This week I was in Thiès for a permaculture workshop, where there were about 15 other PCVs, representing each region of Senegal. Going back to Thiès is like seeing an old friend again - It’s where my Peace Corps life started, and it was nice to go back because I realized how far I’ve come in a few months. When I first got to Senegal, I thought Thiès was the filthiest, most disgusting place I’d ever seen in my life. Now, it’s paradise. I can get banana splits, diet coke, and chocolate; and there is less trash here than there is in Thilogne.

I am always worried about leaving Mon Amie with my host family, for obvious reasons. It’s like leaving my only child with a babysitter who throws rocks at kids, and thinks it fine to kick them. I called my host mom today and she said the dog is well, but one never knows. If I’ve learned anything about Senegalese culture, it’s that they would rather lie to you than respond in the negative, whether it’s about something simple, like not having a certain item on the menu at a restaurant, or something really serious.

The workshop was great because we spent only a couple hours in the classroom, and the rest of the time was spent actually building a bio-intensive garden that will last forever. A permagarden expert from Tanzania came to teach us a new gardening method that maximizes natural resources in a small space, close to the home, which yields bigger and better crops than the traditional method. Although there is more work in the beginning using the new method, the soil actually improves over time and requires far less work in the long run. When building a permagarden, we learned to plan ahead - observe the rain flow on the ground and start a compost. We double-dug the soil to enable the roots to go deeper, thereby allowing the plants to be planted closer together, eliminating wasted space. We added charcoal, ash, and compost to the soil in order to hold carbon dioxide and water, re-mineralize the soil, and enrich and compact the soil, respectively.


I would love to build a permagarden in Thilogne, but the problem is finding motivated workers who want to learn new techniques. I’ve noticed from talking to other PCVs and traveling to different regions, that the people in Thilogne are far less motivated than people from other areas. I think the main reason for this is the heat. The north, where we live, is not only the hottest region in Senegal, it is the hottest inhabited place on earth during certain times of the year. The heat is debilitating, and gardening is not in their blood like it is for people in the South of Senegal. That said, I will talk to the farmers and see if they are interested.  Even if they are willing to incorporate one of the techniques of the permagarden, they will benefit a lot, so I hope I can encourage even one person or family to try it.