Posted by: reapcanadainternblog | March 28, 2013

I am in Wack Ngouna, Sénégal.

Wack Ngouna (pronounced wak-in-goona) is over 200 km southeast from Dakar, the capital city of Senegal.

It is home to CLCOP (Cadre Local de Concertation des Organisations de Producteurs), our local partner community organization. It is in the central region of Senegal – Saloum region, also known as the Peanut Basin – sandwiched between the Sudano-Sahelien and Guinean Rainforest climate (fancy way to say that they have one dry and one rainy season).

We are currently in dry season and everything is burning hot under the scorching sun and Harmattan winds. The animals are out free ranging – scavenging anything they can to survive during the dry season. The streets are heavily littered with dungs and plastics all over the place.

The most (in)visible sign of landscape is the lack of trees. Deforestation is one of the main concerns in the region since firewood is still extensively used for cooking.

One of our work mandates is to help reduce fuelwood consumption and improve household energy security in the region. We have introduced energy-efficient cookstoves and agro-forestry as part of the ongoing efforts to slowdown (and hopefully reverse) the deforestation rate. We try, Inchalla!

wack ngouna

Pic. 1. Welcome to Wack Ngouna

fuelwood_boy 1

Pic. 2. Fuel wood gathering

Wack ngouna_village 1

Pic. 3. Wack Ngouna village compounds

Cows and baobab

Pic. 4. Village cow herds

*Photo credit: Sung Kyu Kim

Posted by: reapcanadainternblog | January 21, 2013

Farming in West Africa: A Step Back in Time

Written by: Denika Piggott

In many ways stepping into West Africa is like stepping back in time. As a child growing up on a farm, my grandfather always told me stories about the “good old days” when there were no tractors to plow and plant the fields, where farm animals played a crucial part in farm labour, and where farms supported a diverse variety of crops to feed the family. Exploring farming techniques across The Gambia and Senegal allowed me to fully understand my grandfather’s stories of farming during his upbringing. As the Ecological Agricultural Intern I had the pleasure in working with many farmers to learn the agricultural methods practiced in rural communities across these beautiful countries. 

Village girls helping hoe the Millet feilds

Village girls helping hoe the Millet feilds

Here in North America, our farmers rely heavily on mechanical and chemical input for all farm operations. West Africa differs in that mechanical machinery is uncommon making farmers rely mostly on animal power and human labour for farm operations. Fields are small with a devise variety of commercial crops where strip cropping, intercropping, and minimum pesticides use is widely practiced. Most of the equipment used on the farm is locally crafted with minimal moving parts allowing for low maintenance and ease of operation. Farm inputs such as fertilizer, pesticides and irrigation are minimal, as they tend to be expensive and/or unavailable.


A Gambian woman carring rice seedings on her head to the rice paddies.

A Gambian woman carring rice seedings on her head to the rice paddies.


Another differing factor is the climatic seasons.  During the months of June to November, West Africa enters their rainy season when field crops and rice paddies are planted. The main cash crop of The Gambia is groundnuts, however there are other widely grown crops including, millet, corn (maize), beans, sorghum, and rice. There are some speciality crops such as tobacco, cotton, and findi grown in certain areas of the country. Fruit crops are also common and a commercial viable option for farmers, however the initial financial investment is usually too expensive for the common farmer. Market prices for field crops have fell in the last decade making it harder and harder for farmers to sustain their families on farming alone. It is critical for rural farmers to grow enough food to feed their family as well as producing enough to be sold to the market. 

A rural farmer showing his groundnuts

A rural farmer showing his groundnuts


 To efficiently run a farming operation, both men and woman must contribute to agricultural activities on the farm. During the field crop season, the man and boys work on the fields with the animals while the woman work in the rice fields. Young boys and girls in a rural community begin to learn from an early age the farm dynamics and operations. It is common for the elder boys within the family to look after a horse, mule or donkey and be responsible for plowing and planting with this animal. The farm as a whole runs by inputs from the communal family unit to ensure food security and the sustainable productivity of the farming system.



Elder boys working the field while the younger boys learn how it is done

Elder boys working the field while the younger boys learn how it is done

As I return back to Canada, I look forward in sharing the many stories, experiences and pictures I have created during my internship in The Gambia with my father and grandfather and hopefully, incorporating a few farming techniques back into our family farm.

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