Like most things in my life recently (past 3 years) the small thought that stirred softly strangely and easily made its way into a larger, possible, plan. My 3rd year position with Peace Corps was the same.
|See the queen in the middle of the picture, my first queen bee in Senegal.|
Before I came I knew that beekeeping was a bygone area of work for Senegal. Primary work was in agriculture but with crop seed extension and making tree nurseries. Sadly beekeeping is a secondary, maybe ‘other’ project in Senegal’s Peace Corps world. While in Gambia, the small country inside of Senegal, every volunteer, all sectors, are trained on bees as beekeeping is a national commodity and is well known for it. Yes I did ask myself why I didn’t get sent to Gambia, but after visiting and hearing more and more about their president, I understood my personality would be better suited in more forgiving Senegal.
|PROFILS, near Mboro, Senegal a wonderful NGO that works in the Fatick region|
Okay back to how this all happened. In my community based training
village (also known as CBT) the first 3 months of my service I was in
Mboro, a sprawling gardening hotbed who’s vegetables feed most of the
nation. It also had a beekeeping NGO based from Belgium. The volunteer
we had living in the village knew them and arranged a meeting with the 4
trainees so I could pester them with my broken wolof trying to make it
known that I too, understood bees.
|Mamadou pointing at his hives in a cashew orchard|
Next thing I know I’m in my village, maybe a month or two in, and I need
to charge my phone as my I started having problems with my solar
charger. So I go to the next village 2 km/1 mi away as they have solar
and I was introduced to a few households over there so I could hang out
while my phone was charging. One of the kids in the house notices my bee
tattoo on my wrist and asks about it. Soon someone mentions they have
bees and honey. I asked for them to show me. Mamadou, a lovely older
man, brings me a small cup with honey and comb in it. I asked where it
was from, he said it was his. He was the first of many beekeepers I met
similarly to this. Waiting and making conversation as I’m doing my
thing, and something brings up honey, bees, or beekeepers.
|Beginning of comb at the Master Farm in Same|
I knew that the NGO I met in Mboro, trained many villages in my
sub-region (maybe around a dozen). I kept finding there beekeepers and
many who wanted me to help, work, train, learn alongside of them.
Beekeeping is very different than in the states due to the heat, bees,
amount of times you can work a hive (maybe monthly compared to the
weekly as I did in the States)
|Honey house in Sangako|
|Ibrah, Salif and Casey (former volunteer) introducing me to beekeeping brothers|
|One night of harvesting honey in Sankago|
Taking photos, notes, making calendars, asking plant names, researching
scientific nomenclature, having tools made, getting estimates on
extractors, sourcing other materials and prices were the things I did in
between my other work, when I had time or the conversation presented
|Local honey being sold in a juice shop in Kafferine|
|Store shelves of honey in Dakar|
So from very early on I knew there would be a chance of working with this NGO in a larger broader perspective. The list I made of what I wanted to do looked something like this:
-Working in the region of Fatick (possibly Casamance & Thies as needed) doing hands-on training with established and new beekeepers/farmers to improve technical beekeeping knowledge.
-Improve honey harvesting techniques and selection to improve quality and price through hands-on training and public and private honey tastings.
-Creating plant bee fodder list in local languages and identification manual to improve understanding, conservation and creation of bee habitat through seed saving and tree nurseries.
-Documenting local best practices to be shared with local, regional, country and international partners through conferences proceedings, journal articles, blog postings and other various forms of media to extend teaching to others.
-Further and strengthen partnerships with NGO’s, countries, and Universities through pollination, research and training possibilities.
In February I had a meeting in Theis and so I made my way back to Mboro to talk and lay out my proposal to the NGO. They agreed and said they would look forward closer to November in hearing more from Peace Corps.
|Fellow Senegal PCV Jessica, Gambia PCV Darrin, BeeCause DoDo, Myself and Beekeeper Saikou Nyassi. The banner is in Jola and says, “More frowning when you are working, and more smiling when you are eating!”|
Also in February I was able to attend a West African Trainer of Trainers Conference in Gambia to share, learn, and meet with other volunteers from 5 West African countries. (Facebook photo album here) Then in May, the volunteer that went with me to the Gambia conference arranged a tourney on teaching beeswax and honey based soap, hand crème and lip balm down in the Kolda region, where is known for honey and boarders Guinea who personally has some of the best tasting honey (tastes like apples and is sold quite often in Dakar) (Facebook
So after all that I had applied in May to Peace Corps Senegal with this outline. And they made decisions soon after that. Some of the positions they posted were not filled and I received a response that saying it was not approved. Sadly I was not happy with this but later found out it had to do with tightening up the programming that we have for Peace Corps in Senegal. I was very sad to hear this I will be moving on to bigger and better things.
Feel free to to check out my Facebook photo albums I linked to above as I it easier to load many photos there than here. I will also be writing and linking to the more detailed blog posts about my experiences in Gambia and with the tourney training in Kolda.