The Sahel, which is derived from the Arabic word sahil, meaning "shore" or "border," is a dry savanna zone between the Sahara Desert in the north and wetter savanna zones in the south. It stretches from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Horn of Africa in the east. All of northern Senegal is within the Sahel, and aside from scattered acacia trees, there is little vegetation, especially during the dry season. Due to overgrazing by the goats and cattle of the tribal groups that live there, the Sahel is expanding, growing wider each year. As a result, more and more cropland is being lost to desertification.
The Sahel is characterized by little rainfall, averaging only between six and 20 inches (150 and 500 millimeters) per year. Most of the rain falls in the rainy season from June through October. There are cyclical periods when the Sahel experiences higher than normal rainfall. During those years, many nomadic peoples move north with the increased vegetation. However, there are also cyclical periods of drought, and devastating famines can occur when the crops and forage die from lack of moisture.
The purpose of my traveling to the Sahel of northern Senegal was to look for Sahelian species of birds that are found nowhere else. Therefore, my group spent several days walking through the dry areas looking for these birds, all of which we did find. In addition to birdwatching, we were also able to interact with some of the Wolof herdsmen who live in the area and learn about their lifestyles.
The Sine-Saloum delta is a vast labyrint of creeks and islands wich you can find in Western part of Senegal just above the Gambia.
The best way to explore the area is by boot and on foot.
This is the place to practise your fishing or to spot birds, monkeys or reptiles.
Here you find a list of(some of) the mammals you can find in Niokolo Koba National Park.
and so on
Niokolo Koba National Park is one of the biggest national parks located in West Africa, if not the biggest. Niokolo Koba is located in the South-east of Senegal along the banks of the Gambia River and has a surface of 9130 square km. In the south the park integrates the Park of Badiar and the listed Forest of Ndama located in Guinea. The gallery forests and savannahs of Niokolo-Badiar have a very rich fauna. There are about 80 species of mammal, 330 species of bird and 30 reptiles
Palmarin is great. Here you can relax on the beach and hardley see another person (apart from the people that you are staying with of course...) It is a great place to stay for a day or two, it is also very close to the larger town of Djifee.
Next follow the gifts to me and Isabelle, we both get a real African dress. Wilfried gets a sheep and Dirk a violin.
And finally Isabelle, Wilfried and I are granted honoured citizenship of Bantancountou.
I have never been so happy with any other diploma before then the one that is offered me now.
Close to 2:30 pm a big pan is brought into our cabin. Rice, onion and chicken; a fork.
Oh great! We are so hungry!
The brother of Seckou is joining us as he has a stomach disease and is dismissed to practice the Ramadam. Children and elderly also are allowed to this exception
A little later after lunch, we will have our interview with Seckou Kande.
We talk about an hour and a half : about the illage, the country, the world.
The same thoughts popping up again : these are people who think in main topics and are not bothered by details. Subjects of big congress meetings and conferences ; paper absorbing reports ; mass attention : they all swiftly pass by.
I encourage myself to ask him the straight forward question I was wondering about last night : ? What if you had the choice : electricity or a good road ? ?
Une route, bien-sur. Il faut prioritiser. Le village doit quitter l enclavement .
A road of course. You have to put your priorities. The village urges to be enclosed, get out of its isollement .
We learn he rather had studied. However he felt the responsibility to become chief of the village when his father- the previous chief - suddenly deceased.
The meeting of the village chiefs took two hours. We are now packing or stuff and people wave goodbye as we drive away.
Wilfried shares with us that the chief told him that he had have many visitors in his village already, but that “les Belges” for sure will leave an empty space when they are gone
And then, it is my turn. “Madame le maire”, Madame the mayor, is granted speech.
I read out loud the French text I had prepared during the siesta.
I start to thank them warm hearted for the hospitality, for the food and the hotel room they gave me. I describe the conversations we had. Séckou Kandé is moved and he nods his head in affirmation about me telling of the faming that might strike down over the village, about our willingness to search together for new techniques and crops, about the road that will take the village out of its isolation.
When I donate my colleague-chief the present we brought from him from our village Mortsel, I embrace him. (Afterwards I get to know this is very unusual. “Men and women never touch each other”, Wilfried informs me).
Then follows the translation of my speech in Woloff, but 5 times different.
