Thursday, February 3, 2011
Kédougou Part 1
Finally, a week after it was scheduled, my trip to Kédougou with Bioessence Labs finally took place. All together I think it could be counted as a success even though we only accomplished 1 out of the 3 tasks that we were sent to do.
1. Map the regions where the Baobob trees (picture left) are located for the Bio Certification by taking GPS points outside of fields and village areas.
2. Buy Baobob grains from the women's groups in the region
3. Build storage structures in two of the villages with which Bioessence has a partnership to protect the grains from spoiling during the rainy months.
As for #1, we actually accomplished this task, but it took the whole trip to cover the territories where the Baobob fruit is collected. Much of the terrain was accessible with our Mercedes SUV (though just barely) and then we would bushwack to get out of the village and fields for an accurate mapping of natural areas. The lead on this project was Soulaye Ndeye, a man in his 50s who works with the ministry of water and forests. He agreed to help Bioessence with this project because of his family connection to the director, and because he was also working on a project in the area; evaluating the impact of human consumption of Baobob fruit on the chimpanzee habitat (the Chimpanzee project just happens to be in collaboration with Jill Pruetz at Iowa State University). To the right is the team I worked with in the field. Here is a map of the area we were in and the villages we visited:
As for #2: We ran into some problems here because we didn't have a way to transport the grains back to Dakar and Bioessence didn't send the money to buy them. So all we were really able to do was connect with the women that had grains available and find out how much they would eventually sell to Bioessence and at what price. I also spent quite a bit of time speaking with the group presidents to find out how they felt about their current partnership with Bioessence and what they thought could be improved. One of the main things that they suggested was a system of pre-financement from Bioessence so that they could buy more Baobob fruit at the beginning of the season and also providing storage and machines that would increase their productivity and prevent the grains from spoiling in the rain.
As for #3: Even though we already have land set aside for the building sites we weren't able to start construction because the materials that were supposed to arrive with another Bioessence staff never came.
My favorite part of the trip was the day I spent in Bandefassi with the group of women that produce baobob powder and grains (seeds) as well as Fonio (a type of couscous that is very popular in the region). To the right I'm talking to the president of the group, Tacko. I could try to explain the process of converting the Baobob fruit into the powder and prepared seeds that they sell, but I'd rather show you...
There's a lot more to tell about the trip and what I learned, but this will have to do for now. I'll put up more pictures soon!