‘I am just an African; no one hears what I say’

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Date: 26 January, 2006


hand full of worms


Kisma Sylla (on the left) and Kisma Diallo learn how to and plant a citrus fruit tree.
photo: Christian Aid / Charlotte Brudenell

 

 

‘To truly protect and secure the future for ourselves and our children it is essential to know how to protect and plant trees.’ These are the thoughts of Kisma Sylla, who recently attended a course on tree and forestry management run by Christian Aid's partner in Senegal, USE.

USE (Union pour la Solidarité et l’Entraide / Union for Solidarity and Mutual Aid) began working in northern Senegal in 1975 as a response to the drought. Many villages which USE has supported over the years now have hydraulic wells, educational and health centres.

The tree and forestry course is part of USE’s work to help people find ways to cultivate dry land, reduce the use of natural resources and protect the environment.

Kisma is 20 years old and currently studying for the Baccalaureate (the equivalent of A levels). He is one of many who have attended USE’s forestry management course. Here he talks about what he learnt.

’The protection of the environment is very important. To protect the environment, we must plant trees and also protect the trees we have, so that when it rains, the rainfall is plentiful. Scientific research has proven that if there are trees, there will be abundant rainfall.’

‘We also know that trees emit oxygen during the day, which man needs to breathe, and we know that man produces carbon dioxide gas which destroys oxygen, so we need trees! In addition they produce wood to make things with and fruits to eat, so we need to ensure we manage our use of trees.’

Kisma lives in Madina-Ndiathbé a village in northern of Senegal, which is part of the Sahel region. Running from Ethiopia in the east to Senegal in the west, the Sahel is one of the driest and most variable environments in Africa. Such conditions make it especially vulnerable to climate change. Like most villages in the region Madina-Ndiathbé depends on agriculture and livestock for their living.

In 1972 the northern region suffered a great drought and since then the droughts have returned on an almost annual basis. Traditional rain-fed agriculture continues to fail and as a result, the population migrates to the already crowded cities.

Though conditions have improved, there remains a vicious cycle of soil erosion, insufficient irrigation, deforestation, bushfires, desertification and drought. As a result trees are very rare in the Sahel.

’We have learnt how to plant trees, what climate and environment they need to grow, how to maintain them, how to prevent illnesses and insect attacks, and how to graft trees and take cuttings. I must return to my village and raise awareness about the importance of trees and explain what I have learnt,’ says Kisma.

While many effects of climate change are irreversible and the replanting trees alone will not counter it effects, Kisma knows that attitudes to the environment need to change.

Despite the words and actions of Kisma and others he believes that western governments have a far greater role to play. ‘It is President Bush who has the power to cut carbon emissions. I am just an African, no one hears what I say.’

After his Alevels Kisma hopes to go to university in France and then become a philosopher or a specialist in agricultural production.