Travel diary: Tracking climate, migration and the far-right from Africa to Europe

Published October 4, 2022 at 6:04 AM EDT
One the scene in Senegal.
Ayen Bior
/
NPR
On the scene in Senegal.

Welcome to the travel blog for the NPR project that examined how the ripples of climate change radiate outward.

Our trip is now over, but you can still go back and see all our posts from the journey from Senegal to Morocco to Spain.

There's everything from reader questions, to behind-the-scenes photos and insights into our process. And, of course, you'll hear directly from the people at the forefront of these issues.

Make sure to tune into NPR and keep coming back to the website to see all of this reporting brought to life there.

Signing off ... for now

Our parting note as we wrap up this travel diary

Posted October 23, 2022 at 2:00 PM EDT

Reporting trips like these are relentless.

Three weeks seems like a lot of time to be traveling and conducting interviews. But if you consider that we have visited more than 7 different regions in three different countries, it becomes evident that it is actually not that much time. It is not that much time to absorb, merge into the crowd, observe.

This trip was preceded by a year of research, planning, imagining where things might go, what we would be interested in doing. So it’s not necessarily that we dropped into the middle of a region clueless about what we were going to find. Many interviews were already scheduled. Our fixers (local journalists) had done a lot of legwork, using contacts developed over the years to get us connected to sources as soon as we landed in their towns.

Our fixers rock, by the way.

And when we arrived in the several regions of Senegal we visited, in Melilla, in Morocco, in Andalucia, in Madrid… we hit the ground running. We have collected hours and hours of interviews and sound, in many different languages (Bambara, Wolof, French, Spanish, Arabic, and English). People have shared their time, their feelings, their memories with us.

We are very proud of the work we have done with this travel blog, sharing with you snippets of our journey, answering your questions. And we can’t wait to bring you the series of audio stories that will air on All Things Considered and other NPR shows in a few weeks.

There is one caveat, and we want to use this farewell post to share it: These topics we are touching, these people we talked to, these places we visited, they can’t be fully covered in three weeks. As journalists, we rely on the knowledge of the people who are there, who know these realities well, to be able to portrait them, to explain them to our audiences. But the fact of the matter is that we could have spent another three weeks, another three months, or three years, and we would continue to peel layer after layer of complexities.

Still… There is so much tape that will end up on the cutting floor, as they used to say when tape was actually cut by hand. Turning our reporting into actual stories that you will hear on the air requires a sort of ruthlessness that is not for everyone. Because people have opened up to us, they have shared their most honest thoughts, their deepest feelings, and we now have to select a small percentage of that tape to build stories that, hopefully, you will love.

We bring up all of this to say one final thing: This is not the definitive body of work on the tremendously complex areas that we have touched during this trip. This is not even the only version of this body of work we could have produced. But this is the product of the effort of a team that is guided by a motivation to find individual stories, connect them to bigger concepts, truly seeing people of different backgrounds and views, and understanding. Above all, understanding.

Every story has already been told. Our story is not better or worse than others. Our story is for you.

Locations

Recap: The cities and towns we visited

Posted October 23, 2022 at 11:49 AM EDT
Ari Shapiro
/
NPR
Oh the places you'll go...

For security reasons, we kept our travel plans vague at the beginning of this trip.

We said we would be visiting Senegal, Morocco, and Spain. But each specific place we visited tells a story.

Here’s a look back at where we’ve been over the last three weeks, with one moment from each stop along the way.

  1. DAKAR, SENEGAL: Meet Sadio Konte
  2. SAINT-LOUIS, SENEGAL: The sounds of Senegal
  3. KAYAR, SENEGAL: Catch of the day
  4. NADOR, MOROCCO: We were stopped by police
  5. MELILLA, SPAIN: The tragic history of this fence
  6. HUELVA PROVINCE, SPAIN: Those seeking a new life
  7. MADRID, SPAIN: Turning heads on the street
Q&A

Recap: All of your reader questions that we answered

Posted October 23, 2022 at 8:34 AM EDT
Goodbye for now

A thank you note to our 'fixers' whom we couldn't do this without

Posted October 22, 2022 at 5:33 PM EDT
This journey has been a huge team effort.
Ayen Bior
/
NPR
This journey has been a huge team effort.

One of the first things our host, Ari Shapiro, told us about this journey is that it would be one of the most (if not the most) ambitious reporting trips he has set out to do.

As a producer, those words invoked a bit of intimidation as well as excitement at the chance to connect the dots between some of the most urgent issues of our time.

Climate change is a demanding and challenging topic to cover on its own, as is migration and the rise of right-wing extremism. But our reporting has found that these issues don’t take place in a vacuum.

We wanted our audience to see the consequences of climate change and hear directly from people whose decision to leave their home was influenced by it. We wanted to take you into the same seas that were once a powerhouse for fishing villages. We believed that the stories of strawberry farmers in the fields of Huelva, Spain were interlaced with those fishermen in Saint-Louis, Senegal. We thought that childhood friends in Kayar, Senegal were just as enthralled with local politics in Madrid because it impacted their neighbors thousands of miles away.

We could not have done this reporting without a number of people:

Our team in Washington D.C. has been the backbone of this trip. Our digital editor, Patrick Wood, has kept you in the loop and guided you through our journey by way of this blog. Sarah Handle and Matt Ozug are our diligent editors who have helped us shape and make sense of really difficult stories. Our managers have been behind the scenes, giving us the time and space needed to do this reporting.

But the most critical people on this trip are our fixers. In Senegal, we were lucky enough to work with the legend that is Khadidiatou Ba. She helped connect us with voices that would have been impossible for us to hear from. Laura was with us during tense moments in Nador and Melilla and gave us great advice on staying safe. In Huelva, we leaned on the experience of Rosa who was with us as we gleaned on intricate details from personal stories. Finally, Manu and Rocío in Madrid helped us navigate a complicated city.

In short, this entire trip has been the result of a lot of people. Whether it is journalists who helped us with our reporting or migrating people who shared their experiences with us.

But we are not done yet. Look out for all our reporting next month.

Food and drink

Espresso tonics around the world

Posted October 22, 2022 at 11:41 AM EDT
An
Ari Shapiro
/
NPR
Espresso tonics are good, at the right time...

The last time Ayen Bior and I took a work trip together, we were in Poland reporting on Ukrainian refugees.

It was May, lilacs were blooming all over Warsaw, and every coffee shop served espresso tonics. We became a bit obsessed. We had espresso tonics every afternoon. They’re the perfect warm weather pick-me-up. Cold, refreshing, sparkly… See? There I go again.

Anyway, the coffee culture of Madrid hasn’t quite caught up to Poland. And a cold drizzly day in October isn’t exactly what I’d consider espresso tonic weather. But when we popped into Umami Coffee after lunch, Ayen’s first words were “I wonder if they have…”

They did, she ordered it, and pronounced it delicious — with a slight orange flavor. While I applaud her commitment to the espresso tonic cause, I believe that everything has its season. I ordered a flat white.

Q&A

Question: How safe do each of you feel while traveling?

Posted October 22, 2022 at 8:30 AM EDT

As we travel, ask us a question using this form and we'll seek to answer it in this blog.


How safe do each of you feel while traveling? How do you combat any sense of foreboding, especially after your encounter with the police? As reporters of varying backgrounds and experiences, I'm sure there's something both familiar and daunting about tackling this subject you're researching. But every situation is different, so how do you fight fear? Praying for y'all's safety! Thanks! — Danielle


Hi Danielle,

Thanks so much for your question. To say that safety is a top priority is probably cliché but that is the truth.

But what some people don’t immediately realize is safety takes many forms.

For example, our ability to swim in the ocean was a point of heavy conversation before this trip, given that we planned to take a pirogue into the Atlantic Ocean.

Malaria was another safety aspect that we had to consider and we were advised to consult medical professionals about the best ways to keep us healthy.

There are the other safety protocols we had to employ during this trip, like making sure sensitive interviews were done in private places as well as making sure our social media posts didn’t give our location away.

Also, every NPR staffer on this trip had to take hostile environment safety training, which covered a lot of these issues. These tools and practices help us feel a little safer but we are always aware that safety is never guaranteed.

Which brings me to your point about the sense of foreboding.

When you are in an unsafe or threatening situation, like when police were following us, your only goal is to stay safe. I make sure to prioritize the needs and concerns of local fixers and interviewees that often don’t have the luxury of leaving the country if needed.

The thoughts around safety are constant, often starting before the reporting begins.

The anxiety that comes with this constant worry almost always lasts longer than the reporting trip.

We are lucky that NPR provides mental health resources for its staff. The fixers and local journalists who help us with stories have access to the same mental health resources we have.

In recent years, our industry has become somewhat better at addressing stress induced by difficult reporting assignments. Journalists have become more vocal about mental health, a trend that needs to continue. — Ayen

'Where are you from?'

Making small talk with a member of the right-wing VOX

Posted October 21, 2022 at 5:28 PM EDT

Rafael Brome, the president of Vox Huelva, walked in to greet us in his organization’s office.

We were there to interview him.

He walked past me to shake everyone else’s hand first. Then finally shook mine, the only Black journalist on our team.

“Where are you from?” he asks me.

I responded, “the U.S., America,” realizing he didn’t ask any of my colleagues where they were from.

Unsatisfied with my answer, he follows up with, “Which state in the United States?”

This follow-up and his demeanor gave off micro-aggressive vibes, but I offer an answer.

“Texas,” I say.

“Well, then you should know Spanish,” he says in Spanish.

I couldn’t help but take in the irony.

I came up listening to right-wing politicians in Texas and their supporters openly talk about how immigration was changing the state of Texas.

It is common to hear conservatives there blame immigration on an evolving culture and language in the state.

To hear Brome say that I should know Spanish because I grew up in Texas spoke to the fears of the far-right in Texas.

They say they fear being replaced by a foreign culture, a foreign language.

And here was Brome, insisting that I should know Spanish because I grew up in Texas.

Brome is part of a party with a platform with the same talking points. His party also does not want mass immigration for similar reasons.

Q&A

Question: How do migrants make their journey?

Posted October 21, 2022 at 9:33 AM EDT
Abdul caption tk
Ricci Shryock for NPR
Abdul Muhammad Ahmad crossed into Melilla, Spain, after a long journey from his home in South Sudan.

As we travel, ask us a question using this form and we'll seek to answer it in this blog.


You reported that many Senegalese are smuggled on boats to Morocco. Do any go there over land? — Nadya


Thanks for the question, Nadya. From coastal Senegal, boats are the most common way that people travel north. But across sub-Saharan Africa, many people do make the journey to Morocco by land. It can be arduous and take years.

As I spoke to people in Morocco and Spain about their journeys, I learned to recognize a common list, almost like an incantation. It was the recitation of countries someone passed through on the way to their destination.

