Augustin, Champion of the project, and his Association for the Protection de l’Environnement du Sénégal–APES, wants to preserve 32 hectares of a beautiful endemic littoral forest in the south of Senegal, next to his village of Diembereng in Casamance.
Augustin and his association have already secured the legal rights to the forest and so saved it from eradication by land speculation. Today the forest is still endangered by poachers, wild fires and grazing domestic animals (cows, goats).
Your financial contribution will further protect the forest and preserve it for future generations. “For our rural community, preserving the forest will create a win-win situation for the ecosystem, tourism, and our local community.” Augustin Diatta
Moreover, for generations, its fruits have been of important nutritive and medical value for our village. The forest also attracts responsible and sustainable ecotourism benefitting our local economy. But first, I need to build an enclosure to better protect the Ecoparc.
It’s a natural enclosure for the most endangered forest’s sides. Your donation will finance the cost of young plants (Citrus and Anacardium-cashew) and the costs of a barbed wire and its supporting structure. Our association and scholars from our village will bring in the needed workforce.
Augustin enjoys the technical support of our West African Ecopartner, Oceanium in Senegal. Your donation will strengthen the ecological, economic, social and cultural backbone of this local community in Casamance.
Haïder El Ali is one of the most prominent ecological figures in West Africa. Driven by his firm conviction and willingness, he devotes every day to preserve the ecosystem of his country. He leads the Oceanium Association in Senegal, and travels to every corner of West Africa in order to convince everyone through discussion, organizing or action to preserve the sea and its resources, as well as the rivers and the forests.
We believe climate change conferences and government laws are important, but we need more green local champions and they need our help to preserve our ecosystems !
Haidar el-Ali is Lebanese, but he was born in Louga, in the north of Senegal in 1953. Senegal is his country, Wolof his language, and his car his office. It’s from his car he orders his day, calling local contacts, plans his missions, dreams, imagines, even rages against a careless world that would destroy the natural resources of his country while starving the Senegalese people. His mission to create and disseminate an ecological lifestyle in Senegal is at once enormous, constant and complex.
For four years I have accompanied Haidar on his various campaigns across Senegal, listening as he reflects upon his life in bits and pieces, but mostly I have seen him act. From the desert already invading the north half of the country; through Casamance where rivers die after the disappearance of their mangroves; along the Senegal river where manatees are strangled in the turbines of hydroelectric dams; to the edges of a bruised and polluted sea, no longer able to feed its people. I have walked in his shadow.
“The protection of the environment in Senegal, like in all poor countries, is not about ecology, it is about survival.” Haidar repeats. Action is needed: quick and comprehensive. And for more than twenty-five years, whether underwater, handheld camera at the ready, in the shade of a meeting tree, or in government offices, Haidar has fought for every cause: the sea, virulently opposing illegal fishing to assure local fishermen their livelihood; the forests, against desertification, repopulating mangroves to ensure rice for tomorrow; for men and women mostly, by engaging in political struggle against lethargy to help the Africans around him create their futures.
Touching hearts and awakening consciences is the creed Haidar lives by.
Convinced that « we only protect what we value », Augustin is now launching the second phase of his “Casamance Ecoparc” project: the development phase of the natural resources of the Ecoparc. Therefore, he will within the Ecoparc:
Set up an “Ecological path” and an Eco-lodge called “Ecole Nature (School of Nature)”. “Ecole Nature” is not just nice eco name dropping but a concrete tool: The Eco-lodge will serve as a regional information meeting centre for pupils, students and scientist, who visit the Ecoparc and wish to study its fauna and flora and that of the surrounding region.
Stay tuned to www.ecofund.org and discover soon the second phase of the Casamance Ecoparc project !
Remember: The project idea of Casamance Ecoparc was born from the urgency to protect one of the last green lungs of the region for future generations. Google pictures below from July 2013 help understand the importance of the project: they are showing the deforestation of Casamance in particular of its littoral.
The littoral of the Basse Casamance with its tourists’ sites (Club Med) in Cap Skirring is reputed to be one of the most beautiful of all Senegal. The urban development, even if very modest because of the Casamance rebellion, has led to land speculation (e.g. rice production and private properties for holiday houses) and so contributed to the deforestation of the littoral forest between Kabrousse, Cap Skirring and Boukot. Since the beginning of the rebellion in early 1980s, the National Park of Basse Casamance is not more protected, its fauna and flora has not been officially inventoried. The grey sites on the photos are rice fields.
According to Augustin, if the urbanisation process continues, in few years there the remaining green lungs between these localities will disappear. This destructive process could have already caused the loss of the Ecoparc forest, if Augustin and his association had not initiated the Casamance Ecoparc project. Apart the land speculation and agriculture land pressure (rise production), the forest was endangered by poachers, wild fires and grazing domestic animals (cows, goats), illegal wood coal production.
The Diembering forest is now protected thanks to the creation of the Casamance Ecoparc and thanks to the professional enclosure financed by our Ecofund Community. The fence was manufactured in the capital city of Senegal, in Dakar, by a firm specialized in natural reserve enclosures: First, the fence allows small fauna to circulate but keeps poachers and domestic animals away from uncontrolled penetration of the forest. Second, the fence is made of a galvanized material in order to better resist to the weather conditions in the Casamance, humidity and sea salt.
Google pictures below from July 2013 show the impact of deforestation in the Basse Casamance.
Thanks to the support of the Ecofund community, Eiffage Senegal and the German Embassy in Dakar, on the 5th of July 2013 we officially celebrated the enclosure for the protection of the Ecoparc forest in Diembering, Basse Casamance.
“For our rural community, preserving the forest will create a win-win situation for the ecosystem, tourism, and our local community” declared Augustin Diatta, the Champion of the project.
The Senegalese Minister of Environment, Haidar El Ali, called Ecoparc a model to be replicated in each Senegalese village.
