"The visit of Seckou Kandé, mayor of Bantancountou" Mortsel Travelogue by irisbe
Mortsel Travel Guide: 48 reviews and 196 photos
When our mayor Ingrid was requested by the NGO Vredeseilanden to visit the mayor of Bantancountou, a little village in the South of Senegal <a href="http://www.virtualtourist.com/m/23575/f6c/"target="_blank">(view my Senegal page)</a>, she was very honoured. She was accompanied by a female farmer and a journalist of a Flemish newspaper.
She kept a diary which I hope to be able to translate and put abstracts of it on that same Senegalese page.
Due to the promotion campaign, Seckou was invited for a week visit in Belgium.
There he visited the farm of his previous guest, he visited Mortsel, Leuven and other places in Flanders and Limburg.
He was accompanied by a Senegalese journalist Alassane Cisse.
I was amongst others invited to hear his story when in the city hall in Mortsel.
He was handled over some drawings these kids made and I managed to put some photo album together with local pictures.
I think he liked it very much and it is funny to know these drawings are somewhere in Senegal now :-)
Maybe been looked at by the local kids, maybe he took them to the school? Anyway they are made for a long travel!
With a video film we got introduced to the story of Seckou and his village, one of the many that will face famine at the very moment I am typing this.
The farmers cultivate several crops, a small amount is to provide their own needs, rice, vegetables... but the largest part is the cultivation of peanuts, mostly used to produce arachide oil and meant to the export.
There is only one harvest and all the income of this harvest has to cover all expenses throughout the year.
This means that additional food, medicine, clothing, education, all but all you can imagine that has to be payed with money is paid with the profits of the peanuts harvest.
In the North, there live mighty families that have a huge plantages.
But harvesting the same crop year after year, the soil became sandy and poor. So this is a first threat: the rich peanut companies are trying to buy up the land and put a pressure to get more and more of the vertile land of the Southern part.
At the same time the price of the peanuts have been going down on the international market, that the selling price is now below the production price.
There is much concurrence of the American peanuts.
While in the past the farmers got a fixed minimum price for their harvest by the Senegalese government, they don't get any monetary support anymore!!!!
The IMF only wanted to give Senegal a loan IF THEY STOPPED SUBSIDISING THEIR FARMERS!!!!
This year (2002) the peanut harvest is one of the best in years, but there are no buyers!
The factories don't come any more to pick up the huge piles of peanuts that are soon going to be rotten on the fields.
Seckou, who had to stop his studies to take in the place of mayor after his father died too young, has now carrying this huge responsability: his people are going to starve, there is already hunger.
What had happened over years is that the people had to harvest more and more peanuts to be able to get a bit of profit to cover their expenses, while the price they got for it reduced and melted like snow is melting in the sun.
The amount of crops they cultivated for own needs became smaller and smaller.
When you try to get eventually your peanuts to the factory, you are giving a paper on which stands that the governement is going to pay you for your goods... but with a paper you don't buy anything!!!
Seckou is asking now for national and international help to switch from that devastating monoculture to a huger differentiation.
To be able to feed your own people.
But to do so you need vertilizing the soil, you need water.
On his way to handle this plan over to the minister of agriculture in Dakar, he visited 2 projects that has been carried out succesfully by help of Vredeseilanden.
(to my humble opinion, it looked like that minister was not really going to do much, he was just polite taking the papers and making promises, eurrr elections where coming up? right! I have my doubts, let time prove that I am wrong).
In one village they had build a water tower and in a time of 5 years they could raise bananas, vegetables and 50 families lived from that land.
A representant of Vredeseilanden filled in additional info and translated everything for those who were not accustomed to the French language, which our Senegalese friends spoke so fluently.
After the video presentation we could ask question.
One was about education: if there is given more attention now to agricultural studies?
That was after all the problem in the first place: when the French made Senegal a colony they needed administrating personel and most of the education was oriented towards that need, the agricultural science was totally neglected.
Of course people here were curious what Seckou thought about the difference between the rich West and his country.
He said he was updated about the latest news and technologies. He has a radio with batteries and a television working on solar panels.
Daily they would watch what was happening in the world of politics, economics and science and afterwards discuss matters under the tree.
He said that the evolution might already have been gone too far in some cases.
That it is almost hilarious to think we are capable to walk on the moon, but to provide people with the most elementary needs, seems still to be impossible.
We spend millions on wheapons and on warfare but we don't have hardly money for helping people to get water and maybe electricity.
The amount of money given to development aid should make us all turn red of shame, especially viewed in the context of other expenses!
We put the products of these countries under import taxation while we force them to import ours without!
We invented the free world economy and make all the profits while they starve!
Rethinking this wrong globalisation tendens, reconsidering the tasks and way of working of those huge organisations like UN and VN and IMF is one of our priorities now.
Living with this knowledge of injustice, can we stay untouched and say that we didn't knew???
After the official part we were all invited to share a bread lunch with our guests.
That was really very nice!
Tomorrow they will be going to Leuven where the official start of the Campaign of Vredeseilanden will take place.
Their travel haven't been unnoticed: television, local and official, newspapers, radio, all have reported about the trip of Seckou Kandé and his honourable mission.
I bet he is the hero of his village now!
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