In Southern Spain, one man who didn’t want us to use his name rattled off: Senegal, Togo, Niger, Algeria, Morocco. He told us he spent three years in Algeria. That’s not uncommon. Sometimes people are caught and conscripted into forced labor. Other times they have to pause their journey to earn enough money to continue.

At a migrant center in the Spanish enclave city of Melilla, a South Sudanese man named Abdul Muhammad Ahmad encapsulated years of struggle into this numbered list:

  • 11 months in Libya
  • 1 year, 4 months in Algeria
  • 2 months in Egypt
  • 4 months in Niger

That was all before he reached Morocco and crossed into Spain.

Steven caption tk
Ricci Shryock for NPR
Steven Khonkhon stands in front of the fortified and heavily guarded fence that separates Nador, Morocco, from Melilla, Spain.

Another man at the Melilla migrant center, named Steven Khonkhon, told me that he left his home in Sudan in 2016 and didn’t reach Spain for six years. He tried “maybe 15 times” to enter Europe by boat from Libya, but police caught him every time.

Sometimes when Libyan police would intercept his boat at sea, they would send him to prison for up to six months. For a sense of what life in a Libyan migrant prison can be like, check out thisNew Yorkerpiece. If there was one thing that every man I interviewed agreed on, it was that Libya was the hardest part. Abdul Muhammad Ahmad called it “the most terrible country in the whole world.”

Steven Khonkhon eventually decided to leave Libya and try the land crossing between Morocco and Spain. In June, he and hundreds of other migrants charged the fortified border fence. Many died that day, but Steven successfully made the crossing to arrive in Europe at last. — Ari

Fashion

Photos: A guide to Madrid's street style

Posted October 20, 2022 at 5:43 PM EDT
Sheikhou.
Ayen Bior
/
NPR
Sheikhou.

It seems like Sheikhou is friends with everyone. His cool and effortless style tracks with his welcoming nature. And we are all for the knee-length ripped overalls paired with red, long-sleeved plaid shirt. We love to see it!

Ndiawar.
Ayen Bior
/
NPR
Ndiawar.

I am not sure if we are cool enough to hang out with Ndiawar. But we are here for the plaid cropped smart pants with the navy blue jacket and a hand bag.

Yast.
Ayen Bior
/
NPR
Yast.

Yast is an activist and vocal member of this community. Love the AfroJam T-shirt over the brown, long-sleeved collared shirt. Simple and yet sends a strong message.

Alboury.
Ayen Bior
/
NPR
Alboury.

Alboury is such a nice guy, I mean look at this smile. Love the tattered jeans, Africa chain necklace and red sneakers.

Sidy.
Ayen Bior
/
NPR
Sidy.

Sidy was turning heads all day. But I mean, can you blame us for staring? This yellow, patch-striped jacket was made by Dakar-based designer Yoro. The pairing with white pants and the fedora make for a chic and smart look.

In pictures

Photos: Meet the people striving for a new life in Spain

Posted October 20, 2022 at 2:43 PM EDT

So many times the "migrant" story is told from the standpoint of the system, but this system impacts individuals — each with their own stories.

As I walked through the migrant camp in southern Spain known as Asentamiento del Poligono San Jorge, I was lucky enough to meet a few of those individuals who allowed me to make their portraits.

They were from Senegal, Mauritania, Ghana, and Gambia. They each had their own hopes for their lives in Spain.

Born in Senegal, Mamadou Diop is 52 and speaks more than five languages. He lives in makeshift housing near strawberry and fruit farms (pictured in background), where he does seasonal work. He sends money back to his wife and children in Joal Fadiouth, Senegal.
Ricci Shryock for NPR
Born in Senegal, Mamadou Diop is 52 and speaks more than five languages. He lives in makeshift housing near strawberry and fruit farms (pictured in background), where he does seasonal work. He sends money back to his wife and children in Joal Fadiouth, Senegal.
Both Arbi and Mouktar arrived in Spain in 2021. They share a makeshift house in the migrant settlement on the outskirts of Palos de la Frontera, known as Poligono San Jorge. Originally from Mauritania, they speak with their families back home each day.
Ricci Shryock for NPR
Both Arbi and Mouktar arrived in Spain in 2021. They share a makeshift house in the migrant settlement on the outskirts of Palos de la Frontera, known as Poligono San Jorge. Originally from Mauritania, they speak with their families back home each day.
Hope Joseph grew up in Ghana with a Ghanaian mother and Nigerian father. She says life is tough at the migrant camp Poligono San Jorge, but she is happy she made the journey. She arrived in Spain in 2019, passing through Niger and Libya. The 29-year-old says she is a pillar of her family, because she can send money back home to make sure everyone — including her 10-year-old-son — is fed.
Ricci Shryock for NPR
Hope Joseph grew up in Ghana with a Ghanaian mother and Nigerian father. She says life is tough at the migrant camp Poligono San Jorge, but she is happy she made the journey. She arrived in Spain in 2019, passing through Niger and Libya. The 29-year-old says she is a pillar of her family, because she can send money back home to make sure everyone — including her 10-year-old-son — is fed.
A man originally from Senegal poses in makeshift housing near strawberry and fruit farms. He asked not to be identified, because he did not want his family to know he lived in difficult conditions.
Ricci Shryock for NPR
A man originally from Senegal poses in makeshift housing near strawberry and fruit farms. He asked not to be identified, because he did not want his family to know he lived in difficult conditions.
Fode Jarawa is from Gambia and lives at the Poligono San Jorge camp.
Ricci Shryock for NPR
Fode Jarawa is from Gambia and lives at the Poligono San Jorge camp.

Feathery friend

Help me identify this bird. Is it a magpie?

Posted October 20, 2022 at 9:58 AM EDT
What is this feathery friend?
Ayen Bior
/
NPR
What is this feathery friend?

As a newbie in the bird watching world, one of the best things about this trip is getting to bird watch in different countries.

Senegal was a treasure trove of new birds that I added to my life list, like the very common pied crow. I also spotted a redstart in Morocco, which was cool.

But now, in Spain, I have seen a bird I can’t quite identify. It looks like a magpie, but it can’t be.

What is it? If you know, please tell me using our form.

Can you tell what this is?

Music

Musician Sidy turns heads in Madrid. Now listen to his music

Posted October 20, 2022 at 7:43 AM EDT

We met an Afro-flamenco artist named Sidy Samb on the street of Madrid.

When he's not turning heads, he's making great music. Check out his Spotify playlist below.

Food and drink

Video: I finally got to try cafe touba!

Posted October 19, 2022 at 4:36 PM EDT

“You’ll find cafe touba anywhere you find Senegalese people.”

History

How Spain does (or doesn't) grapple with its version of Columbus Day

Posted October 19, 2022 at 1:24 PM EDT
These flags come with a lot of history.
Ari Shapiro
/
NPR
These flags come with a lot of history.

I had never been to Palos de la Frontera before, so I just assumed that the town in Southern Spain always has Spanish flags lining the street. But no, these were for a national holiday. It’s actually a holiday the U.S. celebrates too, under different names — Columbus Day, or Indigenous People’s Day.

In Spain, October 12 was known for decades as “Dia De La Raza,” or “Day of the Race.” In the 1950s it was renamed “Dia De La Hispanidad.” Then in the 1980s it officially became “Fiesta Nacional de España,” though everyone still calls it “Dia De La Hispanidad.” Through all the name changes, the holiday has remained an overt celebration of the former Spanish empire.

In the U.S., we have begun to recognize the problems with this sort of celebration. For the indigenous peoples of the Americas, the exploits of Columbus and the men who followed him amounted to a genocidal land grab.

Spain has not wrestled with its colonial past in such an overt way. There is no “Indigenous People’s Day” alternative to “Dia De La Hispanidad.” While some people have begun to suggest that Spain should consider apologizing for the abuses of its colonialist past, conservative political parties have mounted an even louder response — insisting that Spain has nothing to be ashamed of, and that Spanish people should be proud of their history. There are certain parallels with the debate in the U.S. over how we teach history, but Spain is more than 85% white, so it’s more of a one-sided argument here.

As we travel through Senegal, Morocco and Spain reporting on the links between climate change, migration, and the rise of the right, some of these echoes from the past come ringing back into the present. One member of the far right Vox party in Southern Spain told us he did not mind legal immigration as long as people adapted to Spanish culture, rather than trying to superimpose their own culture on Spain. I wondered whether he was afraid that others might do to his people what Spaniards in boats began doing to the Americas more than 500 years ago.

Culture

There's a fitting and almost poetic name for this sculpture

Posted October 19, 2022 at 11:21 AM EDT
There is an almost poetic name for this sculpture.
Ricci Shryock for NPR
There is an almost poetic name for this sculpture.

As we near our final days of the journey through Senegal, Morocco, and now Spain we arrived at City Hall in Madrid.

Just outside the entrance there is a sculpture called “The Distance That Brings Us Together” by Manolo Paz.

Thinking about migration, and especially the people who are trying to move and live in different countries, the name of the sculpture seems fitting — almost poetic.

On the scene

Our first full day in Madrid. Vamos!

Posted October 19, 2022 at 10:20 AM EDT

Road from

Video: Lessons learned on the road from Seville

Posted October 18, 2022 at 10:39 AM EDT
The dry landscape got me thinking about a few things.

Traveling by train through the dry Spanish countryside, I’m remembering stories we reported over the summer about extreme droughts across Europe that exposed long-hidden ancient ruins.

This reporting trip began more than two weeks ago in Senegal, where rising seas are forcing people from their homes.

In Southern Spain the other day, a strawberry farmer told us that because of warmer temperatures, his harvest season now begins in December rather than February.

We have passed through immigration checkpoints at airports and land borders, getting stamps on our passports as we go. But as we report these stories that connect the dots between climate change and migration, I’m reminded of one key difference: immigration laws respect borders; climate change does not.

Animals

Climate change is impacting migration patterns in birds too

Posted October 18, 2022 at 7:39 AM EDT
If you look closely, you might see a beak or wing appear.
Ayen Bior
/
NPR
If you look closely, you might see a beak or wing appear.

If you’ve seen a white stork nest, you know how massive they are. They tower over buildings, making them hard to miss. And every once in a while, they rise high enough for you to see their white plumage and black-tipped wings.

They prefer warm weather, which means they usually return to warmer areas in Africa during western Europe’s autumn months. But in recent years, southern Spain has seen a change in their migrating patterns. This is partly due to climate change.

Ricci Shryock for NPR

Winters in southern Spain have become warmer, food is easier to find, and so the birds stay longer. Sometimes even all year.

About 70% of white storks in Spain don’t migrate during winter, so people in southern Spain have all year to get a glimpse of them.

