I just spent the last 16 days in Kédougou on a mission for Bioessence to continue preparing for organic certification- something that requires a level of organization and equipping that has been relatively nonexistent up to this point. Along with a team of 5 others from Bioessence we were also sent to build two stocking containers and negotiate the purchasing of baobab grains from villages to be sent back to Dakar on the truck that came charged with the building materials. It was a mission filled with many unexpected challenges and complications, and for that it became lovingly known to us all as “Mission Impossible”
There was sweat, blood, frustration, confusion, yelling and even some tears, but just as Tom Cruise never fails to do, we accomplished our mission (more or less) and survived to tell the story.
1. To construct two stocking containers (one in Bandafassi one in Ebarak) to protect Baobab grains and other Bioessence products from the environment and from contamination.
2. To purchase Baobab grains from the villages in the area and load them onto the truck to be driven back to the factory in Dakar where they will be pressed to obtain the oil used in their cosmetics.
3. To collect necessary information about current working conditions in the villages in order to prepare for obtaining organic certification. Also to devise an organizational structure to facilitate and legitimize the relationship Bioessence has with the producers in rural areas.
Vieux (left) was with us to put together the structures for Ebarak and Bandafassi. Assane (right) was sort of the operational leader for our team. Some of my fondest memories of the trip I shared with Assane, repeatedly going over the financial deficiencies and logistical problems we faced..
Basse Mboup: By profession he is a driver, but by birthright he is a Griot ( the caste of Senegalese society that are story tellers and musicians). Even though the caste system is no longer dominant in Senegalese culture, Basse fulfilled his family tradition and provided a much needed comic relief to some more tense situations.
Gallo the truck driver and mechanic. We also started calling him Bébé Gaté (spoiled baby) because he pretty much did whatever he wanted and slept way past when everyone was up and ready to begin working.
Oumar was also along for construction of the storage buildings. He was no d oubt the quietest member of our group, but also the hardest worker, never complaining or showing anything but a smile as he carried out manual labor in the heat of the day and late into the night.
Kédougou in April is hot, very hot and dry. The temperature reaches 107 degrees midday and cools off to about 75 degrees overnight. The dryness is at its peak and everyone is waiting in anticipation for the long rainy season which runs from mid may until October. Kédougou itself has typically had reliable electricity but just recently there have been long blackouts lasting most of the day or several days even. This has made the heat even more intolerable with out the use of fans or refrigerators to provide cold water.
Village of Ebarak
*More pictures are available to see under "Photo Albums" on the right side bar.
To be continued....