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 Indiana Controversy Points to Divergent Notions of Religious Freedom

Gay-marriage opponents are looking for ways to maintain their beliefs in face of changing culture, one writer says More

UNICEF Denies North Korean Measles Outbreak

Agency dismisses Russian media report after government, WHO assurances More

Turkey Seen Taking Harder Stance Against Militant Kurds

Stance comes as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is being seen as moving closer to generals 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.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More