This blog reflects my personal ideas and does not represent any position of the US government or the Peace Corps.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Rain Waiting

Hello all! Here in Senegal, things are about to change drastically, everyone has their eyes glued to the sky…waiting for rain. The other night after dinner (around 10 pm), as I sat outside and continued to sweat, a good friend informed me that Allah is in the process of “cooking water.” Essentially meaning, it is necessary for it to get extremely hot, so that we can get consistent rains during the next few months. So, recently, temperatures have been getting higher and higher….or…are at least feeling higher and higher (reaching around 110 degrees). Needless to say, 90% of the day, my hand is extended with a small handheld fan (non-electric, energy-consuming).
Aside from sweating, the work pace is also starting to pick up for the villagers of Sali. In the past few months, in preparation for the rains, all the men of the village have been waking up early and spending most days in the fields. Their field preparation involves cleaning up last year’s left over field crop residues, cutting down any new bushes or weeds, raking all this into piles and burning it up! As you might imagine, in an area that has not seen a significant amount of moisture in more than 9 months, this preparation process leads to lots and lots of bush fires. Villagers are often very careful to wait until dawn or dusk when the wind subsides, but with so many of them, there is no avoiding it. As a result, the bush surrounding my village is suffering some severe damage from generations and generations of this same process. The fires have also been known to make their way into villages (believed to be the work of a genie according to many) which can become extremely devastating very quickly with roofs of houses made of dried weeds, fences/walls made of dried millet stalks and the only water source coming from wells with pulleys and buckets to pull the water. Luckily, my village only had a small fire incident this year and no one was hurt.
In the region of Kaffrine, meteorologists predict that the first large rain of the season should occur between June 18th and 23rd  (defined by 20 millimeters at least). Farmers here rely on this. When seeding (primarily peanuts, millet, corn, sorghum and beans), they eagerly await enough rain to keep the soil moist for a few days, enough to get their seeds to germinate. If it does not rain again within a week or so of that first rain, their entire crop could dry up under the midday sun. If they wait too long, however, until the rains are consistent, they may not have enough time for their crop to fully mature during the season. A delicate balance! Just to give you an idea of the importance riding on this rainy season, these crops are the primary source of income for villagers, and currently the cash from the previous crop, 9 months ago, is running dry….and the food running bland (also, add to this that the last rainy season was marked by very few rains and many had poor crops or little money). Most are very anxious.
             In addition, just outside of the village, things are on the move for the nomadic pulaar people. These people make a living with extremely large herds of cows, sheep and goats. As the rains get closer and closer, they are now headed north. I did not understand this phenomenon at first, but then someone explained that clearly, if all these herds were in the fields during seeding time, any brand new baby field crops would be eaten up! Therefore, recently, large charettes pulled by multiple donkeys (sometimes up to five!) piled with every one of their possessions have been parading through the village. And to think, I thought we were living the hard life in rural Senegal, these people are yet another step down (or up?)…
As for me, with the changing seasons, my work is picking up. As a “sustainable agriculture extension agent,” I am responsible for extending improved seed varieties to motivated farmers in the village. Once extended, I follow the seeds, visit the farms weekly and provide small pointers on how to get a better crop (what the heck do I know!!??). So, my life for the next few months will involve a lot of walking, looking at fields and trying to get farmers to think I know what I’m talking about. We’ll see how it goes!
Lastly, check out some new photos on photobucket (sorry there are not too many!).

Until next time! Love!