Koutango mango

Koutango is about eight kilometres away from Wack Ngouna.

The village is nestled in the valley, and their well water is accessible throughout the year, which is a blessing if you have a vegetable garden or an orchard. It is also the home of “Professeur” Dia, my Senegalese godfather who gave me his family name. He is from Casamance, a southern province of Sénégal where it is well known for (besides independence-movement militias) its fruits and fair weather. He started a farm school (champ d’école in French) in Koutango nearly 40 years ago. Back then, nobody believed that fruits from Casamance could be grown in the area (Saloum region is known for its hot weather and arid landscape). So, he ignored this common belief and planted fruit trees: mango, passion fruit, lemon, tangerine, banana, pineapple, coconut, dakh, sapodilla and many others.

Today, his farm school is like a jungle – but of fruit trees. A real paradise he calls, “La Petite Casamance“. Whenever I visit this place, I can instantly feel relaxed and rejuvenated. Maybe it’s the beautiful music notes of birds, or it’s the shade of old forest garden. This year, the forest has a bumper mango production. There are so many that have fallen – even after filling everyone’s desire (including birds and ants) – that the forest smells like over-ripe mango. I am still amazed at different varieties of mangos that exist (the sweetest of all is peach mango – we don’t even bother to peel).

Regarding rural development and food security perspective, however, I realise how much of great food that we are wasting – over 60 percent may be lost at the orchard just because there is no refrigeration and adequate post-harvest storage facility. Moreover, there is lack of market channeling and transportation. Professeur Dia knows all this: his next project (if he can find the means) is to transform his surplus mangos into mango juice and jam. Meanwhile, he is trying to lessen the spoilage rate by working with village women. In fact, he offers work-for-mango scheme – anyone can come help with the orchard work, and they are entitled to all-you-can-pick mango. Of course, I gladly volunteered!Koutango is about eight kilometres away from Wack Ngouna.

 

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Pic. 1. Professeur Dia – a natural farmer
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Pic. 2. A mango tree bearing abundantly
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Pic.3. Over ripened mangos
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Pic.4. Current storage room
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Pic. 5. Eating peach mango from Koutango (photo credit: Professeur Dia)

Fieldwork update

To fully immerse into the local farming context, I tried farming, gardening and fieldwork.

I agree that doing-it-yourself is one of the most direct and long-lasting methods of learning. Like John Lennon says in Imagine: “It’s easier if you try”. So the importance and roles of farm visits and farm schools are recognised in our AEV project model. We are planning on organising a farmers’ visit to a nearby ‘champs d’école’ of orchard and vegetable garden in Koutango (more on this in the forthcoming blog).

The local project manager and a great friend, Abdou Koma Ba and I started a backyard vegetable garden. We cleared the backyard clean – used to be a household dump yard. With the guidance and teachings from Meissa (our project nursery specialist), we built over 12 beds (1.5 m wide and over 8 m long). The transformation was quite remarkable. From nothing, invisible life force began changing the face of our garden, but more importantly, it inspired us to believe in our efforts and vision of small-scale gardening in the rural community of Wack Ngouna.

 

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Photo 1. Jardin à Ground Zero

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Photo 2. Jardin – avant
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Photo 3. Jardin – maintenant
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Photo 4. Pépinière – avant
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Photo 4. Pépinière – aujourd’hui
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Photo 5. Et le pépinière apprenti
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Photo 6. (Green) thumb’s up
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Photo 7. Walking with the horse (millet seeding)