After an eventful summer of cheese making in the B.C., I came back to Montréal. Not knowing where to put my busy mind and hands and feet next, I browsed through job searching websites and stumbled upon an exciting job title “agro-ecological development internship in West Africa”. The terms used in this title seemed to contradict at first, (in my mind) “agro-ecological development sounds like a mighty (difficult) job, and it’s up to an intern to do this?” Well, if it’s impossible, at least a stubbornly-optimistic-fella like me may be a good fit for this task. So I applied.
Resource Efficient Agricultural Production Canada (REAP-Canada) is an independent, non-profit organization that has been working since 1986 with farmers, scientists, and the private sector to improve the sustainability of farming systems and develop ecological ways of producing food, fibre and fuel from farms both in Canada and abroad. Currently, REAP Canada is running a four-year Agro-Ecological Village (AEV) project in Sénégal and the Gambia.
Specifically, I will be working with Le Cadre Local de Concertation des Organisations Producteurs (CLCLOP) – a regional group of farmers’ coop and associations – in Wack N’gouna, Senegal. CLCOP serves over 300 economic interest groups – or in French, le groupement des intérêts économiques (GIE) – in the region and among which, five beneficiary villages are selected to participate in the AEV project. They are: 1) Keur Ndiaga Peuhl, 2) Keur Seydou Hann, 3) Wack Mbathio, 4) Mbayenne, and 5) Nguyenne Djim. All five villages combined, the project will cover over 290 households.
My job is to help and support local partner’s activities – from improved seed procurement and distribution scheme to compost making, to fruit and nut tree nursery preparation and vegetable gardening, to training local staff in computer literacy and conducting a socio-economic survey. In short, I didn’t have any specific work plan to begin with, but things I had to do started to resemble my vaguely all-encompassing work title: agro-ecological development!
Pic. 1. A question of development perspective – what do you see in this picture?
A) An unruly traffic violation
B) An insurance nightmare
C) A case of profit maximisation
D) Room for one more jerry can