Discover the testimony of Océane, student in Master of Environmental Sciences at the University of Geneva and intern at IRHA for almost a year. She tells us about her stay in Senegal, as part of the field visit to follow the evolution of IRHA's activities.
"November 2022 was an opportunity for me to discover the land of teranga, an experience rich in all aspects: human encounters, cultural discoveries, culinary and musical initiations, not to mention the magnificent landscapes covered with these massive trees so emblematic of tropical Africa: the baobab.
As part of my master's degree, I am writing a thesis on the links between various environmental problems (land salinisation, deforestation, erosion, water shortage, soil degradation), local agricultural practices and various land management strategies in the Fatick region; a subject that fits perfectly with the activities implemented by the IRHA on themes such as the transition to agro-ecology, the restoration of ecosystems and the optimisation of water resources.
The aim of this mission was therefore twofold: to discover IRHA's projects and partners and to conduct surveys with local authorities and farmers, which formed the basis of my reflection for this thesis.
As a trainee, I was able to observe IRHA's achievements in person: boulis (water accumulation points), agroforestry plots, mangrove nurseries (for reforestation) and calabashs (rainwater collection tanks). During my stay with our host family, I even saw first-hand the sometimes life-saving nature of these calabashs: they ensured that the family and many neighbours had access to clean drinking water and hygienic facilities, as well as the ability to prepare meals, which would otherwise not have been possible due to a water cut of several days in the distribution network.
As a student, I conducted interviews. Beyond simple surveys aimed at collecting information, these turned out to be real moments of sharing and learning, rich in emotions. The village chiefs were invaluable. Their roles as popular lawyers in charge of settling disputes between farmers, as spokespersons for the village in front of the communities and as guarantors of social cohesion within the village, make them real mines of knowledge. The group interviews with the women of the villages under study also made a particular impression on me. They embodied everything I had imagined African talks to be: a very convivial moment, where the women of the village gather around a traditional tea, punctuated by the rules of the palaver and bursts of laughter.
It is therefore with memories full of the evenings spent draining peanuts to the tune of the famous Youssou N'Dour and after having eaten the traditional Serer couscous that I return to Geneva.