Friday, March 16, 2012

The Enclosure Movement

On Monday we held a live fencing training at the master farm in Fas Toucaleur. For those of you unfamiliar with development-speak, live fencing has nothing to do with sword duels, but rather is the practice of planting thorny or non-palatable trees along the edges of a field at close spacing and pruning them regularly in order to create a barrier to animals entering the field – basically, a hedge. Livestock roam free in most of Senegal during the dry season, and especially enjoy munching on garden vegetables or newly outplanted fruit trees. So, the first step for a farmer who wants to grow these things, or manioc, a profitable dry-season crop, is protection for the field.

Some people build fences out of dead wood and thorny branches around their field –“dead fencing” in Peace Corps lingo. While this is effective at blocking animals from entering fields, it requires cutting wood from trees elsewhere, which contributes to deforestation. Moreover, dead fencing does not last very long; it falls apart during rainy season inundations or is eaten by termites and thus requires a lot of labor to maintain.

We invited 14 residents of Fas Toucaleur who already have manioc fields with dead fencing to our training to learn about live fencing, which, although it takes a good deal of work to establish, in the long run should save them time and effort. Fas Toucaleur is unique in my area for having so many fenced-in fields. Only two people in my own village Sama Ndiayen have fenced their fields. I asked my host father why, and he said that people in our village are just lazier than the Pulaars in Fas Toucaleur. Another possible reason is that there is a tradition of growing manioc in Fas but not in Sama, and manioc requires protection. I also get the sense that more young men leave Sama during the dry season to work in the cities, so there is less labor available. Anyway, we hoped that by inviting only farmers with dead fencing to the training, we would be focusing on a group that has motivation to establish live fencing and the means to protect their fences through their first year after outplanting (although the live fence will eventually protect itself).

In preparation for the training, we printed up invitations about two weeks ahead of time and gave them to each household with a dead fence in Fas, as well as to a few friends of mine from other villages. In all, there were 23 Senegalese invitees. We also invited other PCVs in my region to come and bring farmers from their villages, and we invited the PC agroferestry PTA, Cherif Djite, who has a lot of experience in growing trees during his previous career at the government forestry agency, Eaux et Foret. The day before the training I went to Kaolack to buy 10kg of vegetables,17 kg rice, and 4.5 L oil for the lunch. Five chickens and tea supplies were bought locally. Any good NGO- or Peace Corps-funded training in Senegal requires a fancy lunch and tea; it’s just expected.

We invited participants to arrive at nine, hoping that they would show up by ten. I thought that in my year and a half here I had become accustomed to Senegalese tardiness and that an hour-long buffer would be enough. As it turned out, the bulk of participants showed up after 10:30 and by the time we started it was almost eleven. That said, my friend Tamsir actually showed up at nine (he helped an Italian team build the government water tower at Keur Socce, which he now runs, and I think he has gotten used to Western schedules through his work), and a few of the old men from Fas showed up before ten.

We started the training with a tour of the master farm’s live fence, which was planted over the past two rainy seasons. Abdul Salam explained the various uses of the species we have in the fence – Parkinsonia acuelata, Bauhinia rufescens, Acacia nilotica, Acacia mellifera, Prosopis julliflora, Agave sisalana, Acacia senegal, and Euphorbia spp. He talked about the various uses of each tree, and really rhapsodized on their medicinal values, which seemed to engage the crowd, who also chimed in with bits of their own knowledge. One guy said the bark of Prosopis has more curative properties than any injection he’d ever received at the health post.

After showing the live fence, Abdul Salam and I explained seed collection and storage methods. We discussed how it’s important to gather seeds at the right time of year so that they are mature, and to store seeds in dry plastic soda bottles with ash to guard against insects and rodents. Abdul Salam then led a hands-on demonstration of how to create a tree nursery, including creating an appropriate soil mixture (1:2 manure:sand), filling plastic tree sacks (“polypots”), and arranging them in a recessed bed in a location that receives some shade but also some sunshine. We also discussed how to pretreat seeds by boiling them or scarifying and soaking them (since the species we work with have evolved to remain dormant through the long, hot dry season and require an extra push to germinate), and each participant tried their hand at scarification using fingernail clippers. Abdul Salam then showed participants how to plant seeds (two or three per sack, depending on the species) and take care of the nursery –watering, weeding, and periodically rotating sacks to make sure the trees’ roots don’t find their way out into the soil below. If nurseries are begun in April, the trees should be ready to outplant in the coming rainy season, beginning in July.

Abdul Salam did the bulk of the talking, but it was good to also have present Cherif Djite from Peace Corps and other participants who had experience growing trees, because they filled in details that Abdul Salam and I forgot to mention and added tips we didn’t know about before. One guy, a Sereer from a nearby village named Modu “Gui” Mboj (he got his nickname because he likes to plant baobab trees) talked from his experience working on USAID tree projects in Fatick, throwing in as many playful jabs at his Pulaar hosts as possible (Pulaars historically enslaved Sereers, but any previous animosity has turned into a joking relationship today). Abdul Salam is an enthusiastic public speaker and was proud to show his accomplishments to other farmers from his village, some of whom were visiting his field for the first time. There is a certain amount of jealousy associated with the master farm and all the aid Abdul Salam has received from Peace Corps, but I think the knowledge-sharing and chicken lunch helped smooth this over (this was the first training that we’ve hosted for local people). Abdul Salam is able to explain concepts clearly in Wolof or Pulaar and can engage Sengalese people in a way that I will never be able to do.

At the end of the training, we gave each participant 100 tree sacks and an instructional manual on agroforestry in Wolof with beautiful illustrations, provided by Djitte. We asked the participants to fill their tree sacks within 10 days, with the promise that if they do it on time, I will provide them the rest of the sacks they need to complete their fence, seeds, and, along with Mandow, support in maintaining and outplanting their trees. In the end, the success (or failure) of the training will be seen in how many of the participants outplant live fences this coming rainy season.

Abdul Salam extolling the benefits of Parkinsonia

Abdul Salam and a captivated audience

Djitte talking about a mango tree

Filling tree sacks hands-on demo

Adding ash to the soil underneath the tree sacks to prevent termites

PCV CJ Pedersen helps Abdul Salam's wife Jewo prepare lunch

PCVs Justin Ross and Dan Schlupp stand at the ready

Scaring crows