Indeed, APES singed a convention with the President of the Regional Council of Ziguinchor in respect of the protection of the Ecoparc forest and the environmental education of scholars.
On the occasion of the inaugural ceremony and in the presence of the Senegalese Minister of Environment, the construction firm Eiffage Senegal, the German Embassy and the 39 Ecofund contributors have been awarded the “Ecofund Diploma” for their support to the Casamance Ecoparc.
The “Ecofund Diploma” is more than recognition, signed by the King of Oussouye, the President of the Regional Council and Augustin’s Association APES, together with the above Convention, the diploma documents a strong commitment of the moral authority (the King), the local administration, and the civil society to the protection of the Ecoparc forest.
With the support of the Ecofund community, and in particular thanks to Ecofund’s crowd funding platform, Augustin was able to introduce his inspiring project and his environment to the global audience, and in 2012 raise money online for the Ecoparc’s enclosure: 39 individual donors from Spain, Germany, France, Luxemburg, Senegal, the Ivory Coast, Australia and the USA contributed between 5 and 250 Euros for a total sum of 2.500 Euros. Moreover, encouraged by the Ecofund community, Eiffage Senegal and the German Embassy in Senegal made significant donations and so helped to finance the total project budget of 22.500 Euros (equivalent to 14,7 million FCFA), see the table below.
The fence to enclosure and protect the Ecoprac, which you have financed, has finally been delivered to the Casamance region.
It took 3 days to get the fence by the road from Dakar to Diembering, a distance of 500 km. The truck has to queue during one day and one night for the ferry crossing the Gambian boarder river.
Imagine what it means for all the small agro-businesses in the Casamance region transporting regularly fresh products to Dakar. Better do not imagine … it’s hardship.
Augustin is now very happy. He and his fellows from the Diembering community have immediately started to build the fence around the Ecoparc. Augustin is on the move and soon the Ecoparc forest will be protected by the fence.
Keep moving Augustin, it’s the last mile of a long marathon!
We size the opportunity to say once more “MANY THANKS” to our community, the 39 project peers, the German Embassy and Eiffage Senegal for your support to Augustin’s project.
The wide distribution of the African Palmyra palm (Borassus aethiopum) – a tree from the Ethiopian plateaux – is greatly due to the migration of elephants. Legend has it that an ancestor who travelled extensively has come back, to Africa, with all the secrets of its richness.
In Senegal, the African Palmyra is called the “Guardian of the savannah”. This tree is nest for birds as well as shelter for insects, rodents and other animals fleeing fire outbreak because it resists well against bush fires. Everything is good about the African Palmyra (also known as the Ronier palm), a tree that is 100% useful. Beds, chairs, shelves, baskets and brooms can be made from it. Strong and resistant, the central nervure of the palm is mainly used for making furniture. It is also used for calming stomach upsets and deworming. If properly managed, the utilisation of the Palmyra does not generate any waste or cause wastefulness. Thus, it represents for the Sahelian African villagers a true heritage that is invariably reproductive.
In Kédougou – distinguished by the richness of its forests as well as the extent of deforestation there – it is customary for the Bassaris to tap palm wine, bounouk. Today, as the Bassaris continue this age-old wine-tapping tradition, they forget that this resource is almost being used up. The consuming penchant for palm wine has dire ecological consequences. One tree produces an average of 7 litres of sap per day. Tapped this way for 30 or 40 days, this tree dies after producing 200 to 300 litres of sap. And the numbers of Palmyra continue reducing drastically. “What will remain for future generations if these palms trees are tapped to their last drop?” is the alert given by Haidar in his film.
Dead while standing, and completely sapped, its trunk is thus exploited. This is the problem with loggers. Once cut down, the Ronier’s trunk is cut up lengthwise. Poised at opposite ends, loggers do not waste time splitting it up. The trunk breaks up along the lines of the fibres of its white surface. The rotten bark is very popular in shipyards and in the construction of bridges and structures. A big tree provides about 20 boards. Several trees are therefore needed to build one house. At a 30cm growth per year, the Ronier needs more than 30 years to attain its maximum height, and unfortunately less than 30 minutes to be cut down.
After following the Bassaris sap tappers, Haidar went to Fandène, 7 kilometers from Thiès. His camera captured carts pulled by donkeys carrying huge loads of fresh palms, in finely woven baskets, stacked along the roadside. Young Roniers of different heights could be found further down the road as a sign of good management. Fandène villagers do not just think of cutting down these trees. They have been growing these trees for a long time now to safeguard their children’s future. Fandène has thus become the biggest Ronier forest in Senegal.
The Palmyra is a fabulous resource for West Africa though depreciated, alas, by laws and men alike.
“Were there forests everywhere in Senegal, in the past?”
Listen: In the 50s, my parents, travelling from Dakar, were going to Louga (which is 200km from Dakar). They were driving on a dusty and narrow path, surrounded by forests, when they crashed into a panther. They did not dare to pass it, because the forest, in plain day light, was too dark.
In Europe, the awareness to protect forests came at the same time as a so-destructive technology. Here, in Africa, the chain saw arrived while our awareness was not yet awakened. The chain saw thus cut up the trees at a frightening ‘big S’ speed, while we use the resource without any management policy or sustainable vision in place. All of sudden, it became very easy to acquire this resource, and get wood fuel, carving wood or the djembé that people started producing, easily, charcoal, wood fuel, for woodwork or the djembé for instance.
“Before the 70s, where there many forests here?”
No, however, it was wooded. Many trees could be found in the middle of the savannah as well as large dry forests”. In fact, the north and the centre of the country were mainly covered up by shrub lands and woodlands in the bioclimatic zones of the Sahelian and Sudanian areas. Woodlands and dense forests relics could only be found in the south, in Casamance and in the east. Ninety percent (90%) of the country’s forest resource is mainly found in these two regions.
