By Moustapha Diallo, IFRC

While thousands of food-insecure families in Magta Lajar, in southern Mauritania, do not know where their next meal will be coming from, the situation is looking brighter for a women’s cooperative market garden in the village of Karama.

Despite the harsh desert climate and the dry season, tomatoes, onion, carrots, eggplants and cabbages are all growing well.

Tisslima Mint Moussa comes to the garden every day to water the plants, remove weeds, or harvest vegetables when they are fully ripe.

“I largely depend on farming to feed my children. Last year, I sowed millet and cowpeas, but all crops failed due to lack of rain,” explained Tisslima.

“Thanks to be God and the market garden, we are feeling less the effects of failed crops. Without it, life would be extremely difficult.”

In 2012, when a severe drought wiped out harvests in Magta Lajar, leading to severe food security, the Mauritanian Red Crescent, with support from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) responded by delivering emergency food aid to affected people, while focusing on long term resilience-building solutions.

The women’s cooperative of the village of Karama was one of 28 such female-led community groups to receive vegetable seeds and training to set up market gardens that can withstand the extremes of the desert climate.

Despite consecutive years of drought and poor rainfall in the region, the market garden continues to flourish.

Tisslima said: “We continue to eat part of we grow. Part is sold at the market, and the income generated from the sale is reinvested in the garden, for our families or for urgent needs such as fixing the water point equipped with solar panels.”

Lancelot Mermet, IFRC’s Operations Manager in Mauritania, said: “This kind of approach pays off and contributes to building community resilience. it’s encouraging to see the local community continuing to run the project long after the Red Crescent leaves. Such initiatives must be multiplied in drought-prone areas in parallel to the emergency food aid.”

The IFRC has launched an emergency appeal of 1.6 million Swiss francs to support the Mauritanian Red Crescent Society to respond to the worst food insecurity situation in Mauritania by providing immediate assistance to 17,400 people in need. The funds from the appeal will be used to provide food assistance (cash) and nutrition support to the most vulnerable people, while focusing on long term resilience-building solutions. The most vulnerable agropastoral families will also be helped to rebuild their livelihoods.