Micro Gardens, Senegal: Urban Food Policy Snapshot

by Alexina Cather, MPH

Part of the Food Policy Snapshot Series

Food Policy Snapshot: Senegal Micro Gardens

Overview: In Dakar, agricultural space is sparse and food insecurity has been a growing problem. To provide Dakar inhabitants with alternative produce   supply solutions, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in collaboration with the government of Senegal, the Municipality of Dakar, and several NGOs launched the project for micro-gardening.

Location: Dakar, Senegal

  • Population: 3,035,000 people
  • Dakar houses approximately 25% of the country’s population

Progress to date:

  • More than 4,000 families have been trained.
  • In 2008, the project won the Dubai Award given by the Municipality of Dubai for best practice projects in horticulture. The prize money was invested for the final phase of the programme from 2009 to 2012.

Food policy category: Food Insecurity; Social and Economic Equity

Program Initiated:

  • The Micro-Gardens Project was initiated in 1999 by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and Senegalese Government.
  • Since then, the project has been re-launched several times.
  • In 2004 the project was transferred to other cities in Senegal and Africa.

Program goals:

  • To increase food security for all Dakar citizens.
  • To provide fresh fruit and vegetables to poor families in urban and peri-urban areas where land is limited, thereby improving their food supply and nutrition.
  • To promote income generation and poverty reduction when surplus production is sold.

How it works:

  • Micro Gardens are simple, low-cost and easy-to-manage. They provide gardeners with fresh and nutritious food (cultivating a wide range of vegetables, roots and tubers, and herbs).
  • Individuals are selected from the community receive proper micro-gardening training. This is usually an educational training that teaches citizens the proper way to garden with helpful tips on making the most of your space. In the 1999 pilot phase, participants were given containers to begin growing food in. Currently, the training shows participants how to create their own container and offers useful suggestions on reuse materials.
  • Micro Garden containers can be made from a multitude of sources. In Dakar, old wooden pallets were repurposed into planting bins. Other possible container sources are plastic-lined wooden crates, custom-built tables and even old car tires. It integrates horticulture production techniques with environmentally friendly technologies suited to cities, such as rainwater harvesting and household waste management.
  • Seeds can be planted in a container filled with garden soil or “substrate” made from local materials (such as peanut shells, coconut fibre, rice husks, coarse sand or laterite).
  • Water requirements are modest, important to consider in developing cities, where quality water is often scarce and expensive. In a year, a one square metre micro-garden consumes about 1 000 litres of water, or less than 3 litres per day. To ensure a regular water supply, micro-gardeners can channel rainwater into storage via a system of gutters and pipes. Rainwater is virtually free (after the investment in harvesting equipment) and usually of good quality.
  • Keeping micro-gardens productive is also fairly simple. They can be fertilized regularly, at no cost, with compost produced from household organic waste. Pests are controlled by non-chemical means, including coloured sticky traps, insect proof nets and intercropping with aromatic herbs that naturally repel insects, such as basil, parsley and mint.
  • Micro-gardens can provide 6 cropping cycles per year and any surplus production can be sold as an additional source of income for the gardener. Currently no training exists on the marketing side of the micro-garden program but expanding to include such a course has been suggested.

Why it is important:

  • This program positively impacts household food security and fosters the consumption of fresh and nutritious vegetables.
  • It fights poverty by generating employment and income for the gardeners, and teaches environmental education.
  • The Micro gardens network builds a new social and fair value chain based on urban food production.
  • Micro gardens improve food security without stigmatization –  gardening was adopted by all social categories: the poor as well as the rich, men and women, young and elderly, and people with disabilities.


  • Overall, the Dakar micro-garden programme reached over 4,000 families.
  • A 2006 survey showed that one micro-garden can provide 6 cropping cycles per year, yielding roughly 30kg of vegetables per square metre. Families with micro-gardens consumed between 5-9 kg of vegetables per month – more than double that consumed by families not participating in the programme.
  • Marketable crop yield surpluses generated also contributed significantly to income generation in participating families and thus strengthened their financial autonomy. Studies found that ~ 35% of produce is kept for consumption, while the rest is sold. Typical income from a family micro-garden of 10 sq m ranges from $15 – $30 a month.
  • From an environmental protection perspective, the programme was successful in promoting the principle of reuse by recycling agricultural waste as a solid substrate – using old wood and other material for planting basins – and by resettling unused space.
  • From an educational perspective, the programme provided schools and colleges with access to micro-gardens for study and providing affordable produce.
  • The micro-garden programme provides a means for promoting autonomy among youth, who can manage their own micro-gardens, and helps to diversify incomes for women, in particular, women heads of households, divorced or widowed.

Learn more:

Point of Contact:

Similar practices:

  • With FAO support, governments and municipal authorities have successfully launched micro-garden programmes in several Central and South American countries since Daka’s success
  • Caracas, Venezuela
    • This project established 21 hectares of compost-based vegetable gardens run by small cooperatives in and around the city. They employed people to manage the gardens and provided fresh produce for consumers.
    • Helped 10,000 families in the city’s poor barrios to grow vegetables, cabbages, pumpkin, tomatoes and eggplant leading to an increase in the city’s food security,
  • Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo
    • Developed 1,600 hectares of micro garden areas run by 20,000 full-time growers. The project introduced improved produce  variety in the city. 450 growers’ associations were trained in good agricultural practices, while microcredit helped beneficiaries start profitable small-scale enterprises. Market gardens in Kinshasa now produce an estimated 75,000 to 85,000 tonnes of vegetables a year (65% of the city’s supply).


Photo credit: Jerry Miner, GlobalHort


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