I am in Wack Ngouna, Senegal.

Wack Ngouna (pronounced wak-in-goona) is over 300 km southeast of Dakar, the capital city of Senegal.

A medium size town with over 300 households (each household may have over ten people living on average), it is home to CLCOP (Cadre Local de Concertation des Organisations de Producteurs), our local partner community organisation. It is in the central, Saloum region, also known as the Peanut Basin – sandwiched between the Sudano-Sahelian and Guinean Rainforest climate (fancy way to say that we have a dry and a rainy season).

We are currently in dry season, and everything is burning hot under the scorching sun and the Harmattan wind. The animals are out free ranging – scavenging anything they can to survive. The streets are uncared for and littered with dungs and plastics all over the place.

The most (in)visible sign of landscape is the lack of trees. Deforestation is a concern in the region since firewood is still extensively used for cooking. One of our work mandates is to help reduce fuelwood consumption and improve household energy security in the region. We have introduced two energy-efficient cookstoves (a metal cookstove and a clay-brick stove) combined with community agro-forestry strategies as part of the ongoing efforts to slow down (and hopefully reverse) deforestation. We try, Inshallah!

wack ngouna
Pic. 1. Bienvenu à Wack Ngouna
Wack ngouna_village 1
Pic. 2. Wack Ngouna (household compounds)
Cows and baobab
Pic. 3. Cow herd and baobab trees
Pic. 4. Sunset (at 7:12 pm)
Full moon and baobab
Pic. 5. My first full moon in Senegal and the baobab tree

Agro-ecological development in Sénégal and the Gambia

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!

development perspective

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