It is mid October in Huelva, Spain, where we are doing our reporting, and we saw at least a dozen white storks just yesterday.

They are a sight to see, but their presence is a reminder of the impact climate change has on migration.

On the scene

Strawberry fields forever (with the help of guest workers)

Posted October 17, 2022 at 5:38 PM EDT
Strawberry fields... forever?
Ari Shapiro
/
NPR
Strawberry fields... forever?

As you enter the Spanish town of Palos de La Frontera, a huge sliced strawberry sculpture greets you, sitting in the middle of a roundabout.

The farmers here call the berries “red gold.” Spain is the second largest strawberry producer in the world, after the U.S. And 80% of the strawberries come from here in Huelva province.

During the harvest season, Palos de la Frontera’s population doubles, from 10,000 to 20,000 people. Many of the guest workers come from sub-Saharan Africa, which makes this spot in Southern Spain a key playing field in the fight over global migration.

On the scene

Christopher Columbus pride is written on the walls

Posted October 17, 2022 at 4:12 PM EDT
The name of this restaurant hints at history.
Ayen Bior
/
NPR
The name of this restaurant hints at history.

In Spain’s Palos de la Frontera, we walked past a hotel restaurant named Pinta, and a furniture store named Santa Maria.

These names hint at the city’s present day pride toward a transcontinental journey taken more than 500 years ago by Christopher Columbus.

The Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria set sail off the waters of nearby Puerto de Palos in 1492.

Residents are very proud of this history. Belen Castillo Pachon of PSOE, the governing party in Spain, said that voyage helped dismantle the flat Earth theory, and that is something to be proud of, despite Columbus’ polarizing legacy.

Today, Puerto de Palos is a small agricultural village in a region that produces 80% of Spain’s strawberries. It is also a city hosting field workers from sub-Saharan African, many whom travelled on boats to get to Europe.

Fruit

Video: Visit a strawberry field in Spain — a global fruit powerhouse

Posted October 17, 2022 at 2:09 PM EDT
Workers at this farm can sow 3,500 strawberry plants a day.

Teamwork/dreamwork

Our third and final selfie — this time in Spain!

Posted October 17, 2022 at 1:10 PM EDT
We're still going! (Re)introducing from left, Miguel, Ayen, Ari and Ricci!
Ayen Bior
/
NPR
We're still going! (Re)introducing from left, Miguel, Ayen, Ari and Ricci!

Q&A

Question: These borders seem to make no sense, right?

Posted October 17, 2022 at 12:09 PM EDT
Ricci Shryock for NPR

As we travel, ask us a question using this form and we'll seek to answer it in this blog.


So, this town of Melilla is new to me. Does that mean part of the E.U. is actually on the continent of Africa? And with the British part of Spain (Gibraltar) means that a non-E.U. country has land in Europe. I'm assuming these are all hangovers from colonialism, but it makes one feel like some borders really make no sense at all. Like a river or an ocean or even a mountain range, but these fenced-in areas that have a totally different government/money/benefits — it's a kind of insanity. — Monica


Hi Monica. Indeed you are correct that part of the E.U. is on the continent of Africa. There are actually two Spanish enclave cities on the African continent, Melilla and Ceuta, both surrounded by Morocco.

Just to complicate matters a bit more, these cities are part of the E.U. but not part of the Shengen area that guarantees free movement.

And one more head scratching detail: Morocco technically considers Ceuta and Melilla to be “occupied” by Spain and demands their return. But even while paying lip service to the claim that these cities should be part of Morocco, the Moroccan government aggressively enforces the border between the two (per the E.U.’s wishes).

As you can imagine, this control over two key gateways to Europe gives Morocco a lot of leverage over the European Union. Whatever Morocco might want from Europe, whether security funding or control over the disputed territory of Western Sahara, the threat that Morocco might turn a blind eye to people jumping the fence in Melilla and Ceuta is enough to get the attention of European policymakers. — Ari

The politics

We've arrived in Spain to look at the rise of the political far right

Posted October 17, 2022 at 11:26 AM EDT
The political signs seen on the streets of Spain.
Ari Shapiro
/
NPR
The political signs seen on the streets of Spain.

Walking through the old city of Seville, I passed this banner for the political party Vox.

After traveling through Senegal and Morocco connecting the dots between climate change and migration, we are now in our third country, Spain, looking at the rise of the political far right.

From Sweden to Italy and the U.S., political candidates have built winning campaigns on the platform of drastically cutting immigration.

In Spain, the Vox party has not had the success of some of these other groups. One reason? Less conservative political parties have taken the wind out of Vox’s sails by adopting similarly hardline positions on immigration.

More travel

On the road again (or plane, in this case)

Posted October 16, 2022 at 3:17 PM EDT
We're taking NPR swag global.
Ricci Shryock
/
NPR
We're taking NPR swag global.

And our team is off again! After exploring Senegal and the land border where Morocco meets Spain, we're headed to the European continent.

Food

Eating just one of these pastry cakes is harder than you think

Posted October 16, 2022 at 11:44 AM EDT
If you get a chance, try these out.
Ari Shapiro
/
NPR
If you get a chance, try these out.

Can we file this post under delicious bakery treats? This is the cortadillo, a very common treat in southern Spain.

It is a soft cake, airy like cotton candy without all the sugar. In the middle, there is a thin layer of cabell d’àngel, a jam made from pumpkin pulp.

The shopkeeper says it was invented in Melilla but my colleague Miguel says that this is highly contested. A quick Google search suggests he is right.

Whether it is a traditionally Andalusian or from Sevilla, I am just glad it reached my taste buds.

The origin may be contested, but the taste is undeniable.
Ari Shapiro
/
NPR
The origin may be contested, but the taste is undeniable.

Productivity

Video: What's my secret to productivity? Let me show you...

Posted October 16, 2022 at 9:06 AM EDT
I'll let you in on a little secret.

People often ask the secret to my productivity. Here it is.

Having been a radio journalist for more than 20 years, I now understand the conditions that I need to be my most creative self. That’s why my contract stipulates that my remote work location must always include a view of an ancient walled city and the ocean beyond.

It’s just that simple.

On the scene

Birds fly where the border meets the sea

Posted October 15, 2022 at 4:51 PM EDT

On the scene

The complicated and tragic history of the Melilla fence

Posted October 15, 2022 at 2:33 PM EDT
The fence around Melilla.
Miguel Macias
/
NPR
The fence around Melilla is imposing.

The fence around Melilla is tall, and after reading and hearing about it for so many years, seeing it feels a bit like seeing a monument.

Except that this is a monument to the separation of states, human beings, goods.The fence surrounds Melilla with a roughly semicircular shape.

It doesn’t take too long to drive along it, from the water on one side, to the water on the other.

In the middle, there are houses that come close to the border on the Moroccan side. There is a golf course at one point, on the Spanish side. There is a cemetery on the Moroccan side. There is a pine forest on the Spanish side.There are cameras that watch at all times.

The fence runs the length of Melilla.
Miguel Macias
/
NPR
The fence runs the length of Melilla.

It’s very quiet, and it is hard to imagine that over the years, groups of men from various African countries have charged the fence in an attempt to touch Spanish soil. And they have been successful at times.

But Spain and Morocco talk. They talk about ways to stop these groups from even approaching the fence. There are body heat cameras, there is harassment of migrants on the Moroccan side. There are the so-called “devoluciones en caliente”, the practice of “returning” a migrant to Morocco after they’ve set foot on Melilla. The Spanish government denies it is done. But it is done.

On June 24, the greatest migratory tragedy in the history of the fence took place. At least 23 died in an attempt to enter Melilla. Local human rights organizations say more 35 people died. It was a devastating episode in the complicated history of the fence.

So now, you can barely find migrants in Melilla, or Nador. They’ve been pushed further and further away into Morocco. Closer to the border with Algeria. Where we can’t see them.

I am not here to make any judgments. I am only here to observe, ask questions, get answers, be confused, be informed, and inform. I am not here to deliver the story I thought I was going to find before I landed in Melilla. Because reality is more complicated. Melilla is complicated.

The story and the reality are never so simple.
Miguel Macias
/
NPR
The story and the reality are never so simple.

Political reaction

Video: What officials say about migration and the 'entrance to Europe'

Posted October 15, 2022 at 10:11 AM EDT
What do the political leaders of Melilla have to say about migration?

Reporting in Morocco

We were stopped by police. This is what happened and why

Posted October 15, 2022 at 8:30 AM EDT
What it was like to report in Morocco.
Ari Shapiro
/
NPR
What it was like to report in Morocco.

When you sit down for an interview, you hope to get as much information as possible from your source. What you don’t expect is to learn that you’re being followed by police.

This is what happened to us one morning while reporting on the experience of migrating people in Morocco.

We were warned days before we landed that the police were cracking down on people in transit, and by extension, any journalist asking questions. So we were prepared for tension.

But we still hoped to get a glimpse of the city we had read so much about.

Nador is bustling. The sound of clinking spoons against glass cups emanate from tea shops. It is a colorful place, filled with radiant kaftans, djellaba and shopkeepers trying to sell them. The constant hum of cars and loud street chatter is steady. The spice shops sell nostalgia in burlap sacks full of cinnamon or cumin that remind you of home cooking.

But we would soon find out that it's eclipsed by the role of police in Nador.

Throughout the course of this journey, we’ve heard from migrating people who have detailed harrowing, near-death encounters with Moroccan police. They told us the police were relentless.

And so we were calculated in our movements and cautious with our interactions in Morocco.

One migrating person on the Spanish side of the Morocco-Spain border locked eyes with me (Ayen) and said there were no Black people in Nador. I don’t think he meant that as a soundbite for our reporting, it felt more like a personal and well-intentioned warning meant for me, the only Black African on our team.

He also mentioned that the police would round up anyone who looked like a migrant, which we understood to be colloquialism for Black people who are migrating from other parts of Africa.

This would later be corroborated by a police officer who stopped our host, Ari Shapiro, for questioning.

It was just after 6pm local time while reporting when we got a group text from Ari.

“An undercover officer has us waiting for police to arrive,” Ari wrote.

Earlier in the day, we had decided to split the group in half. Ari’s group was trying to gather audio, the other group was trying to see more of Nador. The plan was to reunite before our reporting was over. That plan was suddenly interrupted by Ari’s text.

The text triggered an hour of uncertainty and unease. During the questioning, the authority told Ari, in English, “We work on this to not have any Black people here.”

The incident only lasted an hour, but it impacted the rest of our time in Morocco. We wanted to be safe, and we wanted the same for everyone around us.

At this moment, we continue our reporting from Spain and we plan to bring you all of our reporting.

We plan to continue keeping you updated along this journey, and we hope to receive any questions you might have, which you can send through using this form.

Melilla's story

Melilla's story of coexistence: myth or aspiration?

