Senegal, 2005 - The sun is high and the temperature is rising, Steve Bolinger is digging in the dry Dakar earth attempting to breath life into the dusty, trash-ridden soil. He is a Peace Corps volunteer charged with the task of growing vegetables for the infectious disease ward of Senegal’s National Hospital. He doesn’t know the patients yet, only the doctor who approached him with a desire for something more out of the empty lot behind the ward. Soon, the first seeds will break through the noise and a garden will be born. That garden will be the first seed of another mission, which still grows today.
Development In Gardening, or DIG as it is commonly referred to, was started by returned Peace Corps volunteers Steve Bolinger and Sarah Koch during their service in Senegal West Africa. Dr. Salif Sow, the head doctor of the infectious disease ward at the National Hospital Fann in Dakar had wanted them to rehabilitate an existing garden. Upon arrival the lot was in disrepair, nothing was growing besides weeds and a refuse pile. The caretakers were not knowledgeable on how to develop and maintain the site and plants were only one of the many things needed to make this space come alive.
With help from Dr. Sow and small USAID grant, DIG turned the space into a productive garden. Within a few months the transformation was complete and the garden was harvesting it’s first round of vegetables. On average the site produces 880 lbs of vegetables every month and supplements hundreds of meals to its malnourished patients. Prior to the active garden there were no fruits or vegetables provided in patients’ meals so the site became an instant success story.
The story was simple, the patients’ health improved, they had a sustainable source of fresh nutritious produce and the garden
grew. Realizing this was a largely unmet need on the global scale, Steve and Sarah, further developed their ideas and started DIG, an organization focused on this unique response to the HIV/AIDS crisis.
Today, DIG has projects in over seven countries and continues to refine and expand its work but we have kept our grassroots focus and direct community involvement at the core of our operations.