Hundreds of trees along the Casamance River have been cut down for construction purposes like building houses and making charcoal.
Adam Dieme was shocked to return to his home in the Casamance region in 2020 after working for years in Europe. There were only a few trees left in some villages which earlier had hundreds of massive trees. Dieme told BBC, “In some villages, you can't find one tree. They cut them but they don't think about planting again.” As per the report, hundreds of trees along the Casamance River have been cut down for construction purposes like building houses and for making charcoal.
Dieme works as a Project Manager for a Spanish non-profit organization in Casamance. Moreover, he also volunteers as an agricultural trainer. He wants to change the current scenario by planting more than five million trees in the next five years. And to do that, he started by raising money. However, to start the initiative, he used money from his own pocket about $5000. Dieme has also been involving communities across the region, mainly women who could help him with organizing mass planting of seedlings. "But if you go to a village with only women, it's paradise - they are hardworking and work all day every day.” "If you want to lead a good project start with women," Dieme said. To fulfill his passion and also help communities, he taught women to become small-scale farmers and sell their produce at local markets. Safi Yetou, a woman said, "At first, we didn't know how to plant the seeds and what to do to grow the crops."
"Now we have all sorts of fruits to sell at the market and we are not dependent on anyone. We all have an account in the bank now and no one can tell me what I can and can't do. It's brilliant." Dieme named his project, Ununukolaal, which means “Our trees” in the local language Jola. They have planted 12 types of trees palms, tamarinds, kapoks, to lemon trees. The variety is grown depending on the community requirements and the terrain. In the past three years, they have planted more than 142000 seedlings and they have tended and taken root. However, many more need to be planted if Dieme and his partner Yolanda Pereniguez need to reach their goals.
Pereniguez is a tailor and to generate funds, she designs T-shirts and sells them abroad for $15. Her colleague Raymonde Coly also helps her with the process. They create these T-shirts using local cloth and stitch baobab images on them. According to them, one T-shirt that is sold can pay for 15 tree seedlings. Pereniguez said, "I chose the baobab as it's the symbol of an African tree.” "It's great to know that these T-shirts are going all over the world, to Europe and even Canada to help with the tree project."
BBC reported the true reason for the project to be undertaken in the region. In a small village island in Casamance, water entered up to the outlying buildings. Ten years ago, the water level was much further away and hardly reached the village. Conakry Bassene, one of the village leaders, said, "We've lived on this island for hundreds of years - but if the water comes much further we will have to leave and be dispersed all over the place.”
Now, Baobab trees have been planted along the shoreline as a barrier so that one day they can provide fruits and shade to the villagers. Bassene said, "The trees, they are our hope for life."