5. THE ORCHARDS OF TIMBUKTU

maraichage0 - 5. THE ORCHARDS OF TIMBUKTU

As it became clear that the suburbs of the city are not the right place for the project, I decided to start searching further away, a few miles away from the city, along the canal where some of the poorest people are living off the orchards that supply the city market with some of its vegetables.

Water is the biggest problem for the gardeners, and as I will soon realize, it is one of the many problems they face.

Most of these orchards are situated in the outskirts of the city, particularly along the Kaddafi canal where the water is shallower underground.

The gardeners get allotted an area of land by the city hall. Then they find sponsors to dig a well and they start working, clearing the land, watering it and planting trees. After a few years, the city politicians expel them, in order to sell the plots of land that they have reclaimed from the desert sands.

The city assigns them new, arid land further away in the desert so they have to dig new wells, which often gets them into debt with “charitable” western organizations.  And they have to begin the process all over again.

There is no way out.  The city is growing and the orchards cannot stay in the residential area, so their destiny is to be outside of the city. The city is not growing so much after all, but speculative profits on the land are growing very much indeed.

The life of the gardeners is very tough because the orchards constantly need water and not just a little of it.

The gardeners have no money to buy water pumps and even less to buy gasoline to power them, so the water has to be pulled up by hand. They fill two 20 liter buckets and then carry them to the orchard, sometimes 200 yards away. They water the small planted squares. One bucket for each one of these.

Then they start again. All day, every day, for their whole lives.

maraichage bidons - 5. THE ORCHARDS OF TIMBUKTU

maraichage eau - 5. THE ORCHARDS OF TIMBUKTU

They are so busy pulling water that they cannot go to the market to sell their produce. They have to sell it at a cheaper price to intermediaries to sell at the markets.

maraichage1 - 5. THE ORCHARDS OF TIMBUKTU

When I cured these poor people with aromatherapy and acupuncture I saw that human beings were not created to haul and carry 40 kilos of weight all day, everyday. Their backs are all ruined and just touching their spine to locate a vertebra makes them jump from the pain.

And they cannot stop, ever.  In the desert, if water is missing for one single day, the vegetables die.

maraichage3 - 5. THE ORCHARDS OF TIMBUKTU

When the dry season comes, the level of the water along the canal drops and cultivation becomes even more difficult, as more effort is needed to pull the water up.

maraichage eau3 - 5. THE ORCHARDS OF TIMBUKTU

How wonderful would it be for them to have a windmill generated water pump and free abundant water without effort!

After visiting several orchards and talking with the gardeners, I understood that digging a well for them and installing the windmill made no sense long term, as they would sooner or later be pushed out of their location, leaving the land to speculators who would profit off the water.

maraichage graines - 5. THE ORCHARDS OF TIMBUKTU

I invited the heads of the canal gardeners to my place and I gave them a variety of seeds from some of the best Italian vegetables. I hope that in some way it might improve their life a little.

I have to search somewhere else for a place to install the windmill. Further away from the city, in the surrounding villages, but in the meantime something is happening…

Previous episode: The garden of the americans
Next episode: Tahara’s hospital

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