Food Security in Kolda, Senegal
Organized by: Jim Courtright
Food security is one of the biggest challenges facing Africa, especially the Sahel, in this century. As the Sahara Desert moves south and populations continue to grow more experts are asking: what will these new people eat, and if there isn’t enough to eat, what kind of instability could that cause?
Enter Mamadou Charifou Diallo (Charifou) an experienced and motivated farmer who lives in the Gadapara neighborhood of Kolda, Senegal. Since the 1980s Charifou, along with young men in the neighborhood, have been farming in and around Kolda for a living. He has grown pretty much everything that grows in Senegal and has worked with a number of NGOs as a student and a teacher. He is a community leader, volunteering at the local health post and leading the parent teacher association at the primary school. But first and foremost, Charifou is a farmer.
When I met Charifou and his family a year ago, their output was at an all time low. I learnt that a few years ago Charifou had been in a car accident and had broken his leg – a disability that forced him sit out a few agricultural seasons. With the help of another Peace Corps volunteer, Jenny Cobb, he had just started a tree nursery and wanted to start working his land again. From the start it was clear to both Jenny and I that he was different than many of the farmers we had previously worked with. He is open to crazy new ideas and has an incredible work ethic.
While the work of getting going was not going to be easy, over the last year Charifou and his sons have started to turn his barren land into a verdant garden. They started a small permacultured banana grove and pineapple field in addition to planting some mango, citrus and papaya trees. Vegetables and herbs cultivated, sold, and eaten include hot peppers, eggplant, hibiscus, basil, corn, cucumbers, salad, okra, mint and basil. At the moment Charifou is harvesting hot pepper, hibiscus and okra, and the cucumbers and tomatoes have started to produce their first fruit. The mango season is over, but the pineapples are just weeks away from harvest.
Charifou has big plans for the future too. In this rainy season he will plant more bananas and sweet potatoes to create a microclimate that will help them survive the hot dry season. The pineapple production will increase, particularly with intercropping with papaya. A few days ago they out planted around 50 heads of eggplant into the hot pepper bed. This week they will built some cassava mounds and transplant thirty stalks. Charifou has started selling vegetable and tree starts to supplement his income from the produce.
Charifou and his family have invested virtually everything into their land and they have been rewarded…to a degree. Their efforts could be much more productive with some basic infrastructure and tools. He already has a strong fence which he built from tree branches and two functioning wells; with 1,150 US$ it would be possible to build a large permanent shed and buy much needed tools.
As it stands Charifou has only one pickaxe, one shovel, two watering cans and two hoes for himself and his four sons and nephews. The lack of tools curtails work productivity--having to trade off using the pickaxe while digging garden beds or trading off hoes while trying to keep the weeds down in the rainy season slows everything. With 70$ it would be possible to buy three more watering cans, two more shovels, two more pickaxes, and a pulley, rope and bucket for the well. These basic tools would really help Charifou and his team become more efficient and expand production.
The tool shed would serve two functions – as a place to store tools and as a deterrent to the thieves, who have been a problem in the past. Currently Charifou has to haul what few tools he has from his house to the field; the multiple trips for tools wastes time and, in this case, time is money. Improved efficiency would make it possible to expand nursery space and spend more time carrying for what is already in the ground. That said, it is the issue of thievery that worries Charifou the most. Twice he has caught women stealing citrus fruits off his trees and many times found his corn already harvested by children. He used to leave some tools at the field until one day the rope and bucket were missing; crops could not be watered until another was bought. He is reluctant to increase production while thieves are still a worry. A tool shed would deter potential thieves by making them think someone might be there, which indeed may be the case as with a covered tool shed Charifou or his sons could stay the night at the field.
Contributions to this project would be much appreciated. The total project sum is 1,150 US$, or 676,900 CFA. The tool shed accounts for 1080$ of the project, and the tools 70$. The tool shed will be a four by two meter (12 by 6 ft) brick building with a strong door, a window, and a metal roof. While bricks and a metal roof are more expensive than a hut, the building will be significantly more permanent. Charifou aims to have the building finished within a month of reaching our funding total. Ideally the money would be raised by the end of the rainy season in September so construction can be finished by the end of October. Contributors can have something written into a brick for the tool shed wall. The tools will be purchased in Kolda as soon as the funding total is reached. Thank you so much for your generosity.