Our twinship with Guedè Chantier in Senegal

In this article and the following ones I want to tell about an intense and positive experience, an international project of Damanhur that left me with many colors and deep satisfaction: a trip to Senegal with Pellicano Altea in order to hold a workshop about food transformation in the Eco-Comune of Guedè Chantier, a sister ecovillage that Damanhur twinned with two years ago.

The idea of the twinship between Damanhur and Guedè Chantier was born during the annual meeting of the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) Europe in 2013. One day talking about our mutual realities with Ousmane Ali Pame, President of GEN Africa and at that time mayor of Guedé Chantier, we started to imagine how exciting and of mutual advantage a twinship between Damanhur and Guedé Chantier could be.

It took almost one year until the first visit happened. In 2014 Ousmane arrived at Damanhur together with Hamet Thiam, the Director of Agriculture of the whole region. The visit was really exciting. Ousmane and Hamet talked about the Eco-Comune of Guedé Chantier in several events, including a public meeting at the municipality of Vidracco, which was also interested in a collaboration with the Senegalese village. The most intense moment was during the beautiful and moving traditional dinner of May 29th.

Senegal-2During this visit we identified some points to make our twinship become concrete and not just an exchange of visits. The first really important one was the transformation of food, which is crucial for our Senegalese friends. Ousmane and Hamet were hosted at Cornucopia and Dendera, two Damanhurian nucleos, and at Cornucopia they saw a huge amount of pickles and tomato sauce in glass jars prepared by the nucleo. At Guedé and in the whole area, for two or three months a year, there is an overabundance of tomatoes and vegetables and tons are thrown away, but for the remaining eight or nine months, there is a problem with malnutrition.

It took us two years until Pellicano’s workshop, with a real expert of food transformation from Damanhur, arrived at Guedé, but finally the project became real. My function was mainly to translate and to maintain a continuity with the twinship.

Senegal-1We departed Saturday at lunch time from Damanhur while it was snowing to reach Dakar at two o’clock in the night where the temperature was 28°C. Ousmane was waiting for us at the airport and took us home, where his family was obviously sleeping, and we went to sleep too in the hot night safe in our mosquito nets. The day after we get to know Ousmane’s family, his beautiful wife and four sons, the smallest one just three months old. Also, his brother’s son lives with them as he studies at the University of Dakar.

We spent the first day at Dakar. Ousmane took us to see the center, the University where he teaches, which is the biggest University of Western Africa with over 60,000 students. We also climbed up the statue of the African Renaissance, 49 meters high, the highest bronze statue in the world. Ousmane is obviously very valued by his students, because we met one at Dakar and another one as a guide in the museum of the statue, and both gave a big thanks to Ousmane for his teachings and spoke highly of him. We felt very much at ease thanks to a flair of gentleness and respect you can breathe in everywhere.

Macaco Tamerice