Since the price per barrel of petrol has not stopped increasing, Senegal, much more than all the other countries in the sub-region (Senegal has the highest rate of urbanization in the Sahelian region) has experienced increased degradation of her forest resources which remain the main source of energy that is easily accessible to the majority of Senegalese.
The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) declares that Senegal loses, each year, about 45 000 hectares of her forests. Climatic recession, bush fires and competition for cultivable farm lands, during this past 50 years, through groundnut cultivation are the major causes for the receding of forests that still cover 25% of the national territory.
The pressure on logging for the supply of wood fuel to urban areas is increasingly recognized as the major cause of forest loss in Senegal. The charcoal represents almost 90% of domestic energy use and more than 48% of total national energy. Despite their legal status characterized by regulatory restriction of their usage, classified forest are not spared in the process of resource degradation. Regulations are constantly violated by people often facing dire problems of subsistence.
The “real green bank”, characterized by the Senegalese forest, is losing its precious savings.
Legend has it that God, on the last day of the creation of the world, remembering that he forgot to plant the baobab, threw it from the sky. Ever since, it has become the emblem of Senegal.
Ancient and massive, with its wide trunk and soft wood, the baobab is aesthetically unique, giving the impression of being upside down, its irregular branches stretch like roots toward the sky. Because of its many properties, it is also one of the most useful fruit trees in the Sahel:
- Source of food: All parts of the baobab can be used for food: boiled, the roots and leaves, contain calcium, iron, magnesium and phosphorous. Its highly nutritious seeds, when grilled, can be used to replace coffee. The fruit, also known as “monkey bread”, contains two times the amount of calcium as milk, and its pulp is a key ingredient for a popular local juice known as bouye. Most of all, the baobab’s trunk can hold more than 100,000 liters of water, essential for the survival of many nomadic people.
- Therapeutic tree: In traditional medicine, the baobab is used to fight against digestive problems, bouye juice specifically against diarrhea. Moreover, the leaves are used in an infusion to control malarial fevers.
- Tree of ropes: Comprised of fibrous materials, the barlk can be made into ropes, fabrics, fishing nets, and strings for musical instruments.
- Strong cultural value: A tree especially symbolic of West Africa, it is also an inexhaustible source of inspiration for painters, musicians and poets, a magical space that represents both hopes and community superstitions. It has also been a tomb for griots, these bards and storytellers who were forbidden to be buried in the earth for fear of polluting the earth’s fecundity.
- An endangered tree: Saint Exupery, in the Petit Prince, said it best: “This was how, on the third day, I learned of the tragedy of the baobab. Severely threatened by intensive agricultural practices, particularly for those who harvest its leaves and fruit, baobabs are also victims of real estate speculation. This destruction is serious: The rate of forest clearing in West Africa is estimated at 4% annually. At this rate, in 25 years, there will be no baobab left.
In Augustin’s Ecopark, baobabs will be protected and villagers can benefit from their multiple virtues.
Along the winding path, women and children follow us. Our single file line, joyous and colorful, continues its procession toward the trees. As we approach a giant mango tree, I am reminded of a story Haidar once told me, of a village, not too far from where we walk, called Hatioune, that refused to cut its trees.
Many years ago, the story goes, the elders of Hatioune gathered the people of the village together around a large tree. The subject of their meeting was important: the population of their village had grown these last years and the village needed more space. For a long time they discussed the best ways to grow their village: either they cut the fruit trees that encircled their village, or else they moved the village entirely. After much discussion, a decision was come to by all: nobody could agree to cut the trees that provided so much to the village – fruits, wood, shade – so one by one, each home in the village was moved.
We arrive at the entrance of the plant nursery Abdou has created with the women of the Bignona neighborhood. Carrots, parsley, onions, tomatoes, pineapples... everything grows wondrously in this fertile earth. The women and children rejoin us. They want their picture taken next to these small plots of garden green. More meetings, a final word under another enormous mango tree, the last applause of the women, last words of encouragement from Haidar, and we are back on the campaign trail.
What will happen to Casamance and its rainforests and mangroves, I wonder, if its secular custodians disappear?
Casamance and so the Ecoparc, has experienced an exceptional rain season this year. These are good news for the agriculture (see photos below) but has until now made inaccessible the Ecoparc and thus impossible to build the fence around the forest.
However, in the meantime our champion Augustin – as always – was on the move. He signed an agreement with the regional authorities in Ziguinchor on a sensitization of the local population as well as on the environmental education of the schools on the long term protection of the forest of Ecoparc.
Furthermore, the enclosure has been already fabricated by a local enterprise specialized in wildlife reserve protection and safely stored until the rain season is over, see photos below.
The enclosure works should start in December. We keep you informed. Follow the project updates !
Between the Senegal River and Guinea-Bissau, the Atlantic coastline is full with the remains of ancient shellfish remains, as in the Saloum delta. These Paleothic islands are primarily made up of the remains of shellfish consumed by long ago humans. Archaeologists recently interested in these "kitchen scraps" have found fragments of pottery and scattered remains of homes. Once used as burial sites for people of high status, these islands are still considered sacred by the inhabitants of the Saloum.
The banks of bolong part. Behind the long, lean and gnarled silhouette of Ibrahima standing in the very front of the canoe, I discover the river. In front of us, rises an observation post. "Welcome to Bamboung!" says Jean. In his wide grin, I feel how pleased he is with this success. It is his baby. After investing tremendous time, the result of his perseverance is before us. In this place, in 2002, Toubacouta Soucouta, Sipo, Bettenti, Nema Bah, Dassilamé and seven other villages came together and unanimously decided to create Senegal’s first Community Marine Protected Area (MPA), endorsed by presidential decree in 2004. All agreed to prohibit fishing - a real sacrifice for the Serer, a people born from the sea, but their commitment was so strong they refused even a buffer zone, traditionally included in any MPA.
