Sawyer Blazek | WWF

What I learned

This type of conservation and development is not something that can sprout up overnight.
Senegal has approximately 82,500 hectares of protected zones within the network of AMPs off the coast of Senegal. The AMPs are “crucial for the protection of fish spawning grounds and stock recovery.“¹ The local community understands the importance of protecting their ecosystem in order to ensure that their children and grandchildren will be able to provide their future families with food.

This type of conservation and development is not something that can sprout up overnight. It requires everyone in the community to acknowledge and continually raise awareness and understanding of the key issues vital to continued development.

Through direct contact with our community in Joal-Fadiouth, we realized that the best way to provide this education and awareness was through a school-based environmental education program. Through this system, key information would permeate through every level of the community. By providing the children with the knowledge and necessary tools to tackle important ecological issues, not only would they bring this new information home to their families, but they would also teach their own future children about the importance of conservation and preservation.

This program was not designed to provide rapid results, but to provide long lasting effects, which is the aim of sustainability. Sustainable development means “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”² It is a balance between the current needs of the community and the world and imposed limitations to ensure the environment's ability to meet present and future needs. Keeping this in mind helps to ensure that any program or project you are trying to establish will have a higher long-term success rate.
 
© WWF / Sawyer Blazek
Bustling beachside fish market along the coast south of Joal-Fadiouth
© WWF / Sawyer Blazek

My Advice

Coming from the United States, I knew that I was about to dive into a culture and environment a world apart from what I was used to. While I prepared as best I could, I knew there still would be a huge learning curve upon arrival.
The best advice I can give is to have patience. Many people may not at first understand the concept of “danka danka” or “slowly, slowly” that is a very important part of the Senegalese culture. 

What some people may perceive as commonplace, others may put great importance upon. Senegalese carry out many actions in a very very methodical manner, such as situations of formalized greetings and ensuring that everyone involved in the decision making plays an important role in the process. Be sure to remember that you are an onlooker assisting a very closely knit community with important family ties and complex customs that you may not recognize at first.

That being said, the process of learning about the country, culture and history of Senegal was one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had!



References:

¹”Senegal celebrates creation of new marine protected areas.” WWF Press Release. 13, July 2005.
² Commonly referred to as the “Brundtland Definition”. Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED). 1987.
 
© WWF / Sawyer Blazek
Newly finished pirogue, the most common fishing boat used by West African fishermen
© WWF / Sawyer Blazek