Dr. Salif Sow had a vision to start a small garden at Fann Hospital in 2003 to help supplement his patients’ diet with vegetables. In 2005 he collaborated with the Peace Corps and Peace Corps Volunteer Steve Bolinger to overhaul the garden by improving growing techniques and establishing a cost effective and reliable source of vegetables to the infectious disease ward.
Within six months the garden was completely transformed and producing enough vegetables for the ward and selling the surplus to re-invest into the garden.
Today this garden is maintained by two gardeners provided by the hospital. It has become a model for other HIV treatment facilities and is toured by medical professionals from around the world.
The CTA HIV/AIDS outpatient clinic is a unique center that offers a holistic approach to the needs and struggles facing HIV positive individuals. The clinic provides medical, psychosocial, psychological, and nutritional care, and employs a qualified staff composed of physicians, graduate nurses, social workers, nutritionists, support personal, and HIV positive staff and volunteers. The CTA offers assistance to over 2,500 people.
The garden at the CTA a not only provides a fresh supply of vegetables, but has developed into a center of support. Many of the patients use the garden as an educational tool, as a place to learn, talk with fellow patients, and to share experiences.
Income generation was one of the goals of the project. This has been easily attained due to the constant demand from patients, hospital staff, and restaurants. The patients are now learning how to customize their garden to meet both the nutritional and financial goals.
These are just some of the measurable outcomes of the garden. What it has given to the outpatients that care for the garden is beyond explanation. It has given them something to look forward to, a sense of belonging, and a sense of duty and pride to help their fellow outpatients. They are empowered individuals making a difference in their own community.
The hospital is located in an area of the country that was in conflict from 1984 to 2004. The hospital was an off-limits zone for both warring sides and therefore named Silence Hospital. Within those walls is the HIV treatment facility that serves the fifth largest city in Senegal. This center has only one doctor providing resources and assistance to over 1,000 HIV patients. The doctor has taken on this overwhelming task in a very under-resourced and dilapidated facility.
Before DIG’s arrival a meal of porridge was the typical daily meal. DIG worked along side the outpatients to create a garden providing a year long source of nutrition, income, and employment. The garden is also a “home base” for many, a place to gain knowledge, have a purpose, and come together for support, hence empowering to outpatients fight stigmatism and be stronger in their own communities. The garden is now under the care and management of an organized association of outpatients.
The success of the garden has also extended to outpatients’ homes. Several individuals have started their own personal urban gardens. They’ve applied the techniques learned at PTA, and DIG provided the initial support to guide them in the right direction.
The Kandialang Clinic serves as a maternity ward and health clinic in Ziguinchor. Blanch, the head doctor at the clinic, asked DIG to help her create a garden behind the clinic to assist the single mothers in the area achieve better nutrition and also create income generating possibilities.
This garden has been extremely productive and has provided a wide variety of fruits and vegetables to mothers in the surrounding community.
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