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Senegalese renounce European odyssey for the fields

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Some spent years working in Italy. Others dreamed of getting to Europe but never even made it as far as Libya.

Today, they are among a small number of Senegalese who have turned away from the allure of migration and instead are part of a new generation of farmers at home.

Pape Samba Diane, 45, spent five years working in agriculture and in a factory in Italy’s Brescia region – the dream of thousands of fellow Senegalese, many of whom risk the dangerous journey through the Sahara for a place on a rickety boat across the Mediterranean.

As he laboured on the vineyards, Diane could not help but fail to notice that the people making most of the money were not the workers, but the farmers. That led him to ponder about the potential to do the same back home.

“We didn’t realise that we could make something of ourselves using the earth,” he told AFP, sitting under a large tree on his rice farm in Senegal’s central Kaolack region.

“In Italy they have agriculture, food processing, agribusiness and they launch their own companies, so I asked myself: ‘Why can’t I do that?'”

After returning, he doggedly pursued the idea, helped by a programme tailored to fill gaps in know-how and technology intended to make farming in the West African fields less back-breaking and more lucrative.

Senegal’s government is pushing a policy of self-sufficiency in rice production, aided by research to make crops more climate-resistant and provide a higher yield.

It has a partnership with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), a specialised UN agency, which has brought support and training in a nation where a stable political climate contrasts with persistent food insecurity.

 Passing on knowledge

The problems facing Senegalese agriculture are many. Low mechanisation means that much planting and harvesting is done by hand – the toil and low pay are viewed dismally by many young people.

Many villages in Senegal’s central and western regions have emptied of men who go to look for better-paid work elsewhere.

The back-to-farming programme seeks to brake the trend. More than $100m has been earmarked for a scheme running from 2011 to 2022, which organisers say will benefit 75 000 households.

Deputy Mayor Babacar Mbaye returned to the Kaolack community of Nganda in 2013 after eight years in Italy and he has watched others follow in his footsteps.

“In the area, around 20 or 30 people have returned from the 100 or so who left,” Mbaye said. “They emigrate to other African countries as well, not just to Europe.”

Rice is Senegal’s staple food, and once Diane was enrolled in a training programme he quickly learned when to sow and harvest a new strain of resilient seed, devised to cope with a warmer climate and declining rainfall.

This season, he harvested three tonnes of rice per hectare from land where yields had been zero for four years.

“We learnt the importance of quality grain and when to use fertiliser at the right time,” he explained.

Meanwhile Diane has embedded himself fully in his community, serving on the local council and heading up a rice producers’ association. He is passing on expertise to a younger generation of would-be farmers.

 ‘Cheated and abandoned’ 

One of them is Mbaye Toure, 33. In 2014, he left his village, Ndederling, in the Sine Saloum delta and hit the migrant trail.

“I went to (the capital) Dakar first, where I sold things with other young people,” he said, sporting the kind of woolly hat Senegalese wear in defiance of year-round balmy temperatures.

Standing in a field of onions, he reflects on the twists his life has taken since he was tricked by a smuggler who promised to take him and a fellow group of young hopefuls through the Mauritanian desert.

The smugglers pocketed their savings of 75 000 francs CFA (around 115 euros) and abandoned them. “They cheated us, and left us hungry for days,” he recalls. In despair, the young men returned home.

“I heard about what happens in Libya to people who leave and now I beg them to stay,” he said, alluding to images of black Africans being sold in slave markets that triggered outrage when recently broadcasted by CNN.

These days, Toure is more worried about taking care of his vegetables. In Sine Saloum, 120 young farmers cultivate 30 hectares of land full of plants that need constant attention.

Back in Kaolack, Diane feels lucky to have escaped the cruelty meted out during his migrant days. “One day a guy told us to go back where we came from and that really hurt,” he said.

“Now a whole year can go by without me even going to Dakar.”

Motherland News

Protest leader arrested, charged with inciting violence in Zimbabwe.

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Armed police in Zimbabwe have arrested a political activist at his home on Wednesday, his lawyer said.

It comes as protests against fuel price hikes enters day 3 Wednesday. Evan Mawarire, a Harare pastor, rose to prominence as a critic of former leader, Robert Mugabe.

Beatrice Mtetwa is lawyer for Evan Mawarire.



Businesses and schools remain closed while mobile telecom networks enforce a government internet shut down in this Southern African nation.

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“I cannot say the stay away has been successful but at the end of the day we await to hear what the government will do because the people have spoken, they were not happy and up to now they are still in fear”, said Harare resident, Ronald Gwasira.

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“The way it looks people want to go to work but unfortunately it seems the transport operators are not willing to take them”, said Terrence Gumbi, another resident.

Wednesday is the third and final day of stay-at-home protests called by unions in response to the steep hike in fuel prices.

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Kenya: Uhuru Kenyata promises avenge terror attack in Nirobi.

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Kenyan security forces have neutralised all four terrorists involved in the attack on a hotel complex in the capital Nairobi, President Uhuru Kenyatta said on Wednesday.

Kenyatta said about 700 people had been safely evacuated, vowed to avenge the 14 “innocent” lives lost.



“We are a nation that never forgets those who hurt our children. We will pursue relentlessly those involved in the planning and execution of this attack,” the president said.

‘‘I take note of Kenyans who took to social media to spread hope and criticise false information. You have shown the world bravery, patriotism and love.’‘

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he attack in numbers

  • 14 civilians confirmed dead

  • 700 people safely evacuated

  • 4 attackers neutralised

Victims

An earlier estimate put the death toll at 15.

Timeline of the attack

  • Tuesday 3pm (local time): Attack on dusitD2 hotel begins with two explosions

  • Tuesday 5:55pm: Al Shabaab claims responsibility

  • Tuesday night: AU, EU, UN, United States, Somalia condemn the attack

  • Tuesday night : Police announces it has secured 7 out of eight floors

  • Wednesday 6am: Gunshots ring out as police say at least two groups of people still trapped inside complex

  • Wednesday 8am: President Kenyatta declares terror attack and security operation ‘over’.

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