We in Ndorong want to say JOKANJYAL MAYU (thank you so, so much) to all the friends and family in the States who helped make this latrine project possible. The community has completed 36 latrines thus far and more are currently under construction. Ndorong plans to be finished with all 63 latrines before the end of August. Again, for those of you who donated, we cannot thank you enough for your generous support. You have helped enable a positive, lasting impact for our community’s health for many years to come. Below are pictures of our progress. Thank you.
Ramadan, the holy month of fasting for Muslims, was observed in Senegal on June 18 and recently ended on July 17. During Ramadan, we break fast before dawn with bread, dates and tea then abstain from eating or drinking anything until sunset. This is a very difficult month for everyone, but especially for manual laborers who must work outside during what is arguably the hottest month of the year. Farmers must plow and plant their fields, masons are scrambling to finish houses before the heavy rains, taxi drivers have long journeys ahead of them, and not an air conditioned office in sight. The fasting lasts for a month, beginning and ending with the slivered crescent of new moon. On July 17th, the entire village gazed west into the rose-blush dusk, searching for the first sight of the slight pale finger-nail of a moon. The following day was Korite, a day of pure, unadulterated feasting. Groups of young men dressed in their finest bou-bous, led the tour de Ndorong, visiting each family asking forgiveness and sampling their cuisine, typically macaroni or cous-cous served with onion sauce and goat meat. This Korite, our family cooked roast duck with vermicelli, onions and potatoes. After stuffing ourselves silly and reveling in the fact that we can drink water again, the village silently agreed to a mass siesta. Below are a few pictures of the celebration.
Farmer use horses, donkeys, and cattle to plow their fields after the rain. Farmers plant millet before the rain and peanuts and corn after the first heavy rain. Thus far, the rains have been promising.
This year, the women got a head start on cold season gardening season planting onions, green peppers, hot peppers, okra, daikon radish, cucumbers, tomatoes, cabbage, and lettuce. They were one of the first to arrive in the weekly market with heads of iceberg lettuce so big, people thought it was a new type of cabbage. The women have sold all of their lettuce and have already transplanted a second bed. The women have also just harvested their onions, each group yielding around forty pounds of onions. Below are a few photos of their hard work!
Open defecation is a serious health issue in our village. It is not uncommon to go outside and find a child squatting to relieve themselves out in the open, right in the middle of compound or the street. Adults are more discreet and venture into the fields, however rarely bring soap along to properly clean themselves. Often, people will dig a shallow hole or trench for the family and put up a millet-stalk fence for privacy. This is certainly a better alternative, but since the holes aren’t deeply dug nor reinforced with cement, the holes collapse every rainy season (sometimes even before the rainy season) and with the heavy rains, follows the waste floating throughout the village. People are aware of the health implications of open defecation. They see the parasites living beneath their children’s skin from playing in the sand. They know not washing their hands afterwards is a source of their stomach aches, diarrhea, and pink eye. The omnipresent flies landing on feces and then on our food and open sores is a primary source of giardia and infection.
Latrines provide a space that is safe, sanitary, centralized, discreet, durable, and dignified for the entire family to utilize. Our vision is to have one latrine for each family compound, a total of 63 latrines, each equipped with a “tippy-tap” hand-washing station. Additionally, our village will host a series of seminars led by Peace Corps Health Volunteers about the importance of frequent and thorough hand-washing.
This was not my idea of a project for Ndorong-Sereer. Coming in as an Agroforestry Volunteer, I’ve been focused on helping protect farmers’ fields and gardens using live-fencing species, establishing cashew and mango orchards, creating community woodlots, and helping graft improved fruit varieties. This project has been entirely orchestrated by the community. The community has organized meetings to discourse at length the importance of constructing latrines and how they can improve the health of the village. Everyone agreed latrines would benefit the village and agreed to provide at least 25% of the grant total from both in-kind contributions and cash. They held more meetings to discuss advantages and disadvantages of different latrine designs. After deciding on a simple yet effective design, attractive because of its durability and efficient use of materials, the village masons stood up and voluntarily agreed to work at a reduced wage to help with construction. The men followed, willingly volunteering to dig the 2mx2mx2m pit for women-run households whose sons and husbands have left for the city. The village chief then called a meeting for the local masons and me to discuss costs and logistics of materials and transport. Here is what we determined.
