The Oasis Grow Biointensive Association seeks to counter the problems of hunger and poverty through the development of low input organic agriculture, using GROW BIOINTENSIVE farming methods. The goal of the association is to transfer skills and knowledge in such a way that community members feel ownership of new farming techniques. These new skills should give individuals a sense of empowerment that allows them to take responsibility for their own development, so that feelings of helplessness turn into hope and action.
Currently the future of our planet is threatened by several grave challenges:
· Not enough water for basic needs and for agriculture
· Increasing desertification affecting many parts of the world and the lives of billions of people
· Soil degradation affecting 1/3 of the world’s land
· Diseases and conflicts which plunge people into misery and hopelessness.
Farmable soils are rapidly disappearing, with Africa facing some of the fastest rates of depletion and desertification. Agricultural methods—as currently practiced— are not sustainable.
"The heart of the problem is that the natural resource base of Africa is being degraded and destroyed at a rate which will soon make food and agricultural production un-sustainable. Poverty, coupled with increasing population pressure, is the biggest single cause of this degradation. The rural poor, the overwhelming majority of Africa's citizens, destroy their own environment, not out of ignorance, but simply to survive. Peasant farmers preoccupied with survival over-crop marginal soils because there is no alternative employment and no better technologies they can afford." - FAO report on land and environmental degradation and desertification in Africa
In addition to soil degradation, agriculture in Africa faces other serious problems. Indigenous seeds adapted to local conditions are being lost. Pesticides are used with little regard for the safety of farmers or consumers. Chemical fertilizers, which can be effective in the short run but very damaging with over use, are employed more and more often. Poor yields and droughts have pushed many people to leave the countryside to attempt to survive in cities. Despite the large stocks of food that often exist globally, the poor of the world do not have enough to eat.
The 15 countries of West Africa are home to 333 million people—one-third of the African population. In the Saharo-Sahelian zone where these countries are located, rainfall shortages, desertification and changes to local climates are putting people’s lives at risk.
Senegal, where the Oasis Grow Biointensive headquarters is located, currently imports the majority of its food. Most seeds used by farmers are hybrids, meaning seeds grown from these crops cannot be reused. Open-pollinated seeds are becoming scarce, with villagers in the countryside retaining the surviving seed stocks. The country's food supplies often arrive late and are high-priced. Most of the region only has a three-month growing season due to a short rainy season. As of now, a large percentage of Senegal’s population is in danger of starving.
To counter these problems, the Oasis Grow Biointensive Association is working to help West Africa produce a healthy food supply while at the same time reducing youth unemployment. Our programs strive to change poverty and helplessness into hope, to give participants a sense of empowerment to face the challenges of the present world situation, and most importantly to teach people to grow food for themselves. People are interested in change but often times they have not been presented with viable alternatives.
The Oasis Grow Biointensive Association is working to make this change possible through widespread training in GROW BIOINTENSIVE farming. This is an effective biologically-intensive sustainable farming system that can grow high yields of food in an environmentally-sound way, while using many fewer resources—including water—than conventional agricultural methods. The training covers food security, environmental challenges, soil preservation, seed preservation, health, and social mobilization. Older Boy/Girl Scouts, small-scale farmers, women's groups leaders of youth groups and school children are the recipients of these trainings. They include classes to help recipients understand how the processes of a sustainable farming system work, with a large percentage of the time devoted to hands-on fieldwork to solidify farming skills. These skills will make it possible for young adults and others to grow their own food as well as having excess food to sell for income. Training has started in Senegal and one training session has happened with Boy/Girl Scouts in Gambia. Eventually our organization hopes to hold training sessions in the 13 other countries of West Africa.