The White-throated Bee-eater [Merops albicollis] in Edenland
It’s the sowing season of the Eden calendar and it is the period of the year when the Eden crew inhabits the field station to sow and monitor the growth of this year’s plants.
This year we sowed 720 trees of various species, with the objective of finding more species that can grow in the area without irrigation and provide for their human caretakers even in times of need.
It’s a team effort!
Three solar oven cooks for us,
…serving huge portions of tasty “famine food”!
The sowing season lasts from the beginning of July to end of September, when the seed distribution is start again.
Warm greetings from Eden’s field station!
Amadu harvesting Eden fruits that have fallen during the night
On our way to a village in the northernmost agricultural zone of Niger, we meet sixteen-year-old Amadu Amani in the field as he is harvesting fruit from his family’s field. His father joined the Eden program in 1998 and together, the family has transformed their previously barren field into a fruit-bearing Eden Garden. Though traditionally fruit harvesting is a girl’s job, sixteen-year old Amadu is not ashamed to be part of his sister’s fruit collection team, even though she is two years younger than himself. “My sister Hawa and I get along very well,” says Amadu. “She is very productive and has shown me how much we can gain from our Eden trees. As our father has sown many trees, and the different species have different harvest seasons, there is always fruit to harvest from our Eden Garden. My sister and I take turns to make sure that we don’t miss any fruit. Since she often helps our mother with housework, I’ve taken on the morning shift. Around noon, she comes out and I go home. Our Eden fruits are very valuable to us, and we want to make sure that we don’t leave the ripened fruits unattended, or they will be consumed by people passing by.”
Hawa and her younger brother Abdu
Meanwhile, Amadu’s fourteen-year old sister Hawa is back at the family home, where we get the chance to speak with her. A typical Eden girl full of energy and drive, Hawa is proud to to have been selected as the family member in charge of the entire Eden fruit harvest – a responsibility passed on to her from her older sister when the latter got married. Remaining the only daughter now living at home, Hawa receives the help of her brothers, who are eager to help out as the Eden fruit revenues not only put food on the table but also contributes to clothes, shoes and jewelry. “Before I given full responsibility for the Eden fruit harvest,” Hawa says, “I was always making money from Eden fruit. I gave what I earned to my mother, who helped save up for a goat. Today, that first doe has given a number of offspring, and we are doing very well.”
Hawa’s mother Salamatu with the goat doe she helped her daughter buy with fruit money
Hawa’s mother Salamatu remembers the episode well. “I added just a little money to Hawa’s savings that I myself had made from Eden fruit, and I was able to buy this white doe for her. She was so proud! The doe provides us with milk every morning and as you can see, all my children are in good health!”
Eden provides farmers in arid West Africa with the start-off quantities of seeds that enable them to transform their barren fields into fruit-bearing Eden Gardens. These trees and bushes thus sown require neither irrigation nor fertilizer to grow, and will sustain the families, even in times of need. The beauty of the Eden concept is the independence that it gives to our farming families. The seeds provided by Eden are given to them for free. Once they have their own harvests, they owe us nothing in return and are free to prosper according to their own hearts’ desire.
In every Eden Garden, the edible leaves of perennial trees play an important part in the lives of their human caretakers.
Rich in proteins, these “leafy vegetables” of the drylands ensure a nourishing and varied diet. They are consumed widely within the household as well as sold at the market.
In a field 80 km south of Eden’s field station, we meet the family of Hamidu.
Hamidu joined the Eden program in 2002, and today, his wife and children harvest leaves and fruits from the Eden Garden they have established.
“Because we joined Eden,” says Hamidu’s wife Hadisa, “There are always things to harvest from our Eden Garden, and because the trees are drought-tolerant, we can now manage in years with little rain. Last year, the millet harvest was very poor, but the Eden trees did not let us down and we could live off the fruit and leaves they produced. As long as we have our Eden Garden, we will always have enough to eat!”
The daughter of Hamidu with newly harvested Eden leaves
Barira is one of many Eden girls who makes who makes a profit thanks to the Eden Garden of her family. “My father joined the Eden program in 1995”, says Barira, “and for many years now, I’ve been making a snack out of Eden leaves that I have been selling in the village.” Barira’s snack is made of cooked Eden leaves (which taste like spinach), which she mixes with peanut powder and spices.
Like many Eden girls, Barira is not one to sit idly at home and wait for things to happen. If there is anything she would like to buy, she makes sure to earn the money herself; which she can, thanks to her family’s Eden Garden. “This snack sells very well and I have many clients! I buy all my clothes with money I earn myself. I bought this pink outfit not long ago and it cost me about €5. Isn’t it pretty?”
Fasuma and her friends have a precious hobby.
When they are not in school, they like to collect and eat Eden fruit.
Fasuma (in blue headscarf) has invited all her friends to harvest Eden fruit from her grandfather’s field.
Together with eight others, Fasuma’s grandfather Umaru was among the first farmers to join the Eden program. He sowed the first trees in 1991, starting the process of transforming his field into a fruit-bearing Eden Garden, which his children and grand-children enjoy today.
Alternating between the Eden Gardens of their respective families, the children spend much of their leisure time collecting fruit. “Today, we’re harvesting from Fasuma’s field”, says Barira (furthest to the left). “Tomorrow, we will go to Hannatu’s.”