I notice by the expression on the faces of the village chiefs I have touched the right strings.
In the main time the “public” grows: around the circle of men, a second circle is growing of women and children who very attentive are listening to the discourse.
What really is frapping is how the interpreter seems to say 5 times as much as the original sentences. A thought is narrated in many diverse manners. “This way thoughts will stick into your memory” Wilfried whispers in my ear.
We listen how the local NGO represent explains in Woloff (the local language) why the Belgians came to visit. Each time this is followed by a translation in French. We learn that they want help to start growing new crops instead of peanuts. The Imam talks about “the road, already 100 years they have been asking for a descent street.
There are some comments uttered about the functioning of the local NGO.
It is like a city council, only without papers, and with an everlasting agenda.
It strikes me how peaceful and easy this conference happens. Everyone who feels to say something is allowed to speak and to finish his saying. Each time followed by a translation.
No heated discussions or arguments here, although hard truth is not avoided and discussed and discussed
... but with an everlasting agenda.
Around 4 pm we are all seated underneath the central tree.
The chiefs are arriving one by one, taking in their place; one of them is the Imam.
Even the local governmental representative is present.
Wilfried arrives around half past four and is accompanied by the representative of the local NGO.
Then the farewell ceremony starts, it is one we will remember for a long time!
We can read the pain in his eyes that at the same time, this pain keeps him going on, motivates him.
He cannot bear the thought that his people will endure famine (Spring 2003).
Le faim c'est la limite!
Hunger is the very limit!
There is too much theory on the radio. First you have to succeed in getting to know the concrete situation of the farmers thouroughly. Only then you can work, together with them on a solution.
We have so much need on new agricultural technology, we want to grow new crops, we want to work for our own consumption and not focus on only export.
The peanuts are as a symbol.
For years it has been the most popular export-product.
Due to changes and regulation at level of the world market economy, it has let now to mountains of overstock because there is no candidate buyer. Despite the good harvest and the hard work, they lay piles lay rotting on the fields:
the globalisation problem in a nutshell.
During noon I pass by the hut of the Chief. The musicians have arrived. They will bring some ambiance during the “fare well party” of “les Belges”. There will be some dancing. We will be surprised what they have waiting for us.
We take a little rest in our room. The frog is there to witness me writing a goodbye speech, just in case it should be expected from me. I write it in my “home brewed” French.
When later on we are having our rice with onion and meat for lunch, Séckou enters.
He looks like a bit embarrassed.
The family is still mourning for the deceased of two days ago and don’t feel for any party of festivity at all.
The program has changed. No party but instead a full meeting of the village chiefs will wave us out.
Then we go for a walk into the “hood: fenced places that count each 4 to 5 huts.
It is amazing to me how little these people possess: a hut; a bed with a very thin mattress; some nice cloths; foot slippers and a little bit of furniture and things. Women and kids are walking around.
Each time, in every hut, you come across an elderly person, sitting on the edge of a bed.
Here kids grow up slowly and elderly age slowly, harmonious.
It is almost a romantically thought and I am sitting still on the bed across as I feel suddenly tears swelling up.
Maybe I have taken in and swallowed too many the past days and now I am facing the unexpected naked moment of the “reality chock”.
The worn out faced of the grandfather, the white of the eyes that turned yellowish due to too much fluor, next to him his skinny granddaughter an her baby with red hair.
Yesterday I shared my surprise with Wilfried : “there are quite some kids with almost blond hair!” But he put right with my nose upon the hard facts: that blond hair is a sign of bad health.
I remembered that during our tour through the neighbourhood this morning, I have seen many of these “blonds” kids, since that moment I had a total different perception of this colour.
“So health is declining? That’s just terrible. "
I get flashed get flashed back to yesterday’s interview with the chief and I remember the pain in his eyes when he pronounced his words “La faim c’est la limite”.
His prediction: “In January; February and March of 2003, his people will be confronted with hunger and famine”.
I quickly sweep off my tears, hoping Isabelle and Dirk didn’t notice them.
Boulevard Martin Luther King, Dakar, 1179, Senegal
Good for: Business
Avenue de la mer, Plage des cocotiers - BP 1524, Mbour, BP 1524, Senegal
Good for: Couples
BP 1810, Dakar, Senegal
Good for: Business
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