The last farmers of Dakar

Apr 5th, 2010 | By | Category: Reporter's Notebook, Top Story

Africa Reporting Project reporter Madeleine Bair was in Dakar, Senegal’s capital, for 17 days in March, exploring the ways that a swelling city’s concrete jungle is paving over traditional farmland. The discoveries took her from the city’s center, where a small patch of green is all that remains today of a fertile farming valley, to the edge of the metropolis, where the construction of Dakar’s new airport is uprooting entire villages.

Below are excerpts from Madeleine’s photoblog, which she kept while reporting in Dakar.

This land is who’s land?

March 20

Forty-year-old Ibrahima Diallo has been farming in Patte D’Oie for half his life. He concedes, though, that he doesn’t invest in his land as much as he could because of the looming fear that the government will take away his fields, as it did to those of neighboring farmers to construct a freeway. “I cannot tell you when, but I have a strong feeling that sooner or later this area is going to disappear,” Diallo said.

Patte d’oie | March 14

Patte d’oie means crow’s foot in French. It also has a secondary meaning: fork in the road. That’s a fitting name for the neighborhood of the last of the urban farmers of Dakar, cultivating produce on the scarce acres remaining of a green valley that once covered hundreds. Today you can stand on one edge of the farmland in front of a three story home with a garage, and look over plots of strawberries, lettuce, mint and yams, to rush hour traffic on the highway across the way.

Papa Gueye | March 13

Papa Gueye, 60-year old farmer and leader of the local farmers association of Kayar, a region about 40km northeast of Dakar.

Farmland turned housing | March 13

What you see are two unfinished houses and arid land blanketed with litter and limbs of plants long since dead. Just a few years ago, this was a green field of Irish potatoes, groundnuts and vegetables. Papa Gueye’s three acres were among the hundred acres taken by the local mayor in 2000 to sell to housing developers. Fortunately for Papa Gueye he had more land to continue producing, but what’s left is rapidly diminishing. Just this February, local authorities came to the area again to identify what land could be transformed into valuable housing next.

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