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

Analysis: China Raises Hong Kong Rhetoric to Tiananmen Level

A front-page commentary in The People’s Daily called the current demonstrations 'chaos,' the same word Party officials used 25 years ago to describe the Tiananmen Square protests More

US Airstrikes Anger Syrian Civilians Fleeing Their Homes

Pentagon officials say they have seen no credible evidence of civilian deaths caused by US airstrikes against Islamic State militants More

Child Sexual Exploitation to Worsen in SE Asia

Southeast Asia’s planned economic integration is a key step for boosting the region’s productivity, but carries downsides as well 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.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid