Thursday, July 12, 2012

Farmer-to-Farmer Program, Day 3-4: Kedougou, Fadiga, Thiankou Malal, and Dindefelo Falls (Senegal)

Kedougou is the name of the town and region where I will be based for my assignment. The region has a border with Mali to the east and Guinea to the south. There are more foreigners in town, too, because of international investment in the gold mining industry as well as activity by the U.S. Peace Corps and NGO's. Although the official language in Senegal is French, and most Senegalese speak Wolof (the largest indigenous language) as a native or second tongue, Pulaar is the language of choice in this region... Explaining to visitors that they'll hear Catalan, not Castellano, in Barcelona seems a lot less confusing. As a side note, Catalans might be amused to know that "nyam nyam," as in the sound you make eating cal├žots, has Wolof roots!

Conversations in the USAID office here in Kedougou happen in all 3 languages. I mostly sit back and wait for someone to explain. While USAID has several programs around Senegal, including the Yaajende Development Project for improving food security, mine is the first Farmer-to-Farmer assignment working in this region. The office supplied us with useful information and lent us some training materials (e.g. a backpack pesticide sprayer). We also went to meet the host contacts/beneficiary organization KEOH (Kedougou Surrounding and Guidance for Human Development) at their headquarters, where we discussed scheduling training and field visits.

Two KEOH guys came along in the truck the next day as we headed out to visit some fields. We stopped in Fadiga to look at fields where the women in the village grow crops to feed their own families as well as to sell at market. Vegetables like eggplant, hot pepper, and okra grow in small plots alongside mint and another leafy plant used in cooking called boro boro. Despite lacking much formal education and training, it's clear that the women are on to some good ideas. Building on these, I have hopes that I can provide them with solid techniques as well as give recommendations for their pest problems. Likewise in Thiankou Malal, we saw positive practices and challenges in the fields of the village's chief. Similar crops were growing as in Fadiga, albeit on a much larger scale and with access to much more upscale resources (e.g. an animal-driven plow). It never ceases to amaze me what experiences I have had that will come to inform an assignment. One of the problem insects in Fadiga was flea beetle, which was my first research project in entomology... way back in high school! Another blast from the past came when I asked the grower in Thiankou Milal which okra variety he was planting. He pulled out a empty can of Clemson Spineless - the one we used to grow in North Carolina!

We'll be working hard through the end of my assignment (no stops for the weekend!) so we decided to do a tiny bit of sight-seeing in the area for an hour. Not far from the last field we visited lies the Dindefelo Falls. Located in Niokolo-Koba National Park, first there is a 2 km walk through bush and woods, lovely and cool after the heat of the day. Sporting greenery in the crevices, two vertical rock faces meet in a corner, and the water falls from a lush wooded plateau 100 m (~ 30 stories) into a clear pool below. It's a beautiful and tranquil spot even now, and I imagine it only grows more impressive as the rainy season continues.

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