Posted October 14, 2022 at 5:15 PM EDT
caption tk
Ari Shapiro
/
NPR
I might not know the words, but I understood the symbols.

Walking through the narrow streets of the old city in Melilla, Spain, I spotted a sign high up on a wall.

“Aqui estuvo la primera sinagoga de Melilla,” it said. My Spanish is less than poor, but the Jewish star and the menorah on the sign confirmed what I understood the words to mean. Plus, I recognized the Hebrew letters for “bet haknesset.” This was the site of the first synagogue in the city of Melilla.

A few blocks away, another tile was embedded in the wall of the ancient city. This one was a bit of more modern with its branding. It had the letter M in four alphabets: Arabic, Latin, Hebrew, and Hindi. That tile represents groups of people who have lived in this city, together, for centuries.

Every place has a story that it tells about itself. And the story of Melilla is one of coexistence. The Spanish city has perched here on Africa’s northern coast for centuries. People passing through by boat and by land have created a rich cultural stew. But the stories places tell can also be myths.

This week our team met an elegant woman named Irene Flores. She was born and raised in Melilla and has worked as a journalist here for more than 35 years. She told us that Muslims in the city were not granted citizenship until the 1980s. Before that, they were effectively stateless. Today, the city is surrounded by layers of fortified fences to keep out people from sub-Saharan Africa who want to reach Europe from neighboring Morocco.

“Melilla is a gateway,” Irene told us, “and it is also a bunker.” She is realistic about the distance between the story Melilla tells about itself and the geopolitical reality. But I’d suggest that maybe that gap is an opportunity. Perhaps the story of coexistence isn’t a myth; maybe instead, it can be an aspiration.

Ari Shapiro / NPR

Video

Video: This courthouse is hearing trials that human rights advocates say are outrageous

Posted October 14, 2022 at 4:49 PM EDT
More than 50 migrants are on trial at this courthouse.

On the scene

Climate change and overfishing are driving people out of this village

Posted October 14, 2022 at 10:22 AM EDT
On the scene

Taking it all in, one city at a time

Posted October 13, 2022 at 6:03 PM EDT
The team, looking out at the sea, from old town Melilla.
Ari Shapiro
/
NPR
The team, looking out at the sea, from old town Melilla.

Food

The things you find as you dine around the world

Posted October 13, 2022 at 11:28 AM EDT

Border life

Living life on two sides of a border

Posted October 13, 2022 at 10:25 AM EDT
What is it like living on two sides of a border?
Ari Shapiro
/
NPR
What is it like living on two sides of a border?

I was born in a border town with a twin city on the other side. Not in South Texas or California. I spent the first 8 years of my life in Fargo, North Dakota. The border to our east wasn’t fortified or even especially well marked. Just across the Red River from Fargo is Moorhead, Minnesota.

This week I woke up in a different border town. Nador, Morocco, is the neighbor to Melilla, Spain. As we make this journey reporting on climate change, migration, and the rise of the political far right, I have thought about my early childhood. Going back and forth from Fargo to Moorehead, I don’t recall any awareness that I was crossing a state border separating North Dakota from Minnesota.

Crossing from Melilla to Nador yesterday required an hour standing in line and answering questions from Spanish and Moroccan border guards. And that was on a day that things were running relatively smoothly.

Of course a state border within a country is different from borders between countries — and in this case, between places that are politically defined as parts of different continents, Africa and Europe. The tall multi-layered fence between Melilla and Nador reminds me more of fortified walls that I’ve seen in Jerusalem, running through the center of a single neighborhood.

But a human rights activist we met this morning told us that when he moved to Nador in the 1990s, the border looked more like the one that I grew up on. Buses went back and forth every day, no passport required. Yesterday, as we waited for our turn to cross, two young girls politely ushered us to go ahead of them in line. They looked like they were about the same age I was when I lived in Fargo, also living life on two sides of a border.

Q&A

Question: Are gender roles changing in the face of migration?

Posted October 13, 2022 at 9:13 AM EDT
Ari Shapiro / NPR

As we travel, ask us a question using this form and we'll seek to answer it in this blog.


I’d be interested in the changing gender dynamics in these areas. With so many young men attempting the journey to Europe, and climate change affecting both agricultural and fishing practices, how are women adapting? In ways similar to No Sex For Fish in Kenya, are women taking a larger role in the economy or taking on roles that are more traditionally held by men? — Anne


Thanks for your question, Anne. During our week in Senegal I was surprised by how fixed gender roles remain. There are jobs traditionally held by men (such as fishing) and those traditionally held by women (such as salting and preserving fish).

The people who leave for Europe are overwhelmingly men, though not exclusively. Families in Senegal that were once supported by a fisherman might now be supported by remittances from that same man doing agricultural work or construction overseas. It is not uncommon for a man going to Europe to leave behind a wife and children in Senegal.

To me, this underscores the way in which migration is deeply tied to community needs. Far from being a selfish act, leaving for Europe may be an act of self-sacrifice; giving up home and family in order to support them through hard work in an unfamiliar place.

There are isolated exceptions to the strict gender roles, such as a young graffiti artist we met named Dieynaba Sidibe, aka Zeinixx. She is Senegal’s first female graffiti artist, and she told us about her efforts to inspire other young women to defy expectations of their gender. (You’ll hear from her in one of our radio stories next month.)

Although this is hardly a scientific analysis, in our interviews I did not see any examples of migration creating a shift in gender roles. I would be interested to know whether others who have studied this issue more thoroughly have observed something different. — Ari

What is time?

A tale of two time zones

Posted October 12, 2022 at 5:40 PM EDT
Our phones are doing their best.
Ayen Bior
/
NPR
Our phones are doing their best.

Welcome to Nador, Morocco. The time here is an hour behind Spain’s neighboring Melilla. At the border, our phones are doing their best to figure out what time it is.

Sunrise

Good morning, Nador!

Posted October 12, 2022 at 9:25 AM EDT
The sun rises over Nador, Morocco.
Miguel Macias
/
NPR
The sun rises over Nador, Morocco.

On the scene

Video: The reality of Melilla — a Spanish enclave in Africa

Posted October 11, 2022 at 6:13 PM EDT
Step inside the walled city of Melilla.

On the scene

Say hi to Miguel, who joins the team for the second leg of the trip

Posted October 11, 2022 at 4:39 PM EDT
Caption to come...
Miguel Macias
/
NPR
This is me (on the left) and our "fixer" Laura J. Varo driving. We've joined up with Ricci, Ayen and Ari, who get the back seat for now.

When I board the bus that takes you to the small plane that takes you to Melilla, I notice something immediately. People are talking to each other. They also greet each other, as if they were neighbors or something.

On the plane, I fall asleep with the chatter in the background. I wake up to the turbulence the plane goes through as it approaches Melilla. As soon as we land I look at Google Maps, to get an idea of where we are landing in relation to the rest of the territory. As I walk out of the plane I stand on the tarmac looking out at the fence. Morocco on the other side.

I soon learn that planes have to make a challenging maneuver to get into Melilla. I also hear that on days when visibility is very poor, the plane might simply turn around and not land. I guess I was lucky today. Cloudy, but not too cloudy. You can still see Mount Gurugú in the distance.

It turns out that there was a group coming back from a bachelorette party, and a group that had been at a wedding as well, hence the chatter on the plane. But I also get a sense that people just know each other here. They also get a 75% discount on planes going to the mainland. So, going away for a fun weekend is not expensive. And I am sure I would want to get away often if I lived in this 5 square-mile patch of land in the north of the African continent.

I’ve been in Melila for only a short while, and I have not stopped asking questions. Questions that get answers that inevitably lead to more questions.

There aren’t quite that many places in the world like Melilla, and Ceuta, the two autonomous cities Spain still has in the northern coast of Africa, surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea, and by Morocco. And that relationship, between Spain and Morocco, is messy.

So questions always lead to more questions. Such as: How did this city end up here? Who lives here? People of Spanish descent or people of North-Moroccan origins? It’s both of course.

There are even, to this day, stateless people in Melilla. So, it’s not unusual to have a coffee at a local bar in the morning, where the staff is of Moroccan descent, customers are a complete mix, and there is plenty of code switching, to the point that I have a hard time identifying what language they are speaking. Meanwhile, a prominent local conservative politician arrives with his entourage to also get their coffee fix. Everyone knows him, but I also get a sense that people just know each other here.

As the teams says goodbye to Noah, who produced from Senegal, I am stepping in to see us through into Spain. Let's see what the next two weeks brings.

On the water

Saint-Louis depended on fishing. Now it faces a new reality

Posted October 11, 2022 at 2:35 PM EDT
Travel

Travel has been so easy for us. It's a privilege not lost on me

Posted October 11, 2022 at 10:46 AM EDT
Ari Shapiro
/
NPR
Our American nationality affords us the privilege of movement.

The three sweeping stories that we are trying to tie together with this reporting project are climate change, migration, and the political far right.

After a week in Senegal talking with people whose lives have been upended by climate change, we have now transited through Spain for the second leg of our journey, in Morocco. And I can’t help but reflect on our ease of travel in the last 24 hours.

I’m not talking about potential flight delays and cancellations. I’m talking about the ease of swiping a passport and boarding a plane without anyone asking for a visa or questioning our motives.

In the last week, we spoke with dozens of Senegalese people who risked their lives trying to make it to Spain. Many have died in the attempt. And yet our American nationality affords us the privilege of movement with no hassle greater than the occasional lost luggage.

Art

Who needs a little mermaid when you have Mami Wata

Posted October 11, 2022 at 9:57 AM EDT
Mami Wata is depicted in street art across Senegal
Ricci Shryock For NPR
Mami Wata has been loved and feared for centuries

She is half fish, half human, full goddess. Her long hair flows gracefully. In folklore, she is loved and feared. Her name is Mami Wata.

She is a water spirit that has been admired in West Africa long before Disney’s Little Mermaid. For centuries, people have worshipped her to gain clarity, strength or good fortune. Her influence is still strong to this day, and you can spot her in street art all along Senegal.

Q&A

Question: How does football play a part in Senegalese society?

Posted October 11, 2022 at 9:15 AM EDT

As we travel, ask us a question using this form and we'll seek to answer it in this blog.


Curious to hear the extent to which global football and/or other sports are a source of entertainment and healthy living there — local youth leagues and on the national level. Teams from rival religious or ethnic groups working it out on the field?

Maybe it's an elitist question, or a distraction from your main focus there, but from what I've heard, global football (what we call soccer in the U.S.) can be a source of pride and exercise and team-building for youth in most of the world. — Michael


Hi Michael, Futbòl is a huge source of pride in Senegal. We can see it in people’s faces when they smile at any mention of the national team.

