News / Africa

Senegalese Children Combat Desertification

Villagers gather in front of a dam near the village of Labgar in northern Senegal on 12 Nov 2009. There is little to show for it apart from small acacia shrubs, but Senegal's leader believes in a Great Green Wall that will stem desertification across Afri
Villagers gather in front of a dam near the village of Labgar in northern Senegal on 12 Nov 2009. There is little to show for it apart from small acacia shrubs, but Senegal's leader believes in a Great Green Wall that will stem desertification across Afri

Multimedia

Audio
Anne Look

Northern Senegal is on the front lines of the fight against desertification. Teachers are enlisting children to protect their village from the advancing Sahara.

The children in this classroom are not reviewing grammar. They are learning how to identify biodegradable garbage, how to make compost, and how to water the trees they have planted in the schoolyard.

It's part of the "eco-school" program in Guédé-Chantier, a village in Senegal's Fouta region along the country's border with Mauritania.

This once fertile river valley is on the front lines of Senegal's fight against desertification. Rivers are drying up, grazing land for cattle is scarce, and the dry soil is hard to farm.

Scientists blame climate change and poor farming practices for the desert's advance.

A teacher shows a student how to tend a newly planted tree
A teacher shows a student how to tend a newly planted tree


Elementary school principal Oumar Sow is director of the eco-school program in Guédé-Chantier.  He says farming methods in the village have to change.

Each year, he says there is a drop in the harvest. He says the soil is worn out, partially due to poor crop rotation.  For decades, he says, we have just grown rice and tomatoes, rice and tomatoes.

At the U.N. climate change summit in Copenhagen last year, Senegal's president, Abdoulaye Wade, stressed the importance of planting the "Great Green Wall," a 15-kilometer-wide barrier of trees that would cross 11 countries and halt the spread of the Sahara.

But progress has been slow, and Guédé-Chantier has taken matters into its own hands.

Teachers in the village have been mobilizing children in the fight against the desert's onslaught. Now, small trees dot the once barren schoolyard of a village elementary school, along with special trash cans for biodegradable waste.

As boys water the school's trees, a teacher gives them tips. Children are also encouraged to plant trees at home and teach their families how to compost. Prizes are given for planting the most trees and picking up the largest number of plastic bags.

Program director Sow says this "show, don't tell" philosophy is key to the program's success.

He says he tells his students that they should use manure, which feeds the plants, but does not stop there. That is just theory, he says.  He says he has to go out to garden with them.  He then adds that they spread the manure and watch the plants grow with nothing but the manure.

The hands-on strategy is also applied to "field schools" for adults already working the land.

But Sow says it's difficult to get adults to change, for example, to stop using pesticides on their tomatoes and other crops, which he says is a persistent problem in the village.  He explains that in the long term, chemicals wear out the land, kill animals and cause skin irritations in humans.  

Sow says he would go as far as to say that it is impossible to teach adults. But with children, he says, once they learn something, it can become a reflex.

Watching a man spray insecticides in a tomato field outside the village Aliou Sow, 12, frowned and said he wished farmers understood the damage many are doing.

He says that we need to protect the earth because this land belongs to us as villagers and as Africans.  

Aliou says one day maybe he will be farming these fields. "Eco-school" teachers are counting on it.

You May Like

HRW: Egypt's Trial of Morsi ‘Badly Flawed’

Human Rights Watch says former Egypt leader's detention without charge for more than three weeks after his removal from office violated Egyptian law; government rejects criticism More

Photogallery Lancet Report Calls for Major Investment in Surgery

In its report published by The Lancet, panel of experts says people are dying from conditions easily treated in the operating room such as hernia, appendicitis, obstructed labor, and serious fractures More

Music Industry Under Sway of Digital Revolution

Millions of people in every corner of the Earth now can enjoy a vast variety and quantity of music in a way that has never before been possible More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs