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

Video China Investigates Powerful Former Security Chief

Analysts say move by President Xi is an effort to win more party support, take step toward economic reforms, removing those who would stand in way of change More

South Africa Land Reforms Still Contentious 20 Years Later

Activists argue that the pace of land reform is slow and biased; legal experts question how some proposed reforms would be implemented More

In Vietnam, Religious Freedoms Violated, UN Finds

Beliefs reportedly prompt heavy surveillance, intimidation and travel restrictions 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.
Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelteri
X
Scott Bobb
July 30, 2014 8:16 PM
Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video A Summer Camp for All the World

VIDEO: During workshops and social gatherings, the Global Youth Village summer camp encourages young people to cooperate and embrace their differences, while learning to communicate with people from other countries. VOA's Deborah Block has more.
Video

Video From Cantankerous Warlock to Incorruptible Priest, 'Harry Potter' Actor Embraces Diverse Roles

He’s perhaps best known as Mad Eye Moody, the whimsical wizard in the Harry Potter franchise. But character actor Brendan Gleeson's resume includes dozens of films, and he embraces all the characters he inhabits with equal passion. In an interview with VOA’s Penelope Poulou, Gleeson discussed his new drama "Calvary" and his secret to success.

AppleAndroid