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Woba Koubilenla: Spreading healthy farming from the ground up

Woba Koubilenla is a young mother living in the village of Gatabli in Burkina Faso. Like most women in her village, Woba cannot read or write. She wants to make sure that her children do not have to drop out of school like she did, so she works hard to earn enough income to pay their school fees.

Elders in Woba’s village tell her how years ago they used
 to let the land rest, allowing the plant growth 
to restore soil fertility. Fallowing is no longer an option, however, and the land is becoming more barren every year. When the rains do come, the water just runs off the hard packed soil. The weather is changing, and the almost complete lack of rain in recent years has made it harder and harder for Woba to grow enough food to feed her family. Too often, they have had to skip meals and go to bed hungry.

A few years ago, Woba took the initiative to visit and learn from women in a nearby village who were growing vegetables during the dry season to feed their families and sell at market. She began to try this on her own farm. Then Groundswell and our local partner Association Nourrir Sans Détruire (ANSD) supported Woba and the women in her village to organize themselves, learn about improving the soil to grow more vegetables, negotiate access to land from the village chief, and obtain tools like picks and watering cans.

Woba started with a few seedlings and a small garden. In the first year, she made about $30 from vegetables that she sold at the nearby market. She was thrilled, as she had never made that kind of money from her farm before. Now Woba is growing an abundance of onions, cabbage, eggplant, carrots, okra, sorrel, cowpeas, and even tomatoes. Last year, she earned $350 from her vegetable gardening.

Woba watering her seedlingsBefore, Woba’s children had to drop out of school when there was not enough money. Now, she is able to pay the fees to keep them in school and buy the school clothes they need. She is using her new knowledge and income to reinvest in her farm by buying quality seeds, renting a tractor to plow a larger field, and purchasing goats. Now, Woba has enough food to feed her family and can even share with others in need. More importantly, she can teach them how to produce more food and income for themselves.

“I am excited by the success I’ve had so far,” Woba says. “I want to increase the size of my plot and diversify the crops that I am growing. I also want to buy tools, so that more women have access to the shared village tools and can earn income for their families as well.” So far, she has taught 20 people in her village and six women from a nearby village these ecological farming practices.

In 2014, over 20 million people in Africa’s Sahel region suffered food shortages. Groundswell is working with farmers like Woba and partners like ANSD to change this.

Cover Groundswell International 2014 Annual ReportWoba’s story was featured in our 2014 Annual Report, “The Power of Partnerships: Celebrating Five Years of Transforming Rural Communities.” The Annual Report shares the story of farmers like Woba and details how their lives were transformed in 2014. 

Please consider making a donation today to support farmers like Woba to grow more food for their families. 



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