Oumar Diédhiou: education helps farmers

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Oumar Diédhiou: education helps farmers

Oumar Diédhiou is a single man of 22 living in the village of Badiana, Casamance province, Senegal. He has two brothers and one sister, and has been the head of the family since the death of both parents two years before. Oumar's view is that life is now so hard for people that an uncle can no longer be expected to look after a deceased brother's family. "So it's up to orphan children to stick together and help each other," he says.

Oumar left secondary school after three years, when his mother became seriously ill. He comments: "I feel I have studied far enough to do a lot of things… I can lead an association, I can read, I can write." In particular, being educated helps him as a farmer: "I understand the logic behind whatever activity I carry out," he says. "And I am more efficient. I know how to use fertilizers, for instance. I can make projections and set objectives for myself."

Oumar grows millet, peanuts, tobacco, vegetables and rice, and most recently has started growing fruit trees. He would like to have some training in tree growing and to acquire "a better command of tree transplanting".

Aware that "our environment has changed because of climate change", Oumar calls for new farming methods suited to the short rain cycle. He elaborates: "Ploughing with the kadiandou is very hard, very slow; it is outdated… We need to have the appropriate equipment to work faster. That way we can make an adequate living." In addition, local farmers need good seeds and fertilizers, he says, "We also need small dams to retain water when it rains". And unless the problem of sand invasion is tackled, he fears his rice fields "will soon be useless".

Only with such improvements will peasants "have the courage to stay in agriculture", Oumar maintains. "Otherwise it's too hard and it hardly feeds you. So any of us who can have a better job will leave."

Oumar talks about the problems of marketing fruit: "Buyers are not easy to find. And fruits get rotten fast. So you have to agree with other people in the village to have a large enough quantity to convince buyers to come to the village. The problem is when you get them to come here, they impose their prices. If you don't sell, your products can go bad and you lose." He says, " Villagers should organize themselves…[and] designate people who can buy our goods and take them to cities".

As a leader of the village association, Oumar is proud that the group has managed to acquire a rice mill, which is "of great help to women". He also belongs to an association of tobacco growers.

Among other subjects Oumar discusses are the problems of the most vulnerable people in his community, coping mechanisms in times of food shortage, the need for better leadership and representation, and his hopes for future generations. "We all hope and pray that our children have a better life than us," he says. "And I believe they will indeed have a better life."