From the top of the observation post Dianoune and Babacar wave their arms, inviting us to climb the ladder and share the tea that helps pass the many lonely hours of surveillance. "Here we drink a lot double tee (tea)”, Babacar explains. It allows us to go without sleep to better monitor the area.” Dianoune and he are two of the sixteen watchmen, now paid for their work -- forty-eight hour shifts -- to protect the area from fisherman. From their post, they guard over the treasure of the Bamboung: 7200 acres of rich ecosystem, including virgin mangrove, perfect spawning ground and nursery for fish.
Creating a Marine Protected Area, is first of all the work of defining the boundaries. Mounted in April 2003 by the fishermen themselves, signs clearly warn other fishermen their nets are not welcome. Now converted into eco-guards, these same fishermen don uniforms and record in a journal all offenses committed. IRD - the Institute for Research and Development – on behalf of Océanium created a baseline of fish and fauna. Two years later, the same researchers are enthusiastic. The ban on fishing has quickly borne fruit: the average fish size has increased, and sixteen new species have settled in the reserve, including the white grouper (Epinephelusaeneus), a slow reproducer, particularly threatened, once easily found in these waters. The overall biomass has substantially increased and the dolphin, the largest of the area’s predators, able to cross through the rivers, and seemingly disappeared from the area, have returned. Fishermen are also proud: the white grouper is a fish so noble, strong, and beautiful; it has become the nickname given to young men, particularly in Dakar.
At first glance, Senegal seems to be mostly stretches of seaside coasts and arid Sahel interiors with little or no rainfall. And yet, forests, steppes, reserves and wooded savanna cover 32% of its territory! Did you know, for example, that Senegal has over 200 classified forests?
In Ferlo, in eastern Senegal, in the Sine Saloum and in Casamance, Senegal’s greatest majority of wooded savannas and forests can be found. Because they play such a major role in social, economic and cultural life, forests are cited for numerous reforestation and protection projects. In actuality however, the rate of annual deforestation for firewood is two times higher than the rate of reforestation...
It’s then to preserve the wood, vegetation and biodiversity that 213 forests have been classified (approximately 624,800 hectares) by the Senegalese government. Classifying forests offers a legal framework to restrain clearing and exploitation of forest products, while emphasizing reforestation and preventing soil erosion. This classification also allows for the protection of ‘green lungs’ and the development of economic activity like eco-tourism.
Despite such efforts, most classified forests don’t escape degradation and deforestation, due to natural factors like drought or salinization but also human activity. Thanks to your donation, Augustin’s project of a natural fencing can make real and more efficient the drive to protect forests from overgrazing and firewood!
A weekend visit of extreme contrasts: the UNESCO world heritage city is hosting the 20th edition of the International Jazz Festival and the 10th edition of the pan African Art biennale, with bands, artist and visitors coming from all other the world. The scene and sound are world class. The expositions invite you to a journey of modern African art. The hotels and the restaurants are full with tourists enjoying the taste of African-French cuisine, enjoying ? not really …
The nice “mondaine” scenery contrasts with poverty, stinky dust, and resource degradation: Situated not far away from the vibrant scene of the jazz festival and just opposite of the hotels and restaurants, the artisanal fishery village is floating on mountains of waste. The dust of burning waste invades the scenery and covers in grey the usually blue sky over Saint Louis. In the absence of the dust, hundreds of flies - the ugly kind of big flies living from waste - invade your meal in the garden of a fancy restaurant. The air, soil and water pollution is visible everywhere you go, no escape, and no one seems to care. The lethargy of the population to act against the waste reflects the absence of means and tools for a sustainable solution.
After this contrast full weekend, it’s clear more than ever, we need to stop this kind of natural resources’ degradation. We need to deal with the challenges bottom up and support local initiatives dealing with waste treatment. Already a small effort can have a big positive impact. Ecofund will boost your small efforts. In September, we will launch our Ecoforum, which will give you the voice to alert, debate and together to find solutions to the challenges alike the mountains of waste.
Join us and post your impressions, experiences and ideas on our Ecoblog and our Facebook, for our green future!
The Project ''School for Nature'' was initiated by our Champion Augustin. His goal is to mobilize the youth of his home region, Casamance, in the South of Senegal, so they can protect their beautiful subtropical nature. Every week, a sensitization and cleaning campaign is conducted in a village. Last Saturday, the “School for Nature” project was hosted simultaneously in 3 villages: Siganar, Karounate, and Niambalang (Southwest Ziguinchor).
First, the cleaning equipment has been exhibited in the courtyard of the College of Siganar: wheelbarrows, shovels, rakes and brooms. Then, after listening to a few explanations, the students spread out to collect plastic and clean their village.
The school principal says it is the first time that he sees this kind of campaign in the school: “An environmental education has never been taught so far in this college. We should continue, and also encourage students to plant trees and create a vegetable garden in the school”.
Student of the Siganar School, Rosalie Francis Diatta suggested including parents into the campaign, e.g. advising them not to throw any plastic waste in the nature.
“If we do not collect the plastic waste, it will be there for several hundred years. Plastic waste is toxic and dangerous to human health, the environment and the wildlife'' warns our champion, Augustine Diatta.
Although the “School for Nature” project has so far produced positive results, eliminating plastic waste remains a huge challenge. “We do not have a recycling plant for plastic waste in Casamance. We've got tons of plastic waste, but we do not know what to do with it''.
The German Embassy in Senegal and the Senegalese Construction Enterprise Eiffage appreciate your efforts for the protection of the Ecoparc and decided to add 9,000 euros each to the 2,500 euros raised on Ecofund!
Instead of building a natural enclosure consisting of planting citrus trees during the coming rainy seasons, the forest can be protected immediately: The now available funding of total 20,500 euros allows for a local fabrication, transport and construction of a professional fence around the forest. The fence will be provided by a local enterprise specialized in wildlife reserve protection, the “SIF Clôture Ferlo” in Senegal.
These are great news for our Ecofund-Community, for the Ecoparc and for future generations! And You make it happen!
