Faith, flora and fabric: How a Senegalese village became a desert oasis
NDEM, Senegal, April 21 (Reuters) – Under the scorching sun that hits the Senegalese savannah, the verdant gardens of the village of Ndem are a sanctuary.
Inside a hibiscus fence, rows of vegetables grow under fruit trees. Men with dreadlocked hair and women in technicolor dresses dye fabrics and sew handbags for luxury boutiques and furniture companies in Spain, Italy and the United States.
They are members of Baye Fall, a branch of the Muslim Mouride Brotherhood in Senegal who believe that work is a form of prayer. In Ndem, they created an oasis in a region long plagued by drought.
“We are driven towards the love of sharing, of work, by thinking about improving the living conditions of our environment in harmony with nature,” said Fallou Mbow, 29, whose great-great-great -father founded the village.
Mbow’s parents and others founded the NGO Ndem Villagers in 1984 to manage a myriad of development projects. Since then, the group has grown to around 4,600 members who have renewed the landscape using irrigation systems and solar power.
“It is only in Ndem that there are these kinds of work opportunities,” said Mame Diarra Wade, one of the 120 women who transform the baobab fruit into an edible powder.
âWe are happy to see those from the surrounding villages coming to work with us.
A plaque made in Ndem can even be found at the White House, a gift from a visiting consultant to former President George W. Bush, one of the NGO’s project leaders said.
At the request of the Mourid leaders, the Mbow family moved in 2015 near Mbacke Kadjior, cradle of the Baye Fall movement, to replicate their success. This village now has lively craft workshops and extensive gardens.
âOne of the main goals is to really slow down the rural exodus,â said Maam Samba Mbow, Fallu Mbow’s younger brother, âto create a vibrant local economy that is good for the villagers, so that they can have a happy life with interesting activities instead of looking for work in the big city. “
Reporting by Cooper Inveen Editing by Nellie Peyton and Karishma Singh
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