“This was the first time the land here was ever tilled by tractor …”
Jul 26, 2016
Brian Harris, Le Korsa’s Dakar Office Director, just sent along this wonderful report on projects in Sinthian, which are in full swing now that the rainy season is underway.
“The trip started as Boubacar came to pick me up in Kolda and take me to Sinthian.
I arrived to find Thread virtually empty, aside from a young boy rolling around on the cool tile floor. With Moussa in the U.S., ‘uncle’ Augustin and Angelic on home leave, and Abib in the field, Boubacar told me that Magueye was here to watch the center while he ferried me from Kolda. I went over to greet Magueye and saw immediately that the clinic was teeming with patients. I stuck my head in his office where he sat with a patient. I quickly said hello and we exchanged post-Ramadan greetings, casually asking each other for forgiveness. I got out of his way and headed back to Thread, passing the brand-new, all white pick-up ambulance as it was being washed. I took inventory of Thread, mostly wandering around the beautiful building and its burgeoning garden.
I looked past the building and saw recently tilled fields where corn, millet and groundnut were just beginning to sprout. I saw the cows, looking slightly fatter and happier than I had seen them two months ago, in the middle of the dry, hunger season. I saw the young boys perched on top of termite mounds, batting sticks and howling as they successfully protected their family’s field from those same hungry cows.
I thought I might find Abib out in Djelico at the primary school extension garden. Instead I found Aliou Dialo, our local ‘facilitator’ – a term used by Abib which I love and am now using. Aliou gave me a warm reception and showed me around. Things were slightly chaotic as the government is building a new classroom where the old thatch-roofed one stood, leaving bricks and piles of sand around. The women were wrapping up their final round of gardening within the school and are planning to exclusively work within the extension space, which is currently brimming with okra. They are more efficient with the new basin in place and with water in their well. The women are quickly outgrowing this space and are already asking for more! Furthermore, they are planning on collectively farming 1 hectare of groundnuts, using the same model designed and executed in Sinthian.
I met Abib back at Thread where I found him standing over the new tree nursery containing hundreds of young mango and cashew trees. He promptly took me out to see the rice cultivation project, which Moussa and Abib successfully brought to Sinthian. We drove one kilometer into the bush until it opened up into a great big field dotted with trees. Sinthian’s village chief, Mr. Kanté, was standing at the edge of a freshly tilled field watching a brand new Brazilian-made tractor moving in the near distance. Part of what is included in this project, along with seeds, fertilizer and herbicide, is 70 hectares of tractor access for only 10% of cost. It was really a moment to behold the scope of development here and I appreciated that it was happening with the local population at the forefront. This was the first time the land here was ever tilled by tractor, and both Abib and Kanté were there to ensure it was happening correctly.
Two days later, I got over to the Sinthian extension garden. It is truly one of the finest market gardens I have seen in Senegal: the beautiful layout, the interspersed moringa and mango trees, the giant bitter tomatoes, the furry carrot tops, the rows of young eggplant and the towering okra. Clearly, this was Abib’s baby.
However, shortly after we arrived, Mouro Njay shows up and Abib starts giving him directives. Abib tells me he is our Sinthian facilitator and representative for ActionAid (our partner in this project). Mourou Njay is a young adult with a very positive attitude and a strong work ethic. He also became very close with Matthias Persson during his residency and effectively played the role of artist and production assistant. It was fitting to see him working hard in the garden, finding joy and belonging in being part of our projects.
I would like to close this report by sharing with you all my excitement about our work. We have our dedicated local staff and local volunteers, strong women eager to learn how to garden and we have beautiful Thread – a space for exchange and a truly inspiring home base. Let me not forget the community health center run by Mageueye, which is in the process of receiving a makeover; new fencing that is going to expand the space, a paint job, new back-up generator, electrical work and most excitingly for those who have stayed at Thread, the replacement of the noisy nightly generator with a solar powered — and silent — battery system.”