In the coming ecoproject updates we will inform you step by step about the construction of the fence. Follow the updates!
Only 45 days to go when world leaders and governments, private sector and NGO representatives will come together in Brazil at the Rio+20 United Nations Conference for Sustainable Development. The Participants will discuss and (hopefully) agree on a concept for a sustainable development of our planet.
What’s sustainable development? Here is the UN formula: “Sustainable development meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
The word “needs” of present and future generations seems to be the determining factor. Imagine, we produce less plastics, we cut no more trees as we plant, we consume local products and reduce the CO2 emission due to transport of goods, we focus more on useful and long term products than on bling-bling once, … we can do so much to change our needs and thus also change needs of future generations for a sustainable way of living.
For global concept on sustainable development to succeed, it will need to be put in practice by all of us.
In the days to go to Rio+20 Conference, we would like to know your individual “formula” for a sustainable development, i.e. all the small efforts everyone can do to preserve our natural resources for future generations.
The 3 best ideas will be featured on our Ecoblog.
Augustin, our Champion from Casamance, has successfully mobilized the youth of his home region to engage for the protection of their beautiful but endangered nature: in the coming weeks they will collect waste, in particular the everywhere to find plastic waste, and also undertake small reforestation campaigns in the villages, on the littoral and in the forest. Augustin leads social change in his locality in order to preserve our planet. Watch the video interview with Augustin (in French) to learn more about his green Casamance event “Ecole Nature”.
Grey-headed bristlebill was the second species we identified.
It immediately indicated the specialness of the Ecoparc. Although it is not rare, it is entirely confined to the central and West African forest and so, in Senegal and The Gambia, to the few fragments of forest in the south-west. Those in Casamance are seldom visited by birdwatchers. This was the first documented record for Senegal since 1979, though the birds must always have been there. It is one of a number of elusive birds of the bulbul family, more often heard than seen. As with many forest species, almost nothing is known of its biology.
A concern with West African forests is that as they become more fragmented (due to deforestation), many species will only survive in the larger fragments. A recent study in Ghana showed that the bristelbill is, as we might expect from its presence in Casamance, tolerant of small forest patches with fewer large trees. Nevertheless, an exciting discovery in the Casamance Ecoparc!
On April 4th 2012, the new elected Senegalese President nominated Haidar El Ali, our ecopartner, Minister of Ecology and the Protection of Nature. Congratulations !!!
The boat bounces on the waves. We are soaked. Now is the time to drop anchor. Haidar sharpens a knife on a stone attached to his forearm. He stands and moves carefully to balance the bow. Arms and legs wide, breathing in the sea, he fills his lungs. His lips are moving. What is he saying? A prayer? He is emotional, quite emotional. After a few minutes, he returns to us, and joins his friend diving off the side. Daniel's amazement and Haidar’s laughter. The water is cold, murky, low visibility. I will not dive. I do not have the required level. Pulling the old nets hung on the wrecks lie strewn on the sea floor around the peninsula, in cold, dark water, requires a level 4.
To descend, the two men follow the anchor chain, breadcrumbs in water obscured by micro-algae and sediment. After having watched the dive unfold in “Demain La Mer”, one of Haidar’s many films on the sea, it is easy for me to imagine them underwater. At the sea bottom, the ghostly outline of a wreck. Attached to its carcass, a gigantic net blocks the natural path of fish and algae. Its meshes have trapped fish now long dead. Others struggle frantically. Disentangle the net and unravel the small murders is a complex process. Haidar has brought his knife.
With precise gestures, he cuts the rope, removes the netting. He has surely stumbled across the translucent, almost invisible monofilament nylon dancing with the current. Both a rotting veil and indestructible prison, rotting, trapping and killing for years, so cheap to buy fisherman do not bemoan its loss. Clinging to the rocky sea bottom, the monofilament net continues to fish unnecessarily. Spread over tens of meters, it captures all fish species, their dying attracting expected scavengers into the twisting of its mesh. The net becomes a chain of death. By strangling sea creatures and organisms - such as sea fans - living on the sea bottom, one sea net can destroy the life of an entire ecosystem. Prohibited by laws since 1998, Senegalese legislation also banned mesh sizes less than 24 mm for fishing. Yet, nothing has changed.
Once the net is ripped, Haidar must attach parachutes to white cans which, rising to the surface, will drag the endless knot of nylon, shellfish and algae pellets. In its wake, the water is opaque, obscure. Christophe Rouviere, Regis Losthe and many other of Haidar’s diver friends confirm what I imagined: raising lost nets is a venture not without risks. Strained by its own weight, the net may give way at any time, slapping and trapping a diver. Our boat, engine stilled, has drifted. We have moved away from the divers who we can only monitor through the rising wake of bubbles.
Our first notable bird species in the Ecoparc is the Greater honeyguide, a widespread species in sub-Saharan African forest and savanna, whose dull colour belies an extraordinary symbiosis with man, long known from anecdote and first scientifically tested and proven only in the late 1980s. It guides hunters to bees nests, considerably reducing their search time for honey and benefiting from being able to access nests once they are broken open.
In Kenya, where the behaviour was first studied, birds regularly check bee nests early in the morning. They then respond to hunters' whistles by approaching the hunters and leading them to nests with a characteristic call. This is a culturally evolved behaviour that the birds abandon in areas where people no longer gather wild honey.
The species was quickly identified in our book by two passing local women. This is a nice example of a species whose conservation, or at least that of a part of its behaviour, requires the continuation of traditional forest activities, such as are found in the Ecoparc.
Exploring the unknown is always an exciting part of wildlife biology, even if it is a forest 10km from one of the country's main tourist centres! Casamance's forests west of the regional capital town of Ziguinchor are special. They are, excepting a few patches in coastal Gambia, the northern limit of the vast Guinea-Congo forest “biome”; evergreen forests dependent on high rainfall and humidity, dense here with oil palms and occasional towering cotton-trees.
