A Year in Senegal

By Peace Corps Senegal
Dec. 2, 2016

Multimedia & Communications Volunteer Leaders—Carson and Kadidiatou—have created this comprehensive multimedia overview focusing on the work and lifestyle of Peace Corps Volunteers in Senegal. Organized in calendar format, the project highlights 12 success stories (one per month), featuring volunteers from all 4 sectors (Agriculture, Agroforestry, Community Health, & Community Economic Development) and their local work partners throughout the 12 regions where Peace Corps is present in Senegal. The videos illustrate the relationships we build with our host communities, and the ways in which volunteers and Senegalese learn and benefit from one another.

January: After seeing the effects of generations of unsustainable farming activities in his region--and implementing some of those same traditional practices himself--Ibou Sarr joined the Peace Corps Master Farm Program, a network of Senegalese agriculturalists running demonstration farms throughout the country. With the help of Peace Corps Volunteers in his area, Ibou demonstrates how farmers can use appropriate, improved technologies to better support their families through increased access to grains and vegetables, and increased income through sales of cultivated produce, all while protecting and rebuilding their environment.

Febuary: If you want to raise chickens in Senegal, chances are the feed you’re buying was produced in Dakar. There are very few poultry feed factories in Senegal, all near the capital, and they provide feed to the entire country as well as some neighboring countries. Sadio Cissé a shrewd entrepreneur in the centrally-located city of Tambacounda, is keen to change this reality. He believes that it would be more convenient and cost-effective to produce his own feed using locally-sourced ingredients, and take advantage of his hometown as the crossroads between southern Senegal, Mali, and Guinea. Now, after four years and assistance from three generations of Peace Corps volunteers, his economic interest group, Aliment Oriental, is producing a feed that is lower in price, higher in quality, and more accessible than the Dakar alternatives.

March: In a society deeply divided along gender lines, Soumaye Baldé, a midwife in eastern Kolda region, believes strongly that the best way to empower future generations and close the gender power gap is through knowledge. Participating in the third annual reproductive health workshop in Kolda, she collaborated with Peace Corps Volunteer Raquel and Mbarou Camara, another health worker, to teach middle school students about puberty, safe sex, and early marriage. By providing this information, which is otherwise not taught in Senegalese public schools, they, and the other volunteers who took part, hope to encourage a generation of young people to think critically about marriage, sex, and having children -- and the ways these important decisions affect their lives and their futures. 

April: Schools should be a haven in which students are free to learn in a safe and healthy atmosphere. Unfortunately, in Senegal, many students do not enjoy this education right due to high incidence of childhood diseases, in particular malaria, and limited access to care. With this in mind, Peace Corps Volunteer Laurie, serving in the region of Kédougou, undertook a revolutionary project to help in the fight to prevent malaria, specifically targeting schools. Influenced by the active-model of PECADOM Plus, Laurie, her work partner Fall, and Dr. Elhadji Mamadou Dioukhane, Chief Medical Officer for the Region of Kédougou, devised a new program in partnership with the School Inspection Officer and school administrators from 8 schools across the city of Kédougou. In this program, teachers and administrators trained to be School-Based Care Providers (DSEs), conducted weekly “sweeps” of their schools to actively seek out sick students and diagnose and treat simple cases of malaria on the spot. 

May: Looking for a unique way to help his diabetic brother, farmer Malik Diop learned about moringa, a highly nutritious leaf from a hearty and easy-to-grow tree, from Peace Corps Volunteer Jonathan. The two sought out a small plot of land on the outskirts of Richard Toll, on which they planted more than 5,000 trees, which enjoyed a very high survival rate despite the heat and sandy conditions in the city. Every two weeks they harvest the leaves, which are then washed, dried, ground, and packaged to be sold in Malik’s sister’s tailoring shop. Unlike many moringa operations in Senegal which aim to export the rising “super food” to Europe and beyond, Malik’s focus is local, aiming to improve the health of members of his community.

