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.