“We all have our battles. Mine is deforestation. Here in Boki Diawe, one man is amassing a small army of trees. A glimmer of hope it may be, but it takes many victories to win a war.”
My friend, Adama Diawara, has created this tree nursery project in my road town. He’s been working on it for years, little by little- filling more tree sacks, improving his shade structure, securing his fencing, sourcing a variety of seeds from wherever he can come across them. He’s growing all kinds of fruit trees, shade trees, and ornamentals- species I never had access to. Adama understands the importance of reforesting the Fouta, and the world. He has seen how trees can protect the soils, cool air temperatures, and improve the conditions of people living in arid areas like northern Senegal.
This nursery is particularly glorious to me. The tree sacks are lined up neatly in countable rows and set inside cinderblock barriers so they don’t fall over. In my experience working with folks here, tree nurseries are too often nebulous clusters of arbitrarily filled bags, thrown together in a uncountable, heaping, toppling, pile of chaos and hemorrhaging soil media… Each tree sack is an opportunity, a future tree if you will. And I cannot tell you how many future forests have gone by the wayside, destroyed black sacks taken by the wind and left to decay and burn off in the bush. You won’t see one such opportunity wasted here. Adama knows how valuable tree sacks are, for he struggles to come across them.
This nursery remains at Adama’s house, but he has another smaller display of trees for sale out on the main road across from the agricultural store. What he needs now is a little marketing and a big push to help northern Senegal increase tree culture. How do we get more people interested and actively embracing tree-planting culture?
Since my somewhat recent increase in exploration of the region of Matam, I’ve begun to tap into an underground network. I’ve traveled to villages, met with farmers, and seen handfuls of projects. Folks who are motivated and seek out information, innovation, and resources tend to be connected to each other through their work and interests. For example, Adama told me of his travels to Kolda for a training on banana propagation. He went with the Master Farmer from Kanel who has also started to propagate his own bananas. I just recently visited Kanel and got to see the banana nursery. I hope to play a role in increasing and developing this network and linking some of my counterparts in my village to this progressive, forward thinking community.
Forestry isn’t Adama’s only interest however. On the left is a prototype cook stove designed to use organic material- manure, grass, sticks, leaves, etc- to create fuel for cooking. On the right is a dairy cow from France that produces more milk than the varieties that are herded here in Senegal. Herding practices in Senegal are not conducive for raising high-milk producing dairy cattle from Europe and the Americas as these animals do not adapt well to intense heat and going long stretches through the bush without fresh grass and water. But he’s giving it an honest try and succeeding with cut-and-carry methods. Before Adama started growing trees, he was a metalworker and has created a ton of various chairs and objects. The man is a jack of all trades so to speak and we could all stand to be a little more just like him.