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23.09.2015 | Blog

Survival in the Ebola Crisis Thanks to Own Gardens

Fruit and vegetables despite closed markets – own cultivation becomes more important for many people in Liberia.

Betty Kaifa learned from her mother how to cultivate a field. Back then, when she was growing up in Lofa Country in the far north of Liberia, many of her neighbours were farmers. In Moto Corner, close to the capital Monrovia, it is different. Betty moved here with her husband, and had four children. Her husband was a teacher. The family lived quite well from his salary.

But Betty’s husband died a year ago. A heart attack after a long illness, says Betty. Ebola, say the neighbours. Betty and her children were no longer allowed to leave the property, they were avoided by the neighbours. How should she feed her children?

Rich harvest despite Ebola quarantine

Her only chance: her own garden. When her husband became ill four years ago, Betty joined the farmer’s cooperative in the village. Without his salary, the family were not able to make ends meet. From the cooperative, she learned which vegetables grow well and how she can cultivate them. She also received seeds and a gardening tool. After the death of her husband, when her family were under quarantine, Betty expanded her garden and soon harvested more than she needed for herself.

Betty offered the excess to her neighbours, who could hardly do without it: Since the outbreak of the Ebola epidemic, the markets are regularly closed. Many farmers became ill. Traders were not allowed in or out of certain districts. But, in Betty’s garden, fresh vegetables were sprouting, the seven hens laid their daily eggs. Betty also works very cleanly, washes her hands often, uses gloves when she sells the vegetables. “I wanted my neighbours to trust me again”, she says. And they do. 

“Thanks to the aid, I could provide for my family”

For Betty, her garden is a great treasure. “Through the cooperative it has become possible for me to provide for my family”, says Betty. “We share fields, tools, transport resources and the knowledge of how to cultivate plants. Without the things I learned there, I would not have survived the Ebola crisis.” Now, Betty dreams of a bigger field, of more hens and a couple of goats.

Through the Ebola crisis, many people in Liberia have rediscovered agriculture for themselves. Cooperatives make it easier for them to have access to knowledge, seeds, tools and land.Welthungerhilfe initiated many of these cooperatives, including in Betty’s village.

Liberia is one of the poorest countries in the world. The severe Ebola epidemic had terrible consequences and thousands died. The fields could not be tended. Markets had to close. Food became prohibitively expensive. Now the country must once again gradually return to normality.


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