“A chance to have the means to succeed at home, that’s what this initiative gives me!”
20-year-old Tidiane Día Mballo is one of 50 returned migrants in Kolda, Senegal receiving agroforestry training from Trees for the Future (TREES) through a partnership with the United Nations International Organization for Migration (IOM).
TREES teaches farmers how to revitalize degraded land through an agroforestry technique called the Forest Garden Approach. The organization’s local staff work throughout Senegal and across sub-Saharan Africa. Through their partnership with IOM, TREES is reaching returned migrants like Tidiane, providing the tools and knowledge to restore degraded land and create viable economic opportunities. The goal is to ensure families have viable opportunities at home, so they’re not forced to find them elsewhere.
“The journey from Senegal to the West is dangerous and very long. I was stabbed in Mali and I was in prison in Libya. I count a lot on this project because I don’t even want to try to leave,” Tidiane says.
The farmers are learning to protect their land and diversify what they grow. They’re also encouraged to embrace multiple opportunities for income.
“In three months, I was able to learn how to make soap from milk and compotes from local fruits,” says 25-year-old Yacine Cissé. “I opened a small store in my village.”
Yacine and several other participants are not returned migrants but have been significantly impacted by the forced migration of relatives.
“This is not only a project for migrants, but also for members of their community. In this training group, there are women who have lost a family member to migration,” explains Mouhamadou Bassirou Traoré, Regional Director of Trees for the Future in West Africa.
“Migration is not a solution. My father died trying to reach the West. But the young people here had no other options,” says Awa Sadio.
Some community members have attempted the trip to Europe or the United States more than once. 28-year-old Ibrahima Sylla had tried to get to Europe twice before joining the training program.
“Before… immigration was the only successful way. Nowadays, thanks to agriculture, I will have the resources to take care of my mother,” Ibrahima says.
The region has been affected by conflict since the 80’s, leading to increased poverty and violence. The training program is geared mainly toward the youth of southern Senegal, providing an opportunity to break the cycle of poverty and hunger for future generations.
“This is an opportunity to offer young people a stable economy that will prevent them from seeking opportunity abroad or through other dangerous means, ” explains Babou Ndao, Senegal Training Coordinator at TREES.
“I followed this training thoroughly because I saw some very nice agricultural plots in Algeria,” says Landing Badji, 29. “I can’t wait to finish and teach the same thing to the young people of my village. Together we will set up an agricultural enterprise and you will never hear about immigration in my village again!”