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Being a person who loves a number of things, this blog is filled with everything from horses, nature, Nigerien culture, famine food and just about anything that makes me happy! There is one thing however more important than all the others, and that is the accomplishments of Eden Foundation. Famine foods and solar cooking offers me a healthy way of life. Horseback riding offers me a momentary break and guaranteed peace of mind. The accomplishments of Eden however offers true satisfaction and a sense of meaning, and as a longterm volunteer, I am both honored to be a part of it. For those of you who have no idea what Eden Foundation is or how it came about, here is a quick introduction.

EDEN’S PHILOSOPHY

There are 250,000 known plant species in the world, but only 20 of them provide 90% of our food. Eden believes that the key to prosperity for the poor lie in underexploited, edible trees and bushes – the lost treasures of Eden.

Eden Foundation

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Since 1987, Eden Foundation has been active in Niger, West Africa; one of the driest countries in the world (situated south of the Sahara desert), helping the population of Tanout to establish trees and bushes that can grow naturally in this dry area and give food, even in times of need. In the area of Tanout, which is the least developed area in the least developed country in the world, people are poor and have neither money nor water to spare. Since its arrival, Eden has served more than 2500 households in the region.

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Eden Foundation was founded in 1985 by my parents, Arne and Elisabeth “Bettan” Garvi. The following is an excerpts from Eden’s August 2008 newsletter, published a few months after my mother had passed away. It tells the story of how Eden was started against all the odds and of a vision founded 20 years ago that is being fulfilled today.

FROM VISION TO REALITY – THE JOURNEY OF A PIONEERING COUPLE

Whilst travelling through the Sahara desert in 1975 for the first time, twenty-year-old Arne Garvi from Norway came across a plant that caught his attention. It amazed him that a plant could grow in the middle of nowhere where nothing seemed to be able to take hold. He was struck by its potential and wondered what the consequences would be if such a plant could give human food. The idea intrigued him for many years to come.

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Back in Scandinavia, Arne married the love of his life, Bettan. The couple had three children. Their interest in a healthy, varied diet led to the creation of a Food Fund, where people could buy organic food at affordable prices. The surplus generated by the fund was given to the poor.

PLANTS THAT THRIVE IN THE DESERT WILL CONQUER THE DESERT

In 1983, Arne and Bettan came across an article written by Dr. Norman Myers. It brought attention to the existence of 78,000 edible plants in the world, of which 75,000 had probably never been used for human food before. It was then that the vision of Eden was born, for if properly exploited, what difference would these plants not be able to make for the poorest of the poor? Triggered by the enormity of this untapped potential, merged with a strong desire to help the poor, Eden Foundation was founded in 1985. “Plants that thrive in the desert will conquer the desert” was the motto. Convinced that the key to self-sustainability in poverty-stricken areas lay in drought tolerant edible trees and bushes, Arne and Bettan decided to set up their project in Niger, West Africa. Out of several West African countries that were in dire need of a sustainable solution, Niger was selected as Eden’s starting point because it had the toughest conditions and was at the time getting least international attention.

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Starting from scratch, with no organisation to back them up, Arne and Bettan left all behind and set out to fulfil the vision, never looking back.

Eden Info August 2008

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Bettan and Arne Garvi at Eden’s fieldstation, which now looks nothing like it did in 1986

In 1988, Eden set up its field station on a denuded site in the northernmost agricultural zone in Niger, and the research began. If Eden was going to help the farmers revegetate their area, they had to see that it was possible to establish trees under the same circumstances as the population, who had neither water nor money to spare. New species were tested under conditions similar to those in the farmers’ fields; without the use of irrigation or fertilizers. Despite the harsh climate with ravaging winds and a meagre annual rainfall average of 230mm, the field station was revegetated. At the time of their arrival, the farmers were diligently clearing their fields of trees and bushes that might attract crop-eating birds. This attitude changed when they saw the impact that the Eden perennials had on their annuals crops. Three years after the research had begun, the first farmers approached Eden and asked for seeds to sow in their own fields. Since then, Eden has served 2,600 families in 130 villages throughout the Tanout area, helping them establish drought tolerant trees that grow without irrigation and that provide food, even in times of need.

Eden Info August 2008

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Eden’s solution does not only offer the population a sustainable life; it gives hope and opportunities. When the crops fail, mothers no longer resign to fate as there are Eden fruits to be harvested in the fields. There is a high demand for these fruits at the market and so the Eden trees provide the families with a multitude of options. Because the Eden species have different harvest times, there is something to harvest all year round.

Eden Info August 2008

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The different Eden species have different harvest periods, thereby covering the entire year. This enables the farmers and their families to live off their trees and makes them less prone market speculations.

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From the very beginning, Eden’s purpose has never been to tell people how to live their lives, but to supply them with options that will enable them to achieve a sustainable life, independent of external assistance. The results that can be seen today amongst the Eden farmers in Tanout have been reached through much hard work and dedication. More than twenty years have passed since the creation of Eden and a generation of children now lead a better life, despite growing up in the least developed area in the poorest country of the world.

Eden Info August 2008

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Bettan passed away on February 22nd at the age of 55, with Arne at her side. Though the personal investment was high, it was a life lived without regrets. Bettan’s friends and family know that had she lived her life all over again, she would have made the same choices and the same sacrifices, for she never desired a convenient life. Had it not been for her courage and dedication, Eden would not be a reality today, and the people of Tanout would not be living off on the numerous Eden species that bear fruit throughout the year. Together with Arne, she laid the foundation for a better and sustainable future for thousands of people.

Her legacy will live on.

Eden Info August 2008

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I end with a summary of Eden by Professor Tomas Guthknech:

The concept of the Eden Foundation has had multiple positive effects to the region. The entire concept is based on minimal interference with local circumstances in order to maximize the self-esteem and self-responsibility of the participants. In this way I strongly believe that the principles and ideas which have been implemented are very effective. […]

It is interesting to note that due to the different and long-term approach of Eden this concept cannot be easily transferred into the type of a large scale aid-organization concept. The careful consideration and respect for local capabilities and needs are cornerstones for a success of this concept. […]

Can we count on your help and support?

Tomas Guthknecht (Phd)
Ecole hotellière Lausanne