Fruitfully twenty years after

The rain is coming soon (in mid-June).

With the fast approaching rainy season, one of our project objectives is to provide the best available seeds to our village farmers. I visited the ISRA (Institut Sénégalais de recherche en agriculture) in Bambey to buy certified-quality seeds (millet, peanut, cowpeas and maize). French colonials first built this research station. What I like most about this place is that it has many old, tall trees providing beautiful habitat for birds and squirrels. It’s been my third visit so far, and I enjoy immensely (surrounded by trees and birds).

This time I had the chance to visit their citrus orchard. There, I found 20-year-old grapefruit trees, majestically spread over in dome shape, bearing many fruits! What a sight. Even more delightful, I savoured freshly picked grapefruit, and I could hardly taste their trademark bitter taste. It was all (well mostly) sweetness. Now I’m eager to buy a house with a large backyard or better, a farm estate to plant my new grapefruit trees that I purchased in March (in Montreal that is). Twenty years, I can taste the sweetness already!

 

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Pic. 1. Orchard at ISRA Bambey
 
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Pic. 2. Under the tree
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Pic. 3. Bearing fruitfully
 
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Pic. 4. Ripe for tasting!
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Garab yi (Trees) Pt. 3

Part III – It’s quite amazing to find such a stark difference in tree population even within the same region in the Gambia.

Case in point – one of the project villages, Njau: the landscape is sparsely dotted with trees – bravely standing against the desert-like climate and environment. On the contrary, the riverside neighbours (less than 15 min away by car) are endowed with nearby water (and its favourable micro-climate) and can host a diverse variety of tree population.

Having a fruit and nut tree in your backyard is the wisest long-term investment for a family in this region. As part of our project work, we will introduce many fruit trees (25,000 trees over the course of four years) in the project villages (cashew, mango, orange, lime, papaya, etc.). However, the challenge is not about the number of trees – the number one problem is how to secure and ensure full protection against the long dry spell and grazing animals (goats, sheep, and cows). Mainly, because animals are roaming free during the dry season, it is almost impossible to keep them away from devouring our young trees. Fencing is the way, but it costs a lot. What to do? That’s my next task! To find a simple and affordable solution. I am still pondering though.

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Pic. 1. Njau village 1
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Pic. 2. Njau village 2
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Pic. 3. Njau village 3
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Pic. 4. Cashew fruit and nut shell

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Pic. 5. Mangrove trees

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Pic. 6. Mango attack!
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Pic. 8. Cedeem tree (local jujube-like berry)
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Pic. 8. Neem tree (grown everywhere in this region)
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Pic. 9. Perfectly trimmed tree line (max. height of grazing animals’ reach)

food in Sénégal

What’s cooking in Senegal?

Indeeki (read in-deeh-ki – meaning breakfast): the locals eat “fonde” (fon-deh) which is millet porridge with sour milk. But I usually eat baguette bread spread with imported margarine and local (unfiltered) honey. There is an excellent local peanut butter producers’ coop in Wack N’gouna, but since peanut and I don’t agree well together (regarding diet compatibility), I keep my bread peanut-free.

An (an-nyuh – lunch): we usually have large portions of rice (seasoned with lots of oil and spices) and fish (mackerel, sea bass, small freshwater fish, etc. – they come fresh, dried, or smoked). The dish comes with some vegetable (a piece of bitter tomato, red pepper, eggplant, cassava, carrot, onion, okra, radish) – all thrown into a big plate-bowl.
This dish is the quintessential “Tiep bou diene” (Jjiep-bu-jen – rice with fish) and we eat it almost every lunch. I eat at my host family, and since I don’t eat meat, fish became my primary source of protein these days. However, unfortunately, I can’t have too much fish either (again with my diet system), which make my daily protein intake quite low.

Reer (reh-err – supper): A smaller portion of rice or pasta with sauce (different kinds of sauce with mango, sorrel, peanut, tomato, or onion), a piece of meat or fish, and some lettuce salad if available. I asked my host mother and sister to cook beans for me, and sometimes I get a plate full of beans for supper.

Personally, I have no problem adjusting to local food – except meat and some ingredients that I try not to overeat (like those that don’t agree with my digestion system). What I find plenty in my diet: loads of sugar (in tea and local juice), carbohydrate (rice, bread and pasta), and oil. What I find lacking in my diet: fresh dairy product, fruits and veggies, and decent dessert. Better find a happy medium.

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Pic. 1. Tiep bu yappa (rice with meat)
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Pic. 2. Rice with tomato & peanut sauce
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Pic. 3. & Pic. 4. Bon appétit, c’est domoda.