Southern Agrarianism and the culture of the Old South

Gardening in West Africa

This is a follow-up to a previous post in which I mentioned that some of the seeds that I have been collecting from my garden would be sent to Sierra Leone, West Africa with some of our missionary friends. These photos are some that they sent of their garden.

Although okra was originally brought to America from Africa, the variety of okra grown there today is typically a very primitive type. There is very little attention paid to developing improved varieties, so the best route was for them to bring seeds back from America and hope that they will serve as the foundation for a strain that will be well-suited for the West African environment.

In West Africa, the climate is tropical, but the dry season is influenced by the Sahara, to the north. The dry season is very dry and the rainy season is very rainy. In the words of Joseph, their local helper, “Sista, let de rain meet your seeds in de soil.” Very simple words from very simple people, but containing much wisdom.

Part of the garden. In the background is the classroom building where native men are trained in The Bible. The tree in the center is a Moringa tree - an incredibly useful tree that I hope to get growing here.

Okra from our garden now growing in West Africa. The variety is Clemson Spineless.

Blue Lake Bush beans getting started.


  1. Robert Webb

    This sounds like the type of climate we have in Louisiana. A very heavy rainy season where it will rain a lot for long periods and the low lying areas flood. There is a dry season, last year it lasted 6 months with temperatures 100° Fahrenheit +/- 5°. It is the best soil in the world, though, and unless it drowns or gets burned up in a severe drought it’s going to grow.

    I am almost scared to plant okra again. It doesn’t care what the weather is and will grow stalks as big a small trees. When the okra starts coming in, you become a full time farmer, because it needs picking twice a day to get it before it’s too big and tough.

  2. Stephen Clay McGehee

    We’ve got it a bit better here in Florida, but the soil definitely isn’t as good – at least where I am.

    Okra definitely needs to be kept picked, but it will keep food on the table when little else will grow in the hot weather.

    The garden that is shown in the photos was recently pretty much destroyed by the natives there. It’s a long and unpleasant story. Suffice it to say that Africa is still a very primitive, uncivilized, and dangerous place. Hopefully they will have a chance to try again next year.

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