Our inventory includes:
- 504 sacks of cement, each $5.31, total $2,676
- 18 large poles of #10 rebar, each $2.76, total $49.74
- 6 large pole of #8 rebar, each $2.76, total $49.74
- 63 carts of gravel, each cart $8.29, total $522.27
- 20kg of metal wire, each $1.66, total $33.20
- 5 back and forth trips to transport all materials, each $36.48, total $182.39
- 63 reduced mason wages to construct each latrine, each $16.58, total $1,044.54
As you can see, even the smallest contribution is an enormous help. Just $2.00 can fund more than a kilo of metal wire for a latrine. A mason’s wage for one latrine is covered with $20.00. You can sponsor a latrine for an entire family for only $81.91. We need your support to raise $4,095 to help fund our vision of providing a latrine for every compound. The community has invested $1,065 in cash and is very enthusiastic and eager to begin construction. We are grateful for any amount you have to offer, please help contribute to improving the health of our village!
You can Donate Here!
For many villages in Senegal, cooking is a balancing act; a large cast-iron pot precariously poised atop three misshapen stones over a dancing open flame. Much of the heat is wasted, dissipating into the enclosed cooking hut instead of tightly directed at the bottom of the pot. This inefficiency requires more wood and more time spent cooking in a smoke-filled room. Every day, women venture further and further into the neighboring protected forest to harvest a rapidly diminishing supply of dead wood. The law forbids people from cutting living, or “wet”, trees, but when the supply is scarce, what other option is available?
There are, however, ways to reduce the fuel load and the amount smoke while cooking in the same amount of time or less by using improved cook stoves. There are prefabricated portable iron stoves for sale in larger cities, but a high up front cost often dissuades people (especially men who don’t collect firewood, don’t cook, and don’t sit in a room saturated with smoke three times a day, but who have tight control over the finances) from purchasing them. Clay stoves, entirely free and made with local materials, appear to be a more enticing alternative.
In February, I accompanied four very motivated women from my village, Mariama Diouf, Ami Diouf, Haddie Ngom, and Kumba Diouf, to the CREATE! center in Fass Barigo where we learned to make clay stoves. The stoves are inspired by the three stone cooking method, but built to fully enclose the cooking pot. This concentrates heat of the fire to the pot while significantly reducing the amount of wood needed in the three-stone method. Since less wood is being burned and the wood is being burned at a higher temperature, cooking with the clay stove also produces less smoke. In the training, the technicians did an awesome job in demonstrating how to build the cook stoves and after the lesson, we were able to build one by ourselves.
Upon returning to the village, the women set right to work in collecting materials and inviting their friends over to learn how to construct the stoves for themselves. If a woman wants a stove, she collects the materials beforehand and helps out building a stove at another compound. When it’s her turn, the original four women, those who want a stove and those who built the last stove come by to help. After the stove is built, she goes on to help construct a new stove the next compound. Below are photos of the stove-making process and the women with their finished stoves.
The months before the Tabaski holiday in early October, the cities of Senegal are bleating with sheep. When travelling, it is not uncommon to see sheep strapped to the top of station wagons, buses, horse carts, or even stuffed in a sack, neck poking out, and seated on a moto, eyeing passing cars with cool disdain. Tabaski celebrates the inveterate faith of Ibrahima who was commanded by God to sacrifice his promised son, Ishmael. It is said that before the fatal blow, God recognized and rewarded Ibrahima’s faith and replaced Ishmael with a sheep, which is why a sheep is traditionally killed and eaten on Tabaski. Tabaski morning, families dress up in their newly tailored outfits and attend mosque for special prayers delivered by the Imam. After the service, people ask forgiveness from their neighbors and give blessings for the upcoming year. The head of the family then brings out the sheep to be slaughtered and processed in accordance with halal practices. Many dishes are prepared and sent out to relatives, friends, and those unable to afford a sheep. Later on in the evening, the children roam around the village asking forgiveness and coins. Below are photos from my family’s Tabaski.
The rains started very late this year, so late that Ndorong-Sereer and the neighboring village of Yerwago called for a rain ceremony, last performed in 1999. Women from the village dressed in men’s clothing and danced for hours on top of the grave of an elder whom was said to have had ‘xom xom’ (wisdom), ‘yeef yadju’ (wide thoughts) and could seduce the rain whenever he pleased. The rains came a week later and have been consistent since, arriving three to four times a week. Though much meeker than last year’s rainy season, when everyone was stranded in village because the roads were completely inundated and there was no access to fresh fish or veggies, the current rains have done an adequate job at keeping our soil saturated for our thirsty rainy season veggies. The women’s garden is lush with daikon radish, okra, eggplant (the third round!), green peppers, sweet potatoes, and bitter tomatoes. We’ve also been able to transplant papayas and a live-fence of Acacia nilotica, a thorny, nitrogen-fixing species which, in addition to protecting the perimeter of the garden, the bark is also used to treat stomach ailments. Oh yeah, and the garden expanded a bit.
Young okra flowering and fruiting. Another big money maker at the market since it fruits quickly and often. It’s also one of the easiest to intercrop, as seen here planted near the daikon radish.