet meals with the most meagre of ingredients.
The Central African Republic has been in turmoil since a coup d’état took place in March 2013. Though chaos and anarchy rule the country, Nadege continues to work with women at the local hospital and takes off on her motorbike to visit newly discharged patients at their homes to encourage them and provide seeds and technical assistance. December 1 is a much celebrated national holiday in the CAR, and this year, while 10% of the population has been in hiding, and killings and worse have been taking place in the capital, Nadege was cooking up a new bean that was introduced via the Gamboula Agroforestry program three years ago. What started with one kilogram of seeds at the experiment farm in the first year, growing to 31 kilos in the first harvest, has since become, “sacs and sacs, barrels and barrels, of high quality beans.” These seeds have been spread around to farmer cooperatives and women at the nutrition garden. She cooked up a batch of beans at her home and packaged seed in $0.25 bundles and served her samples at the local parade. The response to the beans was overwhelming and Nadege sold out of seeds in no time.
Life is by no means easy for Nadege and the residents of her town, but thanks to the hard work of the Gamboula Agroforestry program, Nadege and the rest of the staff, they are doing more than was thought possible under difficult conditions. To learn more about this program and to read more stories, visit the CAR Gamboula program at Foods Resource Bank website.