You might get an enthusiastic response if you bring up the team’s first AFCON championship title earlier this year. Sadio Mané, who led team Senegal through that win, is a hero to some.

But the local level is where I think futbòl plays a pivotal role. It seems to me that young people play because it is fun, but it's also a bonding activity among neighborhood friends.

So it is common to see young boys play futbòl at dusk with a goal made from fish nets. We saw one young goalie use house slippers in both hands as goalie pads, which is pretty ingenious. — Ayen

Workflow

Our day isn't really over until we chat with our editors in D.C.

Posted October 10, 2022 at 5:19 PM EDT
Ricci Shryock for NPR

Each evening when we’re done with our reporting for the day, we call our editors back in Washington for a check-in. It’s an opportunity for us to download our impressions of the day, talk about what stood out to each of us, and begin to shape the raw material of our experiences into what will eventually become stories on the radio and online.

Photographer Ricci Shryock snapped a pic the other night of producers Ayen Bior, Noah Caldwell and me on the phone with our team back in DC., as a nearly full moon gazed down upon us. That beer bottle off to the side of the pic? Er, I’m sure it belonged to some other hotel guest.

Travel

Video: On the road from Saint-Louis

Posted October 10, 2022 at 1:18 PM EDT
The water comes and goes.

Our original plan was to do this reporting trip in the Spring. When the war in Ukraine broke out, we shuffled our schedule and pushed back the project to the fall. Now that we’re here, I’m glad we waited.

October is the end of the three-month rainy season in Senegal. So as we talk to people about the impact of climate change on their communities, I’m aware that some of the homes we’ve seen surrounded by standing water today might have been sitting in a desert landscape if we’d visited in the Spring.

What a catch

Catch of the day off the coast of Kayar, Senegal

Posted October 10, 2022 at 12:17 PM EDT
Ari Shapiro holding a fish
Ayen Bior
/
NPR
What a catch! And we're talking about the fish...

Sometimes to get a lay of the land, you have to go out into the water.

We did just that with our guide, Khadim, a spear fisherman in Kayar. The decline in fish stock has made it hard to make a living in this sea-side fishing community. But you can see fishermen along the edge of the water trying their luck.

Today, one of them brought in this gorgeous tuna fish. Great catch!

Come out on the water with us.

Q&A

Question: When are the radio broadcasts about this trip going to air?

Posted October 10, 2022 at 9:36 AM EDT

As we travel, ask us a question using this form and we'll seek to answer it in this blog.


When are the radio broadcasts about this trip scheduled to take place? I would like to incorporate them into my teaching about climate change this semester. Thanks! — Jeri


Hi, Jeri! We’re thrilled that you’re hoping to use our stories as teaching tools. These pieces will air on the radio and npr.org during the U.N. climate summit in mid-November, leading up to Thanksgiving. Last year I covered the summit in Glasgow, Scotland, where I had a lot of conversations that informed our thinking about this trip. This year, some of my colleagues will be at the gathering in Sharm el-Sheikh; our team’s stories from Senegal, Morocco, and Spain will complement their coverage. I hope our reporting helps make some of the big ideas around climate change feel a bit more personal and immediate for your students! — Ari

A profound moment

Goodbye to the sounds of Senegal — one especially

Posted October 10, 2022 at 7:45 AM EDT
The team in Senegal
Ricci Shryock for NPR
It takes a team to make this work. From left: Ricci Shryock, Gane Sine, Ayen Bior, Ari Shapiro, Khadidiatou Ba and Noah Caldwell.

As an audio producer, every once in a while a new sound gives you the shivers. Or, the tingles. Or, whatever you wanna call that feeling of encountering something both sublime and unexpected.

For me, on this trip, that moment came on Thursday night, as we followed the sound of chanting into a building and up the stairs to a room of people deep in devotional song. Around 20 men sat in a circle, all in deep blue robes. Books with Arabic text lay open on stands in front of them. They were singing a poem, layering their voices in sequence, like a round. I got whispered permission to record, and crouched at the edge. Listen to it here:

Listen to the sounds of chanting in Senegal.

It was hypnotic and deeply personal, and if they hadn’t been blasting the sound out into the street with megaphones, I would have felt like a voyeur.

I don’t mention this because I see any direct connection between the singing and climate change or migration. I mention it because:

It’s a sound I’ll never forget, and to me finding those sounds is the whole point of recording anything in the first place; and,
It’s moments like that which make me sad — but grateful — to hand off recording duties as the team heads to Morocco.

Hopefully this blog has shown (along with sights and sounds and stories) how many people are required to pull off a reporting trip like this. We’re a group of six here in Senegal — including our fixer Dady Ba and our driver Gane — and we have four editors back home (hi Matt, Sarah, Pat and Courtney!). Countless others have helped/are helping to mold the eventual audio and digital stories and coordinate coverage across NPR’s desks and shows.

And one key member of the team is in Spain right now, laying the groundwork for our reporting there and in Morocco: the producer-extraordinaire Miguel Macias. He’ll meet Ari, Ayen and Ricci in Melilla, a Spanish enclave on the coast of Morocco, and pick up recording duties for the rest of the trip.

I can’t wait to hear the sounds that he and the team will gather. My one piece of parting advice: follow the singing up the stairs!

ON THE SCENE

These bats are massive, and giving us some nostalgia

Posted October 9, 2022 at 5:00 PM EDT
It's a bird, it's a plane! Nope, it's thousands of bats.

Each evening here in Senegal, I’ve marveled as the sky fills with large bats at dusk. I’ve always loved bats. I mean, they’re the only mammal that flies! What’s not to love? As a kid in Oregon, I’d try to impress friends by throwing a pebble in the air to make a circling bat swoop down.

The ones here are much bigger than the bats of Oregon; you can measure their wingspan in feet. Today as I was wandering around the old city of Saint-Louis, I passed under a tree and heard an incredible racket. It sounded like parrots squawking. So I ducked under the canopy to peer up into the branches.

It wasn’t parrots. Every single branch was covered in bats. Squealing, squabbling, nuzzling, napping. I stepped back across the street and saw that the trees were full of thousands of them, all up and down the block. They’re in the middle of town, just opposite a local government building.

I observed them for a while from a safe distance, not wanting to be a vector for the next novel zoonotic disease. Tonight when I watch them fly across the Senegal river, I’ll know a little bit more about where they’re coming from.

On the scene

Video: Check out the dazzling colors of the painted pirogues

Posted October 9, 2022 at 4:32 PM EDT
The painted pirogues of Saint-Louis.

To get ready for the new fishing season in Saint Louis — which starts in a few months — people are re-painting their pirogues in dazzling bright colors.

Each family’s boat has a specific design, with homages to their elders, religious leaders, or, in some cases, favorite soccer team.

The pirogues are sometimes named, too. We went out on the Senegal River on a pirogue named for the captain’s grandmother: Yacine Gueye.

Myth or fact?

Today is the full moon — so let's talk werewolves and Wolof

Posted October 9, 2022 at 2:29 PM EDT

Today is the full moon! What better time to talk about werewolves?

In Wolof, the word “wer” (pronounced “where”) means moon. So is it coincidence that a werewolf is one who transforms when the moon is full?

We could ask Marlon James, whose novel Black Leopard, Red Wolf is steeped in African mythology and features a main character who occasionally turns lupine. In East Africa (where Wolof is not spoken), werehyenas are apparently a source of night terrors.

I don’t know whether wer-wolves or werewolves are prowling the streets of Senegal tonight, but I’ll lock my door just in case.

Food and drink

Tea time in Diougop is serious business (and seriously good)

Posted October 9, 2022 at 12:08 PM EDT
This is the perfect way to start the day.
Ayen Bior
/
NPR
This is the perfect way to start the day.

Tea time here in Diougop happens at least 3 times a day.

The first cup has a small dose of sugar and a high concentration of caffeine (because, you know, you might need it).

As the day goes by, the caffeine levels decrease while sugar levels increase. So by your third cup in the evening, you don’t consume as much caffeine.

Our photographer Ricci has lived here for almost 15 years and says it’s rare to see women sit and enjoy tea. I was lucky enough to join them for much needed caffeine.

Ayen Bior
/
NPR

On the scene

Photos: Life inside an IDP camp

Posted October 9, 2022 at 10:41 AM EDT
Ndeye Gueye (left), Suzanne Fall (center) and Kahdy Ndeye Diaw (right) live at an IDP camp after their homes in Saint-Louis were destroyed by sea level rise and erosion.
Ricci Shryock for NPR
Ndeye Gueye (left), Suzanne Fall (center) and Kahdy Ndeye Diaw (right) live at an IDP camp after their homes in Saint-Louis were destroyed by sea level rise and erosion.

The families living at this internally displaced persons camp traded the sea for the sand.

They used to live right on the ocean, in a neighborhood of Saint-Louis called Guet N'Dar. But in recent years the water has crept to their doorsteps, and when big storms knocked down the outer walls of their homes, they had to leave.

Now, they live in this sandy IDP camp called Diogoup, 5 miles from the ocean. To get to the sea, for work or to see family, they need to take a bus, which leaves only at certain hours, and costs money — which is always tight.

Families take tea together at an IDP camp.
Ricci Shryock for NPR
Families take tea together at an IDP camp.

Reporting

Video: This is how we record those sounds you hear on the radio

Posted October 9, 2022 at 8:38 AM EDT
Watch Noah in action.

We were conducting an interview by the sea with a woman who salts and preserves fish, when I heard a rhythmic cracking sound behind us.

I looked over my shoulder and saw this man smashing open the shells of a sea snail to get at the meat inside. I was afraid that he would stop before we were done with the interview, and I wanted to make sure we got the sound!

I gestured to Noah, my producer with the microphone, and he said, “I know, I hear it too!”

We wrapped up the conversation, and the man kept up the pounding long enough for us to capture it. Smashing!

Must See
Architecture

What the architecture of Saint-Louis tells us about its history

Posted October 8, 2022 at 5:30 PM EDT
Saint-Louis Architecture
Ari Shapiro
/
NPR

The architecture of Saint-Louis, Senegal, may give anyone who’s been to New Orleans a sense of deja vu. The French influence is unmissable. In fact, this island city at the mouth of the Senegal river was the capital when Senegal and Mauritania (just to the North) were French colonies.

Ari Shapiro
/
NPR

Today, Saint-Louis is a UNESCO World Heritage center. As the UNESCO website diplomatically puts it, “The local population has an enduring ambiguous relationship with the city’s colonial-built heritage, due to the absence of endogenous cultural materials in the building construction and its links to memories of a period of enslavement.”

Here are a couple more snapshots from the center of town.

Ari Shapiro
/
NPR
Saint-Louis Architecture
Ari Shapiro
/
NPR

By the sea

Video: I visited a 'fish transformation center'

Posted October 8, 2022 at 2:27 PM EDT
This is the "fish transformation" in Senegal.