June: Malnutrition in children under 5 is a persistent problem throughout Senegal. Peace Corps Volunteer Matthew has been working with Tete Aidara and the 54 members of her women’s group in the rural north to produce a highly nutritious porridge they call Chonnde Cellel, literally, “powdered health”. The group was trained in how to produce and package the porridge, made entirely from local, easy-to-find ingredients, and is educating community members on its importance in the fight against infant malnutrition and mortality. They’re now in the process of expanding their production, and starting to grow more high-nutrient ingredients to add to the recipe, such as moringa.

July: While women in Senegal often don’t have access to large land holdings, there are ways to intensify production on what’s available. Farmers Maimuna Sissokho and Coya Diallo teamed up with a Volunteer to make this happen. The two women helped their separate women’s gardens form a single collective with nearly all the women in the village, combining their land and implementing a profit-sharing system, while the Volunteer extended improved variety rice and bean seeds to them, along with sustainable techniques for production. Now, a local government organization has agreed to come to their village and buy all of the rice they produce this year, which will amount to as much as US$2,000, all going into the hands of the women themselves. 

August: Babacar Mbaye will tell you that when you plant a tree, you are giving a gift to future generations. For him, tree planting is not just about benefitting yourself--although there are financial incentives to be exploited within the lifetime of the planter--but it’s about giving back to the environment, and providing countless benefits for the children and future children of a community. Working with Peace Corps Volunteer Rhiley, the second volunteer his village has hosted, Babacar has implemented agroforestry technologies throughout his fields and his household, becoming a source of knowledge for those in his and surrounding communities. 

September: When funds were slow to come in for a much-needed Health Post renovation, community health worker Gueda Kane and Peace Corps Volunteer Mackenzie decided to “kill two birds with one stone”: teach the women of the village to make and sell soap, improving the overall hygiene of the community, and put the profits towards rebuilding the Health Post. In their remote village--more than 30 kilometers from the main road--simple items like soap can be hard to come by, especially when vendors, holding a monopoly on incoming goods, mark up the price dramatically. The two health enthusiasts used the opportunity to teach women about the importance of washing with soap, as well as teaching a skill which can earn them extra income, save them money on a necessary household item, and improve hygiene for them and their families.

October: Abdou Lahat Ndao is a Kaffrine native, and has always been interested in the development of his community. Disheartened by the overwhelming amount of litter on the streets of the city, affecting the health of people, livestock, and the environment, Abdou and Peace Corps Volunteer Stefanie created the SEN-ECOKAF SARL, a company dedicated to developing Kaffrine through trash collection and transformation, and environmental education. The program includes a garbage pick-up service (for a small fee), a recycling center which employs local women to transform the recyclable materials, and a youth initiative, which educates kids on environmental issues and involves them and other community members in community clean-up days. Trash collection began in February, 2015.

November: Like a true businessman, Marcelin Kandety DaSylva saw an opening in the market, and found a way to fill it. After completing a youth entrepreneurship class with Peace Corps Volunteer Eric, Marcelin worked with two volunteers, Patricia Mansbach and Emily Staskowicz to realize his idea for making high-quality reading glasses affordable and accessible in and around Dakar. After securing funding through the online microfinance company, Kiva, Marcelin ordered the glasses from the American NGO VisionSpring. He is now working with a women’s collective in the Dakar suburb, Keur Massar, to sell the glasses. As a medical student, Marcelin was able to train local women to administer vision tests, which they provide free of charge from their homes and shops where the glasses are sold, and profits are earned by commission.

Decemeber: After taking a look at 11 collaborative projects between Peace Corps Volunteers and their local work partners, we ask some of those same volunteers and their Senegalese counterparts to reflect on what it means to be a Volunteer in a Senegalese community, and how the relationships we build here change us--both Americans and Senegalese--in profound and lasting ways.