$979.83: September 2015 – Alicia E. Gray (Senegal, 2014-Present)

Welcome to Thilambol, a small Pulaar village in northern Senegal, in a region known as the Fouta. Located on semi-arid Sahelian grassland, south of the Senegal River, and currently facing the overwhelming effects of desertification.

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[Photo 1. An Acacia tortillis, “Chilooki” in Pulaar, still alive despite the severely eroded soils revealing its roots along this river bed in Thilambol]

In June 2015, Thilambol Peace Corps Volunteer, Alicia Gray and Primary School Director, Hady Niang were invited to hold an environmental discussion at Ngui primary school (a near-by village). The mention of one word, “taarindi” (the environment as a whole in Puular) by Gray, brought attention to the lack of knowledge among the primary school children of the Fouta environment. After this informative dialogue with the Ngui children, Niang and Gray were inspired to begin an environmental after-school program at their primary school.

The goal of this project was three-fold: increase access to sustainable agricultural technologies, increase food production, and improve access to nutritious foods within Thilambol. It serves multiple audiences, through the sensitization of the school children, community members, and local work partners in environmental and ecological practices. The program will include an after school curriculum of bi-weekly hands-on environmental activities, and a monthly agricultural training (including Fouta ecosystem-related Agroforestry and sustainable gardening techniques). The new well will bring much needed water to this community.

Intended to benefit both the students and the community, the objectives of the Thilambol Primary School Environmental Education Program (TPSEEP) are as follows, (1) to provide a multipurpose garden space for the primary school children to learn about the environment, (2) to practice sustainable gardening techniques, and (3) to increase access to nutritious food within the community. One half of the garden space is designated to the TPSEEP, while the remaining the space is assigned to the women of Thilambol for a community garden space. 

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[Figure 1. Google satellite imagery and map of Thilambol, a transitional ecosystem between the hot and dry desert to the north and lush rain forest to the south]

Funded by Connecticut Returned Peace Corps Volunteers in September 2015, TPSEEP commenced with an environmental sensitization and climate change discussion among 55 Thilambol primary school children, local UNESCO climate change educator Aminata Sy, Gray, and Niang late October.

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[Photo 2. Alicia Gray and Thilambol primary school children on October 30, 2015, the initial environmental discussion]

The goal of the first meeting was to introduce the program to the children, to discuss the changing environmental conditions of the Fouta, and to come up with some basic solutions to reduce the change at an individual-level.

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[Photo 3. Hady Niang and Aminata Sy during the initial meeting of TPSEEP on October 30, 2015]

Deforestation for housing development and cooking wood, uncontrolled overgrazing, intensified agriculture, coupled with the prolonged drought has resulted in severe sand storms, soil erosion, and an increase in temperature over the past 30 years.

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[Photo 4. Sand storm approaching Thilambol]

Aimed at starting a conversation among the children and the elders in their homes about the visible environmental degredation, the initial meeting closed with this question for the children, “Go home and ask someone older than 60 years, what they have seen change in the environment in Fouta since they were as young as you are now?”

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[Photo 5. Livestock overgrazing the Thilambol Rice fields]

The second meeting began by reviewing some of the answers the children came up with. The responses were quite interesting and are displayed in the picture below.

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[Photo 6. English translation 1. More trees 2. More grasses 3. More Rain 4. The environment was prettier 5. There were fewer households 6. Rice was not here]

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