Food

Have you tried fonio before? I'm bringing a bag home

Posted October 8, 2022 at 11:08 AM EDT
Ari Shapiro / NPR

Fonio is definitely not a “new” superfood, just as açaí and quinoa weren’t new when they started popping up all over the U.S.

People in West Africa have been eating fonio for thousands of years. But I had never heard of it before, and it wouldn’t surprise me if it reaches American palates in the next decade or so.

A West African grain (or more precisely a grass), it’s related to millet. And it’s delicious. Our group had lunch today at a fonio restaurant where a small mound of it was served with spicy rich peanut sauce and meat or vegetables.

The texture reminded me of couscous, but nuttier. I plan to buy a bag of it from the local market to cook when I get back home.

By the sea

Photos: Fishermen in the small town of Guet N'Dar organize the nets

Posted October 8, 2022 at 9:23 AM EDT
Fishermen in the small town of Guet N'Dar spend more than an hour organizing and folding the fishing net.
Ricci Shryock for NPR
Fishermen in the small town of Guet N'Dar spend more than an hour organizing and folding the fishing net.

Guet N’Dar is a busy beachside community in Saint-Louis.

Goats and sheep line the streets and children can be seen playing and swimming in the ocean.

Its location between the Senegal river and the Atlantic ocean make it a destination for fishermen. But the community has been rocked by rising sea levels and low fish stock in the waters.

Fishermen in Guet N'Dar keep working hard.
Ricci Shryock for NPR
It's teamwork that makes it all happen.

Guet N'Dar has been impacted by rising seas.
Ricci Shryock for NPR
Guet N'Dar has been impacted by rising seas.
A man leaves the mosque after evening prayers in Guet N'Dar.
Ricci Shryock for NPR
A man leaves the mosque after evening prayers in Guet N'Dar.

On the scene

Video: Cruise along the waterfront in Saint-Louis

Posted October 8, 2022 at 7:21 AM EDT
The bright colors of the boats makes for a great view.

As you ride along the waterfront you can see the difference between the boats that are newly built, the ones that are freshly painted, and the ones that have been at sea for a few seasons already.

Bright colors are a must — the most common ones being the colors of the Senegalese flag: green, yellow, and red.

Small boats are for day fishing; the larger ones can fit up to 100 people and go out to sea for many days at a time. The big ones are also the vessels that are used to smuggle people north, up the coast of Africa to Spain.

What's in a name?

A popular story for how Senegal got its name

Posted October 7, 2022 at 4:59 PM EDT
Ayen Bior
/
NPR

In wolof, the word for "our boat" is sounougal. The resemblance to the word Senegal has led a lot of people to think that’s how this West African country got its name.

Come along

Need a refresher? This is what we're doing and why

Posted October 7, 2022 at 4:01 PM EDT
Come with us as we explore the real impact of climate change.

As we travel, ask us a question using this form and we'll seek to answer it in this blog.

Animal

Why did the pelican cross the road?

Posted October 7, 2022 at 3:28 PM EDT
Pelican on the street of Saint-Louis, Senegal.
Ari Shapiro
/
NPR

That’s it, that’s the blog post.

On the scene

Photos: Meet Sadio Konte, who came to work the fields of Dakar

Posted October 7, 2022 at 2:38 PM EDT
Sadio Konte, 20, came to Senegal from Mali.
Ricci Shryock for NPR
Sadio Konte, 20, came to Senegal from Mali.

Sadio Konte grew up in Mali among a family of farmers. But due to climate change, “the deserts are advancing” in his home country.

“Working has become very difficult,” he says. So two years ago, he came to Senegal to work the fields. He plants and harvests lettuce and other vegetables in this agricultural area just outside of the capital, Dakar.

His fellow workers include people from across West Africa, many of whom had to leave their homes because of inconsistent rains and growing deserts.

Sadio Konte works in the field.
Ricci Shryock for NPR
Sadio Konte works in the field.

Food

Video: Our recommendation for a roadside snack on a sweltering day

Posted October 7, 2022 at 10:48 AM EDT
A most delicious snack on a hot day.

It is 90 degrees in Saint-Louis today but the heat index is closer to 99.

My weather app says the sweat index is "very uncomfortable" and we figured that out just by sweating through our clothes.

So today is a good day to find a refreshing snack. And the koni is right for the job.

It is a green coconut-like fruit. Inside are pods filled with the edible, gelatinous fruit. It is not too sweet at all but holds enough water to satisfy your quench when it is sweltering.

Q&A

Question: How should we be thinking about population growth in Senegal?

Posted October 7, 2022 at 7:30 AM EDT

As we travel, ask us a question using this form and we'll seek to answer it in this blog.


Please ask the citizens and officials of Senegal why their population is growing so rapidly despite signs that this may be unsustainable. — Steve

Good article. But I really think it misses a critical point — which is high population growth. Given limited resources of any government, distribution battle (for resources/capital) is therefore a key reason why significant parts of the population don’t have access to adequate healthcare, education, water etc.

Of course global warming exacerbates these problems. But other factors are cultural and religious that “legitimize” strong population growth. Any party that wants to help these people and countries (be it another government, the UN, IMF, etc) needs to take the impact of high population growth seriously.

I am not advocating for a 1 child policy, but indeed, China and other countries that had programs to curb population growth are now more successful economically, and therefore can battle global warming more effectively, because they could use their limited resources to build infrastructure and provide basic services which led to economic growth and higher incomes. — Dhawan


Thanks for raising these questions. We’re happy to have a chance to address them, as they tend to come up a lot in conversations about climate change and migration.

There are a few ways of looking at population growth in the context of environmental sustainability. One is in terms of carbon footprint. There’s a common refrain that, as The Guardian put it in 2017, the best way to save the planet is to have fewer children. And it is of course true that every human adds carbon to the atmosphere, increasing the warming of the earth.

But this generalization glosses over an important fact. As Mother Jones pointed out in this 2008 article, one American kid generates as much carbon as 106 Haitian kids.

There is also the context that climate change was caused by highly developed countries and is being disproportionately experienced by poorer countries with smaller carbon footprints. For most of the last century, the U.S. was overwhelmingly the largest emitter of carbon. (Recently it fell to second place after China, but US emissions are still climbing.) As the BBC put it last year, “The rich are driving climate change.”

Meanwhile, countries like Senegal are feeling the consequences of decisions that Americans have made. To be specific, Senegal’s carbon emissions in 2018 were .62 metric tons per capita, according to the World Bank. In the U.S., that number was 15.24 metric tons per person. And researchers have found that the emissions gap between rich and poor people is growing. Senegalese families may have more children, but American families have cars, fast fashion, air conditioning, big houses…the list goes on.

It is also worth noting that arguments about overpopulation have historically been used as a justification for policies that exclude individuals on the basis of race, both in the U.S. and in other countries. This is an issue that the Sierra Club has wrestled with very publicly.

All that to say, there are many difficult and complicated questions surrounding climate change, migration, and political solutions. But to say that Senegal’s problem is too many babies is to miss the forest for the trees. — Ari

On the scene

Watch fishermen organizing the net on the coast of Saint-Louis

Posted October 6, 2022 at 6:10 PM EDT

Q&A

Question: Do you sense any frustration in the music and art in Senegal?

Posted October 6, 2022 at 5:02 PM EDT
Some of the street art in Senegal that speaks to the mood of the country.
Noah Caldwell
/
NPR
Some of the street art in Senegal that speaks to the mood of the country.

As we travel, ask us a question using this form and we'll seek to answer it in this blog.


Do you hear any of the frustration and unrest in any of the music you hear or the art you see? — Anthony


Hey there, Anthony. There’s a ton of art and music here that’s addressing both climate change and migration. We spent an afternoon with the rapper Matador, who’s a bit of a legend in the Dakar hip hop scene. In his lyrics he’s explicit about how environmental changes cause people to move around. Here are a few lines from his song “Catastrophe” (tune in when our radio pieces air to hear him rap some of this track for us):

With the first rains come the first wave of departures
Those who prayed for rain sure got their prayers answered
Long gone are the days where we would beg the spirits for water
Today the rain is falling and it won’t stop

In one of his songs he mentions a popular – if morbid – adage in Wolof, one of the main languages spoken here in Senegal: “Barca wala barsak,” which loosely means, “Barcelona or death.” It speaks to the pull of migrating to Europe despite the obvious dangers of the journey by boat. But there are also lots of people here trying to discourage young men from leaving – and you can see that sentiment in the art, too. At the top of this post is a mural we passed today in the coastal city of Saint Louis – at the top it reads “No Barca Barsak.” — Noah

Food

Lunch, anyone? Try the thieboudieun bou wekh

Posted October 6, 2022 at 1:20 PM EDT

Animals

Are they goat or sheep? There's a trick to figuring it out

Posted October 6, 2022 at 12:36 PM EDT
Can you spot the goat and the sheep?
Ari Shapiro
/
NPR
Can you spot the goat and the sheep?

As we travel through Senegal, there are goats and sheep everywhere. But the sheep aren’t the big fluffy “Mary had a little lamb” type. In fact, they look very similar to the goats.

So how do you tell the difference? The name of a fabulous restaurant back home in Washington, D.C. offers a clue. It’s called Tail Up Goat.

One pic above shows Senegalese sheep; the other shows goats. Can you tell which is which?

Who am I?

Do I look Senegalese or do they look South Sudanese? My answer is yes

Posted October 6, 2022 at 11:24 AM EDT
Ricci Shryock for NPR

My name is Ayen, which is a common name of the Dinka tribe of South Sudan, where I am from.

Despite this fact, I have run into Senegalese throughout my life who think I am a native and begin speaking Wolof or French immediately upon meeting me. This has happened in San Francisco, London and everywhere in between. So when I arrived in Senegal for the first time this week, I knew what to expect.

Everyone here thinks I am Senegalese. In fact, during this reporting trip, I have tried to learn how to say in Wolof and French: I don’t speak Wolof or French, I am from South Sudan. 

Within hours of my arrival, our fixer, convinced that I was from her home country, gave me a Senegalese name from the Lebu people, whom I apparently resemble. Her name is Khadidatou and the name she gave me is Chaiba Ndoye. I am not sure why she chose this name, but I welcome it.

While we were reporting on the coast this week, one man told me my nose looks similar to that of his own people. Others have said my connection to Senegal is my very dark complexion, which I am immensely proud of. Another person said it is my tall and lanky figure that reminds me of her people.

This has happened to me so much that I have looked into it. There must be an answer, right? It can’t be pure coincidence.

But to be fair, the feeling of confusing each other for the other is mutual. I’ve seen Senegalese on the D.C. metro or on the streets of New York City and felt an urge to do that head nod that we South Sudanese do when we see and recognize each other.

