Report on my stay at Guédé Chantier from March 18 to April 12, 2018
Working in the field of sustainable development in Tunisia, I discovered REDES and its president Ousmane Pame when searching for ecovillages and permaculture practices in Sub-Saharan Africa.
I stayed for a month with the wonderful family of Ousmane at Guédé Chantier who made me immediately feel like a member of their family. Part of my activity consisted in preparing the ground for a visit of a group from the Damanhur ecovillage in Italy to Madina Fresbe, a hamlet which is close to Guede, where a number of women have a garden which is managed according agro-ecological principles. The field around this garden was fenced and planted with fruit trees by us in order to protect it from the ravages of goats and sheep.
Another important activity of mine was contributing to the planning of a future ecovillage hub at Lahel, a place a little bit over three quarters of an hour from Guédé, which will include, among other things, an education center, a permaculture demonstration site, eco-buildings, and a local seed bank. This hub comprises 35 ecovillages in Senegal and in Mauritania, which makes it a cross-border project as well, quite important due to the fact that families are often separated by the border between the two countries. Both nations are affected by the same ecological problems (such as in particular desertification), socio-economic difficulties (rural exodus, the loss of food sovereignty and an exorbitant rise in the cost of input resources for agriculture).
I spent most of my time during my trip at Guédé itself, which is a calm and pleasant place to be. In contrast to other villages in the region, Guédé is nicely green, planted with trees alongside the streets, and possessing a community garden as well which has trees for food production and others which help to create a wonderful microclimate even during the hottest months. But be careful – one shouldn’t go there alone, because if you get too close to the beehives, you’ll be in a risky spot since African bees, while more productive, are also a lot more aggressive than their European counterparts!
During my stay, I was also able to participate in food processing activities, enabling the local women to better store and sell their vegetables, which is one of the approaches for helping to produce income for the women in the village. This method also helps to contribute to a healthier and more diversified nutrition as well as an increased food sovereignty for the local people.
I also had the possibility to visit several primary schools in the region, who have either already started, or plan to start in the near future, projects for their own gardens which will provide healthy food in their canteens. They’ll also help to teach children how to be able to manage a garden and ecosystems, and learn about natural food. I enjoyed a lot animating a waste collection action with the children on their schoolyard one day! The enthusiasm of the children gives such hope, and with good leadership and by granting them appropriate responsibility, the young generation will be able to be the ecologists of tomorrow!