278 bird species are confined to this forest region, of which Casamance has a respectable 37. These are some of Senegal's rarest bird species, due to their very stringent habitat requirements. They are also some of the least known. The parc national de Basse Casamance, where most occur, has been closed since the early 1980s and none other of the forests seem to have been visited by ornithologists since then, whilst our trip seems to have been the first ornithological exploration of the Djembering Forest.
The first thing one notices, often observed in tropical forests, is the elusiveness of the birds. Most sightings are brief flights in the canopy and it is only with practice that the unfamiliar calls, quickly reducing in intensity as the morning progresses, become recognisable. Though, one surprise for us was the familiar, liquid song of a nightingale, a migrant from Europe. Without the nets we had placed to trap birds along the forest paths several species would not have been recorded. In all, two mornings of trapping and observation resulted in six forest specialists - a good start for a first visit.
Intriguingly two local women we met in the forest knew several of the species we had captured when shown our bird identification book, put local names to them and pointed out others we did not observe. In Jola, as in most other languages of Senegal, a local name is given to species of interest (for example announcing the weather, hunted or crop pests), whilst similar species of less interest may be grouped under one name.
Follow our Ecoblog to learn more about the identified bird species!
Before the Ecoparc is enclosed we are establishing the park’s biodiversity. Last week, together with Paul, British ornithologist, Celine, a wildlife biologist at the French CNRS, and Folemine Manga, Senegalese ornithologist and long-time guard in the Delta du Saloum National Park, we started with a bird survey of the Ecoparc. The species we caught are forest specialists last recorded in Senegal between 1976 and 1980!
In the coming Ecoblog articles we will inform you on each bird species recorded in Ecoparc.
The magnificent Fromagiers-trees in Casamance Ecoparc's are several hundred years old ...
In 3 to 4 years the lemon trees will form a natural enclosure similar to the one shown on the picture below. Moreover, their fruits will benefit the local community of Diembereng.
This week the Ecofund team has been on a visit to the Casamance Ecoparc. Augustin has shown us the row of 145 lemon trees he and the members of his association APES have planted on the north side of the forest during the last rainy season from June to September 2011. Thanks to the chilly climate of the Ecoparc, six months later almost all the seedlings have grown up to small lemon trees. Your donations collected in October 2011 have not yet been spent. They’re kept on the Ecofund account. Your donation will finance the natural enclosure (see update from 02.08.2011) during the coming rainy season.
The Senegalese Environmental Charta was elaborated and signed by local leaders, non-governmental associations, journalists and environmental activists during the symposium on sustainable development, organized by the Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar and The Konrad Adenauer Fondation, 31.01.-01.02.2012 in Dakar. Ecofund has also participated in the elaboration of the Charta. It aims to anchor the environmental protection in the society and engage the political decision makers into a sustainable development.
All candidates for the Senegalese presidential election to be held on February 26th will be invited to sign the Charta.
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In collaboration with The Konrad Adenauer Fondation and the Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar Ecofund presents to you the adventures of Oussou, Lucie et Khoudia, three Senegalese friends facing climate changes.
Click on the picture to open the comic
Augustin and his association APES have already cleared the north side of Ecopark and planted 145 seedlings of lemon trees. During the clearing, they were “attacked” by porcupines and had to withdraw. "First of all, it’s a good sign for the rich fauna of our Ecopark," says Augustin, and add with laughing "and moreover, porcupines are an excellent natural protection"
“I have always used film as social critique. I have had such moments of absolute wonder, so many! Among the most magical was one scene in particular. Using my camera, I followed a cuttlefish couple for a week, a 10 pound male, a 3 pound female. The same couple in the same place for a week. I watched as the female hesitated between two or three sites where she could lay her eggs, and then finally as she chose the perfect location: clean, well-protected from predators, sheltered from strong currents. I watched as the male followed the female, watched as she accepted his seed. I saw these living creatures, both powerful and delicate, so-called primitive and unintelligent, able to act and reproduce their species in perfect harmony with the natural environment.
“There are also those intense moments when I found myself in places where man had never set foot, and when I felt an emotion as strong as the first time man walked on the moon. When you enter place like this, there is such a feeling of beauty! It's magnificent!"
Mostly, Haidar films alone with his camera, staying a good week, living with people, talking and sharing with them. It is only after some time he begins shooting, because trust has been established. "In Senegal, he says, if you film people in their daily lives for two or three months, a relationship of truth emerges. You ask them questions, they will respond."
Like with his film on fishing methods. By winning the trust of the fishermen, Haidar filmed fishing techniques that were particularly devastating: monofilaments, too narrow mesh nets that trap young fish, or lost nets clogging the ocean continuing to catch fish for years, does not benefit anything or anyone. Once the film is completed, Haidar returns to see its subjects.
"Is what you see right?” The films always provokes a debate. "It's important, all this time spent with them. It necessarily makes the process longer, because if the villagers involved in the degradation do not own the project, it will never work. Slowly, together, we discover how to solve the problem." And Haidar adds: "It is essential for them to see. The picture is proof."
The sea was a real pleasure. And then one day, diving, I watched bomb-fishing. Have you ever seen bomb-fishing before? Imagine a homemade bomb made from potassium nitrate. These guys throw one, two, and four overboard at schools of fish just as they are spawning. From underneath the water, I can see the carnage, the dead fish falling into the deep, the bomb’s ravage on the sea’s depths. Up there in the pirogue, they can’t see a thing. They collect what floats back up -- at the most 20% of what they have killed -- not at all bothered by what just happened since they never dive. But I saw the damage in its entirety. I even saw the innocence of the people on the surface of the water.
I bought a used camera, and then an old buoyancy tank that took in water! And I began to film. In the 1990’s, my ecological fight had just begun. I saw what the sea was subjected to, I saw all that beauty degraded. I saw magic places like Counakhéoff, off of Soumbédioune, where we dived, enchanted sites become rivers of shit! When I saw that, when I saw people bomb-fishing, the destruction caused by monofilament nets, those net with far-too-small holes, when I saw all that destruction, this human foolishness, I began to take up arms, in words and pictures.