So I will end this blog post with the words I tell Senegalese who have told me I am so similar to them that there is no way I am not one of their own:

We have our differences, but we are all Africans.

Animals

'Don't worry, the shark is vegetarian'

Posted October 6, 2022 at 10:28 AM EDT
Ari Shapiro
/
NPR

As we were climbing into this boat to do an interview on the water, some old men pouring tea on shore waved to us.

In French, they told us that there was a shark in the river named Maimouna. Laughing, they said “If you see her just say, 'Bonjour, Maimouna!'”

They told us not to be afraid, because Maimouna is a vegetarian shark. “She only eats bread and potatoes!” they shouted.

We motored down the river and returned to shore safely, sadly with no Maimouna sightings.

On the scene

The view from a Saint-Louis fish market

Posted October 6, 2022 at 9:45 AM EDT

Music

Where does the word 'jazz' come from? Here's a theory from Senegal

Posted October 6, 2022 at 9:13 AM EDT
Ari Shapiro / NPR

The African roots of jazz music have been thoroughly explored and documented. But the roots of the word “jazz” are hotly debated. The Oxford English Dictionary says “origin uncertain.” Here’s a theory that you’ll hear in Senegal about the connection to this West African country.

In Wolof, one of Senegal’s main languages, the word "diakhété" means “to mix up.” Diakhété is pronounced “jazzy.” The patchwork clothing that’s popular here is called diakhété, because it’s a mixture of patterns and colors. Check it out at the top of this post.

What’s more, when you add “kat” to a verb in Wolof, that turns the verb into a noun, meaning one who does that thing. For example, “tukki” is “to travel,” and “tukki kat” is a traveler.

One more layer: in Wolof, “xipi” means “to be aware.” That word is pronounced like “heppy.”

Senegal was a key departure point for people who were enslaved and sent to the United States, bringing their language, culture, and music with them across the Atlantic Ocean. So, is a “jazz cat” a “diakhété kat?” Someone who mixes it up? Is a “hepcat” someone who knows what’s up?

We’ll leave that debate to the linguists.

— Ari & Ricci

Q&A

Question: What is the story of the Manteros in Madrid?

Posted October 6, 2022 at 6:45 AM EDT

As we travel, ask us a question using this form and we'll seek to answer it in this blog.


I'm an American living in Madrid. I'd love to know more about the gentlemen, who I presume to be Senegalese, who travel around the touristy areas of Madrid selling handbags, sunglasses, and other items. While they are selling, they are constantly on the lookout for law enforcement and you can see them packing up their goods quickly in a large canvas sack if law enforcement is spotted nearby. They seem to have a lot of customers. In my limited interaction, they've been very polite and never pushy in their sales (I haven't purchased anything; only observed).

I'd like to know: what's their story? If they are in Spain pursuing a better life, how can people, tourists or city residents like me, best support them?

Long story: My husband is Spanish and we've come to Spain for me to gain permanent residency and hopefully citizenship someday. We moved to Spain in February 2022, but I've been back in the U.S. since May 2022 — six months due to immigration challenges. While I love being in Spain, I'm also heartbroken to leave family and friends in the U.S. Eventually we'd like to live in both places, but the cost of living in the U.S. is astronomically high compared to Spain. I leave my friends and family saying "see you later" without really knowing when I'll see them again. My immigration/migration story is still being written. And is surprisingly fraught with challenges, despite my immense privilege of being a white American passport holder, married to a Spaniard, and the ability to hire a lawyer to help us navigate this process.

I appreciate you doing this series. I want to learn more about what's happening in this region of the world that's one of my homes. I can't wait to learn more. Thank you. — Rachel


Hi Rachel, thank you so much for your comments and your question. There is a lot in there, and I feel we could probably talk for hours about the migration experience. Your thoughts reminded me of a personal project I published this past May. I think you might relate to some parts of it, so please allow me to share it with you. It’s called Limbo, and you can find it here. Feel free to reach out to me if you do get to listen and have thoughts to share.

As far as the story of the Manteros: We are going to be focusing on their community when we arrive in Madrid later this month. For now what I will say is that your first impressions are mostly right. They are mostly Senegalese, they tend to be very kind, they are often chased by police, and they have made their grievances public telling stories of harassment, racism, and oppression in Madrid, and Barcelona. They even formed the so-called “Sindicato de Manteros” or “Manteros Union” to organize, fight against racism, and sell their own products. When you make it back to Madrid, I highly recommend that you visit their store, Pantera, in the neighborhood of Lavapies – which is where many of Senegalese migrants have settled. They sell really cool t-shirts, bags, and other things. We gave them a visit earlier this year and interviewed one of the members of the collective; you can find that NPR story here. — Miguel

Animal

Bats! What a sky full of bats looks like over Senegal

Posted October 5, 2022 at 5:44 PM EDT

On the scene

In a shack on a farm, the reality of extreme heat becomes clear

Posted October 5, 2022 at 4:27 PM EDT
Noah Caldwell / NPR

In the agricultural fields outside of Rufisque — a suburb of Dakar — people from other countries in West Africa grow lettuce and peanuts.

Many of them had to leave their home countries, like Guinea Bissau or Mali, because of desertification or patchy rainy seasons. The work here can be around the clock — literally.

Inside this structure, they’ve built a bed for the times when they need to sleep there to water the crops in the cool of the night, so the water doesn't evaporate as quickly.

On the scene

Inside a classroom at a camp for internally displaced people

Posted October 5, 2022 at 2:29 PM EDT
Amadou Ndiaye is getting ready for class to begin again.
Ayen Bior
/
NPR
Amadou Ndiaye is getting ready for class to begin again.

School starts this week at Diougop IDP camp in Saint-Louis, and Amadou Ndiaye is preparing this class.

His students grew up near the ocean and are used to a life of swimming and fishing with ease.

Now, they live about 5 miles from the sea in an internally displaced people camp that was created to take in people whose homes have been destroyed by erosion.

Q&A

Reader feedback: I am heartened by the early framing of this issue

Posted October 5, 2022 at 12:35 PM EDT

As we travel, ask us a question or leave feedback using this form and we'll seek to respond in this blog.


At first I thought: Oh oh, here we go yet again.

But I am heartened by the early framing of this issue. (You also spoke with a former student of mine, Arame Tall! She graduated from Smith College nearly 20 years ago. She is a wonderful person.)

Many of us are deeply concerned about the notion of "climate refugees." Not climate refugees, but the notion. As you may know, it's been around as a concept for decades. And it's been so often debunked. You noted that migration studies shows that people don't move great distances after environmental change — they can't. They often suffer in place. They don't have the resources, strength, contacts, etc. to move.

Still it persists as a concept. (A zombie concept?) For all kinds of complicated reasons.

As you also point out (correctly) people move for all kinds of other reasons.

As I often say: To use the climate adjective in front of the refugee or migrant noun does all kinds of disservice to reality and politics.

Some works you would find valuable? Neel Ahuja's recent book, "Planetary Specter." Or Andrew Baldwin's "The Other of Climate Change: Racial Futurism, Migration, Humanism." Also, on the train you're on, you'd find Ruben Andersson's "Illegality Inc."

Maybe you're already deep inside such literature and good thinking.

Pushing the connection to eco-fascism is fruitful. Using "climate refugees" as a (cynical) way to get people interested in / worried about climate change — and the policy solutions that are more oriented toward border security — is at the heart of eco-fascism on the far right and even more center-right discussions.

Good luck on your trip. — Greg


Thank you for the thoughtful feedback and reading recommendations!

From the time we started working on this project almost a year ago, getting the nuance right was a top priority for us. There’s a tension inherent in reporting on climate migration: how do you do it without adding fuel to extremist political narratives?

We realized early on that some of the people talking about the issue most are politicians who want to stop cross-border migration altogether. This story we did in April about eco-fascism came out of some of our early research into these issues. — Ari

Q&A

Question: How do farmers in Senegal describe their experience?

Posted October 5, 2022 at 12:18 PM EDT
Ari Shapiro
/
NPR

As we travel, ask us a question using this form and we'll seek to answer it in this blog.


How do the local farmers describe their experience with farming? How do climate change and foreign and local governments/companies enhance or detract from their work? And how much sovereignty do the farmers have over the land they farm? — Lucas


Hi Lucas. We spent a day with farmers from all over West Africa who have come to Senegal to work the fields because, as they put it, “the rainy season is bad” in their home countries. All of them grew up on farms. But now, as a Malian man told us, “the desert is advancing,” so they’ve been forced to move.

In Senegal, agriculture is more reliable. A Gambian man said: “Here in Senegal they grow all this food. If you could have that in neighboring countries, nobody would go abroad.”

The men we met all work for Senegalese land owners. One common arrangement is for the field workers to get paid a small amount for their labor and also be given planting beds to tend on their own, either for subsistence farming or additional income.

These men are not illegal immigrants. They have freedom to move across borders within West Africa, in the same way citizens of the European Union can cross E.U. borders freely.

This arrangement points to the complexity of climate migration; we chose Senegal as a starting point for this reporting project because it is not only a departure point for Senegalese people going to Europe, it’s also an arrival point for agriculture workers from nearby countries and from inland Senegal, where changing weather patterns have made farming less reliable. Most people who are forced to relocate for climate-related reasons will stay in their home country if they can, or stay in their region if they cannot. For many West Africans, going to Europe is a last resort option. — Ari

At work

See the very real impact of rising seas on those in Senegal

Posted October 5, 2022 at 11:09 AM EDT

Visual poetry from Ricci Shryock.

Mamadou is 56 and was born in this blue room. In 2018, the sea inundated his home and tore down walls that his father built. Mamadou and his family now live 5 miles inland, at a dusty brown camp for internally displaced persons.

“We no longer have the cool fresh air we used to have from the sea,” he said.

Ari Shapiro / NPR

Food

Did we mention the food in Senegal yet? It's incredible

Posted October 5, 2022 at 8:13 AM EDT

As we travel, ask us a question using this form and we'll seek to answer it in this blog.


I want only to say thank you, for 1) going to Senegal, which is part of the world usually never seen on American news 2) showing the video of a ride along the street in Dakar. 3) I hope you enjoy the awesome food there. - Neal


Hi Neal! Thanks for following along. The food here has been incredible. On our first day we tried fish thiéboudienne and chicken yassa, a trademark Senegalese dish, doused in lemon and mustard sauce.

Chicken yassa
Ayen Bior
/
NPR
Chicken yassa

On our second day we went for a low-brow lunch: greasy and delicious Djolof Chicken, which, according to our photographer Ricci, is one of several fried chicken joints to pop up after KFC arrived in Senegal in the last few years.

