Two wells have been constructed with the help of Caritas Switzerland in this village in Chad providing water to grow food as drought ravages West Africa’s Sahel region. Photo by Fred Lauener/Caritas Switzerland.

The village of Chawir is located in Canton Migami, south-central Chad (West Africa). Like almost everywhere in the area, the locals are almost exclusively women and children. Of the 2,760 inhabitants of Chawir, only 120 are adult men.

Many women are widowed or divorced. This is because their husbands did not return from the civil war in Libya, where they had migrated to find work.

Other men are expected home in early summer to join the harvest work on the cereal fields. They had left Chawir temporarily to find work in bigger towns in Chad. Some travelled to find work in Libya, which can be a dangerous place for Chadian men. Nonetheless, thousands of poor Chadian farmers take this risk; simply because they cannot afford to feed their families.

In Chawir, there is a health clinic with no doctor, but there is a school and two large communal gardens. Around 200 women, mostly with children and grandchildren, work here every day planting and harvesting herbs, leafy vegetables, carrots and onions.

Thanks to a water source only six metres underground, the garden is growing well. Two wells have been constructed with the help of Caritas Switzerland, partner organisation Acord, and a few men who remained in the village.

The vegetables from the gardens complement the basic food which is available in the village and contributes to better health. In good times, the women from Chawir are able to sell their harvest surplus on the market. This money is then used to buy food or new seeds for the gardens.

The female gardeners of Chawir are all members of the official local garden committee. Fatima Dobio, a young, energetic and educated woman is the leader of the committee and chief of the gardens. As well as caring for seven children, Fatima takes care of two goats and a small grain field.

Thanks to access to water and nutritious food, this community is doing well. Sadly, the drought in the Sahel region of West Africa is affecting up to 15 million people