Photo: Michael Carson (left), Community Garden President Ndeye Diop (center), CREATE! Agriculture Technician Ousmane Diallo (right)

Michael Carson’s December 2020 Trip to Senegal
By: Michael Carson, CREATE! Executive Director

After enduring the social and economic effects of the Coronavirus pandemic and the loss of my father, who passed away in early July 2020, I returned to Senegal on December 13, 2020, after nearly nine months to visit our climate action and women’s empowerment work. The trip was very emotional because I was unsure what the conditions were in the country, and how traveling to Senegal during the pandemic would look like. Nevertheless, I traveled to Senegal and was very moved by my interactions with our CREATE! staff, the women’s group leaders and members that I met with, and Senegalese friends and associates that I encountered that are struggling for economic survival due to the loss of tourism and the March-June economic shutdown caused by the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic in Senegal.

Our staff, led by our Country Director Omar Ndiaye Seck, was creative during Senegal’s lockdown, which was more stringent than our shutdown in the US and restricted travel from mid-March, when COVID-19 cases increased in Senegal until June 2020, in time for Senegal’s rainy season. With Seck and our Kaolack leadership unable to travel to Gossas, Guinguineo and Linguere Departments to oversee our projects, we relied heavily on our technicians, who live in the communities with our farmers and continued to train women’s groups that we collaborate with and monitor our activities. Seck and our Field Coordinator Amadou Diouf adopted virtual management using their cellphones to communicate with our technicians during Senegal’s shutdown.

CREATE!‘s Country Director, Omar Ndiaye Seck, shows off the soon to be successful papaya harvest.

It was amazing to finally see in person how our COVID-19 response, which consisted of providing our women’s group partners with protective masks, a handwashing station per group and training on sanitation and social distancing enabled women to continue farming despite the threat of the pandemic. It was incredible to visit our older villages like Keur Daouda and Santhie whose gardens were flourishing and moringa and papaya trees which yielding fruit, despite the intense 100F heat and Senegal’s short, three-month rainy season.

I was very inspired by the women’s group leaders that I met like Mme. Diop in Mbossedji Village, where her group has exceeded their expectations by producing large quantities of irrigated organic vegetables and a profitable poultry project that is improving their families’ nutrition and providing additional income for their families. Our Mbossedji Village women’s group vegetables are so in demand that buyers from as far as the neighboring Kaffrine Region travel over 30 miles to purchase their organic vegetables.

Ndiagne Kahone’s community garden and drip irrigation system.

The other highlight of my trip was our visit to our newest women’s group, Ndiange Kahone in Kaolack Region, who started their activities last summer. It was incredible to see the partnership between our technician Ousmane Diallo, the women’s group and their village chief Serigne Ly. Mr. Ly and the women’s group have worked very effectively and expediently with CREATE! to install their well, irrigation system, and start their community garden. It was inspiring to witness the participation and collaboration of our women’s group members in Ndiange Kahone Village.

I was honored to meet with our team at our new Kaolack office to envision and brainstorm about how we can deepen our service to women and communities in Senegal and neighboring countries. We are committed to continuing our climate action and women’s empowerment work, and sharing lessons learned with the Senegalese government and our supporters in North America and globally. We will collaborate with GlobalGiving to intensify our reforestation activities to reduce emissions, prevent desertification and restore degraded soils. Finally, we will work more with Senegal’s private sector to invest in our communities and purchase produce and chicken from our women’s group partners. Our team and I are looking forward to CREATE! embarking on our second decade of empowering women to be the drivers of change in their communities in Senegal.