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Winrock International

Volunteer Post

Breaking Ground in Senegal

We are pleased to have just completed our first Farmer-to-Farmer for Agriculture Education and Training (F2F for AET) assignment in Senegal! Volunteer Matilde D’Urzo describes her experience in the blog post below:

“It is my first time in Senegal. I also happen to be the first volunteer for Winrock’s F2F for AET Program in this country. I arrive late at night in Dakar and all the passengers entering the airport building are immediately checked for temperature, due to the ongoing Ebola outbreak in neighboring countries. I am warmly welcomed by Mme Ndeye Mama, Winrock Country Director, and her husband, Mr. Ousmane. This is one of the trademarks of the program: local staff is always available and everybody truly goes out of their way to make you feel comfortable. The Winrock office is brand new and well set for expansion: there is plenty of space. There is also a great sense of anticipation, because finally F2F is starting in earnest and the first volunteer has arrived.

My task is to work with the teachers  at the Horticulture Vocational Training Center in Cambéréne on Competence-Based Education (CBA), soon to be adopted, and to build their capacity to develop course content based on this approach. Camberene is few kilometers from Ngor, the neighborhood where the Winrock office is and where I am staying at a local hotel. Many entities, either public or private, many NGOs and international organizations are relocating from the center of Dakar into this area, which is also very close to the airport, in the attempt to decentralize operations and escape the traffic and crowd of the inner city.

In effect, the surroundings feel quite laid-back, with the sea at stone-throw distance in many places and glimpses of waves and water from the main road in between buildings.  I am intrigued by the sheer number of “garden centers” strewn around, selling a great variety of ornamental plants right on the road. These are on-site nurseries, small enterprises producing on the spot and selling directly to the public.

The training is engaging and the teachers are active participants. We all have a sense that interest is growing and focusing on the CBA subject. We have two weeks to work together.

All along, I  also have a chance to know about Senegalese people and culture in general. I am given a local name, Maty Ndour, of the Serere tribe. I learn about “teasing cousins”. And I am periodically and regularly energized by thick teas (both with and without mint) and spiced Touba coffee.

During the weekend I am adopted by the Country Director’s family, whisked away from the capital and taken to visit few delightful spots, Gore island and Saly, the Hann and Bandia Parks, the Pink Lake. But everybody pitches in to enlarge my cultural experiences: Adama and Sane take me on a long Saturday visit around Dakar and just every little talking exchange with anybody serves the purpose. Granted, my French is borderline pathetic, I understand way more than I can express myself, nonetheless we keep talking in whatever language comes at hand.

I am at the end of this experience. I will be leaving late tonight, extremely grateful for the opportunity I had to come and work with everybody here, and with the memory of many moments I will cherish.”