It was a pretty bad harvest season for my old village in Senegal. Rainfall was very scarce this year, and my village father has reached out to me several times for help over the last few weeks. The next few months is often known as "hungry season". It's the time when the last fall's harvest of corn and peanuts is simply running out. The mango trees won't bear fruit for another 6-8 weeks, and only then will be the next time additional food can be available.... The rough translation of my village father's letter is here:
On behalf of all the people of the village of Thiokethian we have the honor to come respectfully to you, solicit food aid in order to face the difficulties inherent in the bad rainfall of the past year.
We did everything to harvest enough food, but alas the rain was not good and practically nobody had anything.
Thank you in advance for everything you would like to do for us.
Monsieur Bocar Diallo
I'm going to try to put in a few hundred dollars, but I know that won't help too much for a whole village.
I thought I'd ask if you could add on a few more dollars.
There are times in all our lives where we work hard and spend money, and we're not really sure if it makes a difference. These friends of mine in Senegal work harder than any of us, and any money you can put into the pot will definitely make a difference.
I've asked my friend Bouna to try to gauge how much they are hoping for, but this is always an impolite question and I probably won't get a clear answer.
But I will say that every 20$-50$ buys a lot of rice, a good amount of oil and a lot of dried fish (which is a great source of protein that can be shredded down to tiny bits for all adults and kids to enjoy).
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Pregnant woman demonstrating their method of sleeping outdoors, using an existing anti-malaria mosquito net. Of the teams that put their net on an outdoor structure, this group was the only group that protected the bottom of the net by covering their sleeping mat with cloth.
Our Anti-Malaria participants, further along in setting up their methods of outdoor safe sleeping. Later in the competition and post-contest discussion, we talked about the dangers of ever using rocks to hold down the bottoms of nets. The participants agreed that rocks would likely damage the nets quickly. The teams then went on to find new, safer ways to hold down the bottom of the nets from the lifting-up effect of the wind.
Success story for this young man. Cellou Diallo is the boy on the right in the second picture from ~2001. He's now entering his final year of high school and plans to study hard to pass the exam to get into the University.
He's also one of the kids that was always always super helpful during my time in the Peace Corps and ever since.
This was the hanging system used by team Brothers of Bandafassi. It consists of a piece of thin, but sturdy bent metal attached to a segment of old tire tubing. This was the only team that invented a way to hang the nets in a way that allowed for quick attaching and detaching. I had brought carabiners (mountain climbing clip thingys) and other forms of attaching nets, just in case this wasn’t invented. But this system is better since it uses local materials and with a bit of modification, is just as effective as a carabiner. Plus, they only cost about 20-25 cents to make each one.
Team Brothers of Bandafassi staring at the effects of the wind, trying to come up with solutions. The Brothers of Bandafassi also had a duel installation, showing examples for the round nets and the box-style nets.
All teams had to deal with this, the wind. I was glad it was a windy morning, because is properly simulated the reality of outdoor sleeping.
Another group dealing with the wind factor. Again, we stressed the danger of setting up on these outdoor structures... (called dangols), since they can have sharp points that can ruin the nets. This will still be a challenge going forward. I’d like to avoid setting up a net anywhere near these structures. But the local culture almost always uses these “dangols” has outdoor sleeping spaces. Sleeping on the ground, under a scaffold would be safer for the net, but in the village, I rarely see adults sleeping on the ground at night. However, people in the villages do say the kids sleep on the ground, and it's the kids that are the most vulnerable to malaria.
More Pics from our Anti-Malaria contest.
Three women, watch the first teams start setting up. Later, these women start their own team and end up winning the competition.
Pregnant woman being the example sleeper in the design....
Always a challenge here. This group built a scaffold over a “dangol”, or commonly used outdoor structure. We emphasized the necessity of protecting the nets on these types of structures, since the ends of the bamboo-type material used can be quite sharp. These participants, protected the net from the mattress by wrapping it with a sheet, but wouldn’t usually be possible in the village. We talked about wrapping the ends of the dangol sticks with fabric, to better protect the nets, but we didn’t see a demonstration of this today.
And, of course, I had to try out some of the examples. Later, in my old Peace Corps Village, I wished I had this set up outside. The inside of the hut was like an oven.
(I apologize for not being able to load these as albums. The internet is still too slow to upload more than a few pictures an hour. I have some video too, but that would be impossible from Kedougou . I'll try to post some video in a few days, when I'm in Dakar.)
From our event: Let's find ways to safely sleep outside. Asking someone to sleep inside a hut or small home here, during the hot months, is like asking someone to go sleep in a sauna. It's a cultural norm in these villages to sleep outside until around midnight. We used this contest to get ideas from the local people on how to safely sleep outside using an existing mosquito bednet. If we can find ways to add time to sleeping under a net, we can continue to decrease the rates of malaria here.
The arduous task of loading up a bush taxi/bus. Most of the time was used by the group in front to argue about seat and baggage charges. I would have stayed to film the whole thing, but it would have been another hour. Besides, it was about 108 degrees this day, and I had no intention of being in the sun any longer. By the time they were done loading this, the baggage was piled 3 times higher than the highest bag seen here.
Some huts besides the bluffs in Bandafassi. (excuse the slighly hokey miniature effect function of the camera, it's kinda fun to use with the hut pictures now and then) This area is part of a new cultural center. They have examples of different huts, as they are made by different local tribes.