We'll keep you informed about our progress in Senegal. In the
village of Taiba Ndao, there's another small story worth telling:
With The Institute's help, women in the village started a cooperative
dry season garden with thicket fencing to keep animals out and
a cistern for water. The garden has had a profound impact on
nutrition and quality of life. During the dry season, which
lasts eight months, most of the men in the village are working
in the capital, Dakar. Before the garden, women and children
at mostly millet, peanuts and cowpeas grown during the wet season.
The nearest market town was a 30-minute walk away, and individual
families had no access to water for gardensor the time
and energy to do it. Now, with the garden worked collectively,
children have fresh vegetables to eat, and the garden actually
generates cash income for the villagers, who sell excess produce
to neighboring villages. We'll tell you more about this dry
season venture at a later date.
Have you done any traveling yourself? Share your agricultural
observations with us.
|My name is Dale Rachmeler and I am
the new international programs manager for the Rodale Institute. I
have spent my entire professional life living in French speaking African
countries working as an agricultural specialist for the US Agency
for International Development. I have lived in the Ivory Coast, Burkina
Faso, Niger, Madagascar and Morocco beginning in 1973. My new post
in Kutztown, Pa is my first professional position in the US and I
am still adjusting.
In June 2002, I visited Senegal to look at Rodales work there
that began 13 years ago and is ongoing. Stepping off the plane in
Dakar, the heat from the tarmac flew up at me in such a manner as
if to say welcome back to West Africa. I was instantly back at home
and the sense of familiarity made me feel like this is turf I know
Rodales activities in Senegal directly touch rural farm families
in a way that provides hope that the future will be brighter than
the past. In the rural setting of West Africa, there are few technologies
that can directly improve the quality of life for farm families that
do not cost an arm and a leg and that are easily implemented given
the resources that farmers have. But where technology is not available,
knowledge can perform miracles. I'm talking about the knowledge that
will allow farm families to improve soil fertility in a country where
the lack of fertile soils is a considerable constraint to sustainable
The most important gift a parent can give his children is land that
is more fertile for them than it was for his parents. This is easy
to say but harder to do. In Senegal, Rodale has begun to provide the
knowledge that will make it possible for farmers to build soil healthsimple
techniques such as composting and rotations. When you see huge productivity
increases as a result of using these regenerative agricultural techniques,
an enormous sense of pride and accomplishment rushes over you.
Senegal is a land of the Baobab trees, those gigantic living entities
that stud the landscape. The Baobab tree looks like someone up-rooted
a giant tree, turned it upside down and reinserted it back into the
ground with its roots in the air. Now imagine that the diameter of
the trunk is 30 feet! What a marvel to see. With their massive trunks,
crooked branches and furry fruit, baobabs have learned how to adapt
to a dry and hostile environment. They have no branches on the lower
part of their smooth, silvery trunks, making them difficult to climb.
Instead a spray of twisted boughs sprouts from the top of the trunk,
looking like the unkempt hair of a cartoon character.
The secret of the baobab's success in surviving in harsh environments
and the reason for its massive trunk is that it has little wood fiber
but a large water storage capacity. Each tree can hold up to 300 liters
of water, enabling it to live through long periods without rain. Their
life cycle is as impressive as their bulk - most live over 500 years
and some specimens in Africa are believed to be up to 5000 years old.
The Rodale Institute has the opportunity to create the first regenerative
agriculture learning center in West Africa in Notto, Senegal in the
west central portion of the traditional peanut growing region. As
you look upon the five hectares of land that has been reserved for
us by the villages surrounding the site you see those sentinels of
nature protruding from the dry hard baked ground. It is if they are
beckoning us to be their neighbors and invest in the land. Some day
in the near future we will combine their presence with that of smiling
men and women armed with a new hope and a new understanding of how
to regenerate their land.