Smaller Fish to Fry

I pull away the weeds slowly, so as not to damage the fragile Moringa seedling. The leaves are starting to yellow, not a good sign. I look up to the clouds, some are there, but not nearly enough. We need rain. My last blog post where I announced the beginning of the rainy season seems a bit premature now.

I often find these guys while weeding

Everyone thought the rainy season had arrived but we were mistaken. Indeed after a few short but heavy rains the water has not come back. We are going on about two weeks now without a significant rainfall. This is bad news for everyone, people, plants, and animals. My tech team(basically my bosses) stressed that I had to get seeds in the ground for my live fence projects. Well I soaked the seeds to pre-treat them and got them in the ground, expecting the rains to do the rest. Well the rains failed me, such is life. In my counterpart’s field I planted a mixture of Moringa and thorny live fence species.

The little rain we’ve gotten has germinated the Moringa reasonably well. However now as I weed the area, the leaves are yellowing and the seedlings are in desperate need of water. Everything is pointing towards me having to reseed when the real rains come. I only hope the rainy season is long enough for the trees to become well established, or this whole year might be a wash(get it? wash, rainy season😬). 

Last year it had been raining steadily for weeks by this time. The corn was growing quick in the fields. Now the shoots are in danger of perishing if we don’t get rain soon the villagers tell me. I don’t want to jump to conclusions and immediately blame climate change, after all this is my first rainy season in Koulari. Yet I recently had a conversation with my host-father that opened my eyes to how much the area has changed in the last 40 years.

Lots of wood is harvested for cooking

We were sitting(squatting) down for dinner and my host-dad Mahamadou took the lid off our dinner bowl. Inside was a bed of white rice(imported from Thailand) and three fish the size of my pinky finger. This prompted me to ask if the fish from the Gambia River had always been this size since Mahamadou moved to Koulari. He said when his father came in 1963, “There was a lot of rain, the fish was plentiful, meat was plentiful.” Population along the river has increased significantly since the sixties. It seems a confluence of factors are leading to the current lack of food. Less natural capital and shorter rainy seasons make continuing to expand the village an issue. It is a worsening cycle, as shorter rainy seasons mean less time to establish trees and rebuild natural capital. 

Our dinners have been pretty meager recently. This bowl had actual vegetables, prompting me to take a photo

Some areas are presently more affected by climate change than others. Senegal is in particular jeopardy as it sits on the fringe of the Sahara desert. Less rainfall will allow the desert to encroach Southwards and seriously affect all who live here. Efforts such as the great green wall and the work I am doing attempt to slow this desertification. I especially want to focus on Moringa propagation techniques as it a fast growing tree which is useful and drought tolerant. Perhaps next year I can start an aquaculture project in order for the villagers to raise larger fish. The prospect of writing a grant for aquaculture is intimidating, but I feel a worthwhile venture if I can find committed work-partners. Hopefully my work-partners and I can do our small part to help reforest the area.

Making a agroforestry demonstration site in the women’s garden

The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps.

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