Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Latest from Senegal- read all about it!

A little more than two months till my departure, I’m really in the last leg of this journey. The first few months I was here were a scramble to find my footing, adjust to the culture and gather information. The second leg was a cross between developing and establishing my project at work while at the same time jumping between visitors and vacation days/weeks… Now that all my visitors have come and gone and now that I have a good grasp on life and work in Dakar, my last leg will be focused on making things happen- using what I’ve learned to get the project for Fair Trade up and running and to a point where I feel comfortable stepping away or handing it over. Same goes for my work at Bioessence. Here’s the news from both the Beyond Fair Trade Initiative and Bioessence Laboratories.


NEW INTERN: From July to the end of August, a Bulgarian student from UCLA came to Dakar to work with me on the Fair Trade project. Hristo Marokov’s experience with project development and insight into the factors hindering economic growth in Senegal helped immensely during his short stay and he continues to work with me from California. It was so wonderful to have someone to bounce ideas off of and I only wish he didn’t have to leave to go back to school!

NEW WEBSITE: Hristo took on the task of creating a new website specifically for the Beyond Fair Trade Initiative so that all our work, proposals and research could be easily accessible to interested partners! We are continually updating this website in French and English and it’s a great place to visit if you want more details about the development of this project! Visit:

GLOBAL GREENS CONGRESS 2012: To launch the concept of fair trade cooperatives as a method for adding value to agricultural production in Senegal, Earth Rights Institute will be leading a 2 day workshop during the annual Global Greens Conference in March 2012! This annual conference assembles members from different Green parties world wide and they will be holding the congress in Dakar this coming year. Because of ERIs work with sustainable economic trade systems, the planning committee was interested in Beyond Fair Trade playing a key role in the event.

We will be inviting representatives from Ecovillages to present their expectations for fair trade between villages, representatives from several different non-governmental organizations, and from the National Ecovillage Agency of Senegal. Through discussions and presentations we will be developing ideas that will help producers to work together through community led cooperatives. This is a great opportunity for us to launch the Beyond Fair Trade project and attract support from other international actors that will be attending the conference! More information about the conference is available here:


ORGANIC CERTIFICATION APPROVED: This month Ecocert approved Bioessence laboratories for organic certification of Baobab fruit!! Since my last trip to Kédougou for the organic certification inspection I really haven’t been too involved. Mame Khary Diene (director of Bioessence) returned from France about a month ago with her new baby girl and has been pretty preoccupied with being a new mother. In Kédougou, it’s still mid rainy season which makes working there pretty difficult, and traveling there even more difficult. There’s still a lot of follow up to assure that Bioessence is ready for any later inspection from Ecocert, but the hardest part is done. Now its just assuring that all the procedures and training that we developed are put into practice!

VIDEO: In 2008, Mame Khary Diene won the Cartier Women’s Initiative Award for the most influential new business in Africa- Bioessence Laboratories. Now in 2011, Cartier came to Senegal to follow up on her progress. When I was in Kédougou in May, a French camera man came to film the women in action and now the film is available to watch on youtube (sorry its only in French…) here:

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Tribute to the brave souls

A lot has happened since I last wrote, and I promise to get caught up eventually, but first I wanted to write this blog as a tribute to the brave souls who came to visit me over the summer! Daniel Pluth, Tom and Karen Casavant, Libby Casavant and Megan Cochrane.

I’ve often thought how much I like living in Dakar, except for the fact that its so far away from all the people I love and wish I could be close to, but aside from the obvious joy it brought me to see friends and family after being apart for 6 months, there were a few other thing I gained from the experience:

First, I get to revisit and hone my skills as an adventure tour guide. You have just to ask one of my visitors to confirm that visiting Senegal is different than your average vacation- I guarantee they each have their own horrifying survival story to tell. Its actually crossed my mind that I could make good money organizing tours in Senegal now that I have the connections and experience. The tagline would read something like: “Have your African Adventure- horrifying bus ride included at no extra charge!”

Second, I have become an excellent translator! Each of my visitors made a valiant effort to speak both French and Wolof while they were here, but there was some translating needed. In conversations with my friends and host family, I really enjoyed being able to bridge the communication gap and in doing so bridge the space between my life in the US and my life in Senegal! I love that now, when I’m missing someone from home, I can talk to my Senegalese friends about it and they actually know who I’m talking about! Vise versa, when I return to the US it will be so nice to have some people that understand who and what I’m missing back in Senegal.

Finally, the great thing about having guests is that you have an obligation to visit and do all the interesting and touristy things that you might not do on your own time. Having four different guests really pushed me discover new areas of Dakar and Senegal.

Like the hidden waterfalls of Ségu

the birds-eye view of Dakar from the fez atop the largest copper man in the world (Statue de la Renaissance)

the wildlife preserve isle de la Madeline via the dodgiest boat ride I’ve ever had

and an island in the Sine Saloum where Muslims, Animists and Christians live together as harmoniously as the sacred Baobab which has literally become one with two trees!

Each one of these things I can honestly say I would not have done if I hadn’t had such adventurous and adaptable guests! Thank you all for coming to visit!!!