Ali grows vegetables from sands of Sahara desert

Photo courtesy of Lutheran World Federation

Ali Forach fled conflict in Mali and has been living in Mberra refugee camp in Mauritania since 2012. “When I arrived, there was nothing here,” Ali recalls. “From here to the horizon only hills of sand.”

Now, he is growing peanuts and watermelons in a place where the desert heat can reach 120 degrees during the day. Ali is one of nearly 5,000 people — from the camp and the local community — learning how to start crop nurseries and grow seedlings, prepare and use organic fertilizer, and irrigate even with the meager water reserves in the Sahara.

The water is pumped from deep below ground using solar-powered pumps and delivered directly to the roots of the crops using drip irrigation. Ali and his neighbors learned all of this from farmer field schools (demonstration plots where they could observe techniques) and mentoring from fellow farmers.

Photo courtesy Lutheran World Federation

Where there was sand before, more than 75 acres of garden plots have sprung up in the camp and surrounding villages. And with more gardens comes more food, easing tension with the local community when food can be scarce. The ripple effect of this incredible project — implemented in partnership with Lutheran World Federation — is reaching 50,000 PEOPLE in and around Mberra refugee camp.

Ali says he hopes to continue using what he’s learned when he is able to return to his homeland. “I plan to rebuild my life in Mali,” he says. “I will bring what I have learned here and share it with others.”

Get posts like this delivered straight to your inbox:

This article appears in: LWR Special Reports