Rainy season is drawing to a close here in Senegal, marking the end of the busiest time of the year for an Agriculture Volunteer. The season began suddenly in July with a rainstorm. For weeks dark clouds had skittered across the skies, only bringing relief from the glaring sun. One day, those clouds opened up, sending excited children into the streets in their underclothes and farmers dashing for their seedig machines.
Immediately the pace of life changed. Everyone rose at 5 or 6 to eat an early breakfast before going to the massive fields to seed and tend their crops. This is perhaps the most important time of year in Senegal as the crops grown during the rainy season feed families for the entire year. Recognizing this, Peace Corps Senegal has partnered with ISRA – Institut Sénégalais de Recherches Agricoles – to increase crop yields throughout the country.
The process is simple. ISRA breeds staple crops adapted to local conditions within Senegal. Each year Peace Corps Volunteers distribute a selection of these improved seed varieties to the farmers they work with. At the same time they teach improved crop management techniques. Last year, 70% of farmers in the program produced above the national average. This has helped families to become more food secure and financially stable.
My hut has a flourishing garden as well. While I spend much of my time in the fields or speaking with farmers, the rains have eliminated my daily watering routine. Now I have tomatoes, eggplants, okra, rice, and hibiscus growing in my garden. The veggies it will produce will go towards my meals with extras given to my family.