The sea was dying. And I decided to protect a sea, who was otherwise mute.
The natural enclosure of Augustin’s Ecopark consists of 2 parts: first, a row of lemon trees, then a band of acacia mellifera, a thorny plant replacing the barbed wire that was initially planned. In order to give the young lemon trees and the acasias time to grow so they can protect the forest, a wooden enclosure will be built around the most endangered sides of the Ecopark. Copy the following link (Casamance_Ecoparc_Limites_2011.kml) to Google Earth to visualize the Ecopark's enclosure. Your donations will fund the wood and the supporting structure of the fence. The wood comes from a plantation controlled by the Forestry Administration of Ziguinchor, the capital city of Casamance. The plantation in Ziguinchor serves also as a training center for young forest rangers established thanks to the cooperation between Senegal and Switzerland.
“I never created Oceanium. One day, in the 1980’s, I met Jean-Michel Kornprobst, a professor at the faculty of science at the University of Dakar, who loved the sea and who had opened an organic marine chemistry laboratory in Senegal. He is the founder of Oceanium.”
In 1975, Jean-Michel Kornprobst realized he needed a diving center for his research, since nothing of that sort yet existed in Senegal. In 1984, he created the Oceanium Club, lodged at first at the Savana, the neighboring hotel. Jean-Michel started all the club’s sporting activities, organizing the first underwater sea hunt Haidar participated in. Oceanium finally found its own space in the former Club des Provinces de France -- the CDPF -- and never moved. Diploma in pocket, Haidar quickly rose to become Oceanium’s Head Instructor, responsible for diving. “A real creature of the sea, more than anyone else,” Jean-Michel Kornprobst says of him.
“Jean-Michel’s passion for research and my passion for the sea made Oceanium what it is today. Jean-Michel shared his knowledge with me. I shared my passion with the divers. I don’t know how, but I have a talent for helping people find their passions. I dove a lot, but I didn’t have my monitoring license before Oceanium sent me to France. It was the Cooperation Française that made me pass the licensing exam there. Only then, could I really take a lot of people diving.
In 1988, I believe, Jean-Michel left. I took over the direction of Oceanium, now become a real diving school. I set about also really earning my livelihood as well. Oceanium became well known. Word of Mouth. Today, we are still well known, but for other things. People come and still dive, but less than before.” Oceanium has trained civil guards, military, firemen, Sea and Forestry agents. Many are those who have learned beside Haidar. A partnership soon developed between Haidar and the firemen. Oceanium is available for them to come and receive free trainings. At that time, Haidar also trained Paris’ diving firemen.
“On my own. I put a mask on to be able to see in the depths. I snorkeled. It required a lot of concentration. I dove, I dove! In the same way, I would bicycle around the continent, slipping away for fifteen, twenty days at a time, on a whim, not even telling my parents, I would disappear at sea. I never realized how much worry I caused the people around me. It’s only when I discovered real life, and all its social responsibilities – wife, children, family, parents, and work – that I began to slow down a bit. I began to be great snorkeler. I could stay under for longer than three minutes. I began to barter with Russian ships. I would trade fish for caviar, for tools and parts and then I would resell them. One day, I traded some fish for a diving tank. I filled the tank with Air Liquid (the name of a Dakar based company). I never liked that tank. You would fill it, dive thirty, forty minutes and then it would be finished. And snorkling, you could dive all day. I never used that bottle again until I became an explorer of shipwrecks.”
Explorer of shipwrecks?
“Yes. I began to search for the wreck of the Governor General of French Occidental Africa, Pierre Boisson, loyal to the Vichy government. It should have left the country after opposing the attempted landing of General de Gaulle, but the boat and all its booty sank somewhere between Bargny and Mbour. When I located it, I found a lot, but nothing of value.”
As an explorer of shipwrecks, Haidar searches through scraps, extracting pieces that seem interesting. He finds old bronze pieces, canons that he sells for a living, hoping all the while to find his lost treasure.
On behalf of my community in Diembereng in Casamance I would like to THANK you for your donations. In the comming weeks we will inform you on all activites concerning the enclosure of Ecoparc Casamance and how your donations helped our project. THANK YOU ! Augustin
Entrepeneur, lover of life and nature, Ecofund is pleased to introduce you to Augustin!
Alongside his association, APES, Augustin fights against environmental degradation in his region through the creation of an Ecopark which permits the preservation and conservation of a diversity of animal species and plants. Something that speaks to his heart: “These giant trees, especially the silk-cotton, are extraordinary but they disappear daily in Casamance. Some of my favorite animals, in particular the does and monkeys who have no large forest left to hide in from predators. We want to protect them with this very practical action.”
By building fencing and clearing the Ecopark, Augustin’s goal is also to offer to young people, from primary school to university, an environmental education so that they can better assimilate the challenges tied to the protection of their ecosystem and their culture. “For us, the Diola, nature is a gift from God and we respect it by rationally using its riches. But we are losing how we do so. I am very interested by medicinal plants, but this younger generation, who leave the villages for their studies, no longer know about and no longer know how to treat human beings.”
This love of nature and his region has been nurtured from his childhood at the end of the 1960’s, when he divided his time between “school and nature outings, fishing, and working with my parents in their rice plantations. After studying agriculture in France and then Switzerland, he returned to Casamance to help develop his region in particular by opening a travel agency and an ecolodge, Ouidja Hotel. Today with APES and his Ecopark, Augustin continues his green path so that we can all enjoy the beauty and benefits of Casamance nature.
Come on and visit!
Lush and green, rice fields or fruit orchards, Casamance is abundant with natural resources. From Dakar, either an overnight ferry or a day long car trip will get you to Casamance, the region situated at the southern most end of Senegal, between Guinea Bissau and the Gambia.