“We love Eden fruit!” says Rachida (in red headscarf), whose grandfather Idi joined the Eden program the same year as Fasuma’s. “But we’re not only harvesting for ourselves. We promised our mothers we would bring some fruit home to our younger brothers and sisters, who are too small to walk about in the fields. They love Eden fruit as much as we do, and if they don’t get some, they’ll cry. Thankfully, there is enough for all of us!”
There is a “souna” (naming celebration) in one of the Eden villages, and people have come from the neighboring villages to celebrate the birth of a little child.
The hardworking Eden girls of the village have taken the day off to celebrate,
…comparing their new outfits, bought especially for this occasion.
We meet Eden farmer Mutari outside his house. Although he is happily participating in the general festivities of the village, he poses for the camera with the serious air that is culturally expected.
Mutari joined the Eden program in 1992, and has been sowing Eden trees in his field ever since. Today, his family relies heavily on their many Eden fruit harvests, which enable them live well. After 18 years with Eden, no one in Mutari’s household goes hungry and all of his children are well dressed!
Mutari’s son Ibrahim (center) with his friends Salisu and Ayuba
We meet Mutari’s youngest son Ibrahim in the family courtyard, where he is playing with his friends, who are also sons of long-term Eden farmers. Ibrahim is very happy with his family’s Eden Garden and talks about the value of Eden fruit. “My brothers and I collect Eden fruit all the time. That’s how we make money to buy the things we want. Our mother hides the fruit for us on the rooftop, to keep it out of reach from our younger sisters. If she didn’t, they would throw themselves at what we have collected and eat it all at once!”
The younger sisters that Ibrahim is referring to are also outside. Dressed in newly purchased matching clothes, Aishatu and Hashasha are taking part in the village festivities together with their best friend Zaliya.
Mutari’s youngest daughters Aishatu (left), Hashasha (center) with their friend Zaliya
Annoyed that their brother accuses them of throwing themselves at his Eden fruit harvest, the girls are eager to set the record straight: “Every time someone in the family takes the ox cart to go work in the field, we tag along, and while they are working the land, we collect Eden fruit. We are great collectors. Then we give the fruit to our mother, who sells it at the market for us and buys us everything we want. We are most certainly better Eden fruit collectors than any of our brothers, as you can tell by the clothes we are wearing!”
If you can turn a barren field in the heart of West Africa,
into a fruit-bearing Eden Garden,
you have invested in the future.
Your children will grow up eating nutritious fruit,
spending much of their leisure time in the field,
sowing, guarding and harvesting from the trees you have established.
Your Eden Garden will provide activity for every member of the family,
uniting your family as a team.
There will be enough to eat at every meal,
and your children will grow up round and healthy.
The fruit you harvest will easily be sold at the market, giving you precious fruit money which is yours to invest as you please.
Your daughters will grow up to be self-confident individuals, well aware of the means available to them with an Eden Garden and expecting nothing less from their future husband.
If you can turn your barren field into a fruit-bearing Eden Garden, your family will achieve self-sustainability and you will no longer be considered poor.
All thanks to the Lost Treasures of Eden.
As we approach the end of hot season, trucks can be seen throughout the country bringing men come back from their yearly exodus. Twenty years ago, this was also the situation for the farmers of Tanout. Once the millet was harvested, the men would leave their families for a period of nine months and look for work in other countries. Whether they brought anything back or not, their absence would allow the insufficient millet harvest to last a little while longer.
Eden fathers: staying with their families
Today, in Edenland, the men now have a choice. Thanks to their Eden Gardens, the families no longer rely solely on the millet, but have numerous harvests throughout the year. The men harvest Eden grass and Eden branches, and the women harvest Eden fruit. There is activity all year round, and no one has to leave.
It takes time to establish an Eden Garden from scratch, but anyone can do it as it requires neither irrigation nor fertilizers to grow. All it needs as an initial investment is hard work and dedication, which the Eden farmers have.
Twenty years ago, the children of Tanout were growing up in a sea of sand, surrounded by adults who had given up hope for a better future. Today, we meet children and teenagers who are full of hope and aspiration and who are inspiring the older generation. Their family’s Eden Garden provides them with a constant purchase power that enables them to take care of themselves and their families without having to ask anyone for a handout. Twenty years from now, who will have thought that this very population was once the poorest of the poor?
Meet Alhadji Bukar, an Eden farmer in the Tanout area.
14 years ago, Alhadji Bukar joined the Eden program and started to sow edible trees and bushes in his field. Today, these trees and bushes are well established and produce food, even during years where there is little rain. The Eden trees grow naturally and require no irrigation.
Every year, Alhadji Bukar sows new trees and bushes in his field, and because the different Eden species have different harvest seasons, there is always fruit around. His daughters are in charge of the Eden fruit collection, and every week, they sell a part of the fruit harvest at the market of Tanout City. With the money earned, they bring back spices, clothes and jewelry for the entire family.
Contrary to older generation who grew up in a sea of sand, Alhadji Bukar’s grandchildren do not know of a time without Eden fruit.
Since becoming an Eden farmer and seeing that it is indeed possible for the population of Tanout to revegetate their area, Alhadji Bukar has discovered many uses from the Eden trees in his field. Perennial Eden grass is used to make mats. Branches are used as building material and flexible ones are used to make rope.
In the old days, Alhadji Bukar had to go on a nine month long exodus after the millet harvest, hoping to find a job in the city so that he would be able to provide for his family in the countryside. Today, he can stay in his home village and enjoy life with his loved ones.
There is nothing as fulfilling as watching a whole population rise from the most difficult of situations and reach for a sustainable life. Eden’s solution is simple but it works. All it needs is time.