For Senegalese, Casamance is known as the country’s bread basket, rich with the gifts of nature and fertile soil. For tourists, it has long been a destination of choice, with its fine combed sand beaches, ancestral cults, and traditional villages of complex architecture and two story huts.
Casamance certainly deserves its title as breadbasket for the country: close to 80% of the population practice an active agriculture on 80,000 hectares of land, over half dedicated to rice. Other crops include peanuts, cashews, black eyed peas, corn, sorghum, mangos, bananas and grapefruits. Whether Christian or Muslim, the region’s majority ethnic group, the Diola remain quite proudly tied to their animistic roots. Spirits are omnipresent and protect each element of nature. For the Diola, nature contains essences of the Divine, and respect and human protection for nature are fundamental.
Want to learn more about the Casamance, the Diola and their green culture? Contact Augustin, champion of his ecopark project. He’ll be happy to share!
Enclosing the forest: A vital step to project success! At present, Augustin still needs to build an enclosure to avoid forest degradation caused by aimless grazing by domestic animals, or other exploitation of forest land (like wood poaching without any clear benefit for local communities). Like Bandia, Niokolo-Koba or other Senegalese nature reserves, enclosures visibly declare reserves as protected spaces to residents and visitors alike. The enclosure will be divided in 3 sections: North section measuring 1.400 meters, south section of 1.600 meters, and east section of 1.200 meters. Donations will help us plant a natural enclosure Citrus and Anacardium-cashew on the north side of the forest, its most endangered side. Help us finish the first enclosure by October, before the rainy season is over in Casamance! All of us here at Ecofund, Augustin and the trees thank you!
1. Paradise on Earth!
Beautiful beaches and coconut trees, rivers and luxurious bolongs, swaying palm trees and lush mangroves... All this in a tropical forest! Among the most common species of trees found are the enormous silk cotton trees (commonly called fromagiers), baobabs, cashew, teak, coconut and mangroves.
2. Hospital and Home!
Palm trees offer oil and palm wine. Kinkeliba is a tree whose leaves heal wounds and when ground reduces malaria attacks. These trees are also habitat and mating sites for an important variety of migrant birds and mammals including buffalo, manatees and monkeys.
3. Holy Woods!
Forests are often ritual sites since nature is sacred for the Diola and they are charged with its protection. Rites such as circumcision and rites of passage into adulthood all take place within the forest. During these initiation children learn traditional values, mores and codes of village life, and songs. The best protected forests are thus these sacred woods where campfires are prohibited and access is reserved solely to the initiated.
4. Help! Forests in Danger!
Despite efforts made to preserve forests like The National Park of Lower Casamance, the protected forest of Dianteme and now Augustin’s Ecopark, Casamance’s forests are still threatened by unfettered and mostly illegal wood exploitation. Because economic, cultural and social life is so intricately tied to these forests and rivers, prevent the degradation of natural resources also helps to prevent and conflict tied to access to this most important resources.
It’s up to us to act! Help Augustin!
Can’t see the forests for the trees? To some, the disappearance of forests may hardly seem important, could even be confused with development, but seen from a global perspective …
Forests cover nearly 30% of the world’s visible land. A reservoir of oxygen for humans and a habitat for flora and faune, 2/3 of the world’s animals and plants inhabit their interiors. In Senegal, forests take multiple forms: savanna, mangrove, endemic and tropical forests in Casamance, the savanna forests of Ferlo in the North. A natural legacy passed from one generation to the next, forests represent important economic and social livelihoods, and are shelters of biodiversity and reservoirs of medicinal plants. In Wolof (the national language of Senegal), the word “garab” means both tree and medicine. Symbolically and culturally, the power of forests is undeniable; for the Diola ethnic group in the South, certain wood are considered sacred and it is forbidden to cut such trees. For ethnic Peul herders in the North, trees represent at once, sky, earth, fire and water; they are the most complete living species after man.
Despite this, every day over 350 km2 of forests are destroyed in the world. Based on the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization, from 2005-2010, in Senegal alone, the rate of forest loss is estimated at 40,000 hectares a year! That’s two times the size of the Fontainebleau forest and more than 55,000 football fields! The reasons for such destruction are numerous but are always due to human encroachment: wood and land clearing for peanut production, overexploitation, and most of all, the illegal production of charcoal and firewood - alone responsible for 50% of forest loss! Similarly, nearly 60% of Senegal’s mangroves have disappeared in the last 25 years.
We must act quickly, both in Senegal and in the world. In 2011, let’s join Augustin and protect our forests! Help Augustin preserving an endemic forest of 32 hectares in Casamance for future generations!
Augustin on the move ! For five years now, Augustin has been solidly progressing in his efforts to establish the Ecopark. Diembereng, a rural community located in the extreme southwest of the Ziguinchor region, near the Cap Skirring resorts, has entrusted Augustin with the protection of their 400 hectare natural heritage. This vast area includes forests, dunes, mangroves, rice paddies and coastline. This project chef dynamically promotes sustainable management of 32 hectares of the communal forests not only against their disappearance, but also for the benefit of the maximum amount of people: at the time of this writing, 700 visitors and 6 researchers have discovered firsthand this vibrant green heart, rich in little known medicinal plants, fruit trees (lemon, mango) and wildlife (monkeys, warthogs). Who are these visitors? School groups, students from the agro-forestry department from the University of Casamance, European researchers, tourists visiting from Cap Skirring, curious locals from Diembering and other neighboring villages. Each and every one discovering the already well defined forest trails, or visiting the new filao nursery for students and locals to reforest coastal zones. And when will you be there ?!
We have signed two protocols with the University of Ziguinchor and the Senegalese National Water and Forestry School! They need land for their research on environment and nature and the Ecopark provides the perfect place for such observation. This important partnership also brings more researchers and international friends from Europe to our welcome center. We can’t wait to see you!