Dolof Chicken shop
Noah Caldwell
/
NPR
Djolof Chicken shop

There’s too much good food to mention everything, but one beverage sticks out: the juice of the baobab tree, or le pain du singe. It’s sweet, tangy, and chalky, with an almost bubblegummy aftertaste.

Noah Caldwell / NPR

Bon appetite!

Q&A

Question: Does language play a part in where people choose to travel?

Posted October 5, 2022 at 7:14 AM EDT

As we travel, ask us a question using this form and we'll seek to answer it in this blog.


I am a French and Spanish teacher, and I was wondering if migrants from Senegal prefer to continue on to France instead of Spain, since many would (possibly?) know French, plus France may have more jobs than Spain. — Carrie


Hi Carrie. Most people’s first concern is just getting to Spain or to the most accessible port of entry in Europe. Then the next step is often going where they might have family or contacts who can set them up with a job or housing. Nobody’s going to an unemployment office; their system relies on people who are already there from their community. Wherever they go, they’ll link up with other people from Senegal or West Africa. So language isn’t often voiced as a barrier in this situation. There are so many other barriers that language is often low on the list. — Ricci

The team

Introducing photographer Ricci Shryock

Posted October 5, 2022 at 7:03 AM EDT
Ricci Shryock

I’ve been an independent photographer and writer in Senegal for nearly 15 years.

Listening to people’s stories about the challenges they face when it comes to freedom of movement, migration and climate change, it’s clear their issues are global issues.

So I am excited to be included in this All Things Considered trip and hear people’s stories from all along the route of Senegal, Morocco, and Spain.

Food and drink

My first time trying baobab juice

Posted October 4, 2022 at 5:38 PM EDT

On the scene

Video: On the road from Dakar

Posted October 4, 2022 at 4:17 PM EDT

This is usually a desert landscape, but October is the end of the rainy season. So right now the baobab trees are green, with fruits hanging down to the ground. Fields are full of ripe watermelons.

And on the telephone lines, brightly colored migrating birds perch alongside hornbills and kingfishers.

See the rich and varied landscape.

RESOURCES

Our background reading/watching/listening recommendations

Posted October 4, 2022 at 3:54 PM EDT

Our team has spent months preparing for this trip, which has meant a lot of reading, listening, and watching. So if if you’re interested in digging a bit more deeply into the issues that we’ll be covering, here are some resources that we’ve found useful:

  1. The World Bank’s Groundswell report from 2021 is the most comprehensive accounting we’ve found of the impact climate change is likely to have on migration. There is a lot of uncertainty in the numbers, because we don’t know how much global temperatures will rise in the coming decades. As one of the authors, Kanta Kumari Rigaud, told me, “The numbers that came out were sobering in the sense that they are high, but they are not a predestined number. It really depends on what we do.”
  2. The Secretive Prisons That Keep Migrants Out of Europe” was an investigative report in the New Yorker earlier this year by Ian Urbina, in collaboration with The Outlaw Ocean Project. As Urbina told my colleague Mary Louise Kelly, this is a gulag in which people are disappeared and “the E.U. really is the overseer and largely responsible.”
  3. The New York Times did a deep dive into climate migration in 2020, focusing specifically on people making the journey from Central America through Mexico to the U.S. Regarding the Sahel region of Africa where we’ll be reporting this project, reporter Abrahm Lustgarten writes: “In the nine countries stretching across the continent from Mauritania to Sudan, extraordinary population growth and steep environmental decline are on a collision course. Past droughts, most likely caused by climate change, have already killed more than 100,000 people there.”
  4. To zoom out a little bit, the book A Fistful of Shells, by historian Toby Green, is an account of how West Africa was transformed by the rise of the slave trade and colonization. It’s a deeply-researched work, drawing on oral histories and longstanding archives in many countries, including Senegal. It also offers a reminder: migration has always been a feature of life in West Africa, and the climate has always affected that migration. This passage below points out that prolonged droughts — followed by rainy spells — caused the mass movements of people over the course of centuries. Now, we’re seeing another period when the environment is shifting drastically – this time brought on by human-induced climate change. And, just as they always have, people are moving again.

    A page from the book, A Fistful of Shells.
    Noah Caldwell
    /
    NPR
    A page from the book, A Fistful of Shells.

  5. The 2019 feature film Atlantics tells the story of young women in Dakar, Senegal, who are haunted (literally and figuratively) by the young men who have tried to make the dangerous journey to Europe. Those young men are “like a ghost generation. A whole group of young people who disappeared into the ocean,” the film director Mati Diop told my colleague Bilal Qureshi. “I was troubled. I was being haunted by that. And that’s why for me, it was always going to be a ghost film.”
  6. Ecological disasters are fueling mass immigration, according to anti-immigration far-right movements in Europe and the U.S. The Guardian lays out how these fears are spreading into political discourse. In France, Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (formerly National Front) has established a new wing, New Ecology with a goal to create the “world’s leading ecological civilization.” In Spain, our third and final stop on this trip, leaders of Vox, the country’s right-wing party, have similar talking points.
  7. The German-based think tank adelphi looked at 21 right-wing populist parties in Europe and analyzed how they perceive climate change science. The study breaks down the ideology into three parts: Political parties that deny the science behind climate change; parties that don’t have a position; and parties that affirm climate science and are aware of the global threat it poses. This is a great place to start if you are looking for a deep dive into how the discourse on climate change plays out in far-right politics and the implications far-right ideology might have on climate policies across Europe. 
  8. These days, Elhadji Diouf is known for his master craft in making aioli garlic mayonnaise and paellas at a beachside restaurant in Murcia, Spain. About a decade ago, Diouf, a fisherman by training, arrived by boat in Melilla, a north African city in Spain. Diouf’s story is heartwarming in some parts, and heartbreaking in others. It is a story about the real-life experience of people who leave their home countries and the challenges they find elsewhere.
Q&A

Question: Do people believe governments are helping more than they're hurting?

Posted October 4, 2022 at 12:10 PM EDT
Boats at Thiaroye-sur-mer.
Ari Shapiro
/
NPR
Boats at Thiaroye-sur-mer.

As we travel, ask us a question using this form and we'll seek to answer it in this blog.


In the personal math that every individual has to calculate for themselves, I'm wondering if the people of these cities and nations and nationalities you're wandering through believe that governments are — on the average — helping more than they're hurting? Helping with climate change, helping fight ethno-nationalism, helping to bring people together to find a way out or are they trying to pretend all of this.. climate change and bigotry and greed over the rule of law.. doesn't exist? — Drew


Hi Drew. So far in Senegal, we’ve encountered a lot of frustration with the government. In the seaside community of Thiaroye-sur-mer just outside of Dakar, people have made a living from the water for generations. Now, as a man named Moustafa Diop told me, “The sea is empty.” He fumed about the Senegalese government’s decision to allow trawlers from Europe and China to fish (overfish, some would argue) in Senegalese waters. And people are equally frustrated about the refusal of European governments to grant visas to Senegalese people. A common refrain here is, “They’ll take our fish, but they won’t take us.” This also shows how climate change is rarely the only factor in someone’s decision to leave. Combine climate change with overfishing, poverty, and other pressures and — as one expert told me — migration becomes a coping strategy. — Ricci

On the scene

Taking the title of 'field producer' seriously

Posted October 4, 2022 at 11:53 AM EDT
Ari Shapiro / NPR

The team

Meet the NPR team on the ground

Posted October 4, 2022 at 8:00 AM EDT

This is our team on the ground.

Ari Shapiro — host

For the last year, when friends have asked if I’m working on anything I’m especially excited about, this is the project I’ve described. I can’t believe it’s finally here! You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram at @arishapiro.

David Gilkey
/
NPR

Ayen Bior — producer

The consequences of climate change destroy homes, tear families apart and force people to make impossible decisions. And if the science is correct, things won’t get better any time soon. The urgency of this reporting trip has kept me on my toes for months, and now I am most looking forward to hearing from real voices in all three countries. You can follow me on Twitter @Ayen_Grace.

Ayen Bior
Ayen Bior

Noah Caldwell — producer

Last year, a team at All Things Considered had the chance to see the diplomatic world try to address the threats of climate change, at the U.N. climate conference in Glasgow. Now we get to hear about those threats, and the ways they influence peoples’ movements, directly from those who are most impacted. You can follow me on Twitter @noahgcr.

Ashley Brown
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NPR

Miguel Macias — producer

If you asked me what the most important story of our time is, I would say it’s migration across the world. People are pushed by wars, poverty, violence, or simply the search for a better life. And then there is climate change, the other great story of our time. If you combine migration and climate change, you have a reality that will reshape our societies for generations to come. There is enough there to report for years, but at All Things Considered we are going to make one (first) attempt to chronicle how these two forces intertwine. You can follow me on Twitter @miguelmacias.

Miguel Macias

On the scene

Video: The view on the street in Dakar

Posted October 4, 2022 at 7:15 AM EDT

On the streets of Dakar you can buy watermelons, soccer jerseys, bed frames, or anything else you might need. It’s all for sale alongside the trucks, motorcycles, and horse-drawn carts crowding the road.

Check it out:

You can find a rich variety of goods on the streets.

On the scene

We're settling in and making friends already

Posted October 4, 2022 at 6:36 AM EDT

MAP

This is the route we'll be taking on our journey

Posted October 4, 2022 at 6:11 AM EDT

Our trip starts in Dakar and then heads towards Spain.

Many Senegalese boats take people to the Canary Islands, which are a part of Spain. Others go directly to the Spanish mainland.

Yet a third route is through the Spanish enclave cities of Ceuta and Melilla, which are Europe’s southernmost border surrounded by Morocco on the African continent.

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We've arrived

VIDEO: Arriving in Senegal, where the coastline defines life

Posted October 4, 2022 at 6:09 AM EDT

We have arrived in Senegal, at the westernmost edge of the African continent.

The coastline defines life here. Senegal has some of the most productive fisheries in all of Africa, and as many as 1 in 6 Senegalese people work in or around the fishing industry.

Chinese and European trawlers have squeezed the industry, which adds to the pressure on people to migrate.

The view as we land.

Questions

Ask us a question about the trip

Posted October 4, 2022 at 6:08 AM EDT

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THE GOAL

Why we're travelling and what we're hoping to find out

Posted October 4, 2022 at 6:06 AM EDT
Boats line the shore in Senegal.
Marco Longari/AFP via Getty Images
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AFP
Fishing in the main source of income for many Senegalese.

My most ambitious reporting trips as a host of All Things Considered have tended to return to a few consistent themes.

  1. I’ve watched rising seas swallow islands in the Sundarbans of India and tracked efforts to slow climate change at U.N. summits in Glasgow, Scotland and Paris, France.
  2. I’ve followed in the footsteps of migrants walking hundreds of miles from Venezuela to Colombia and from Syria to Germany
  3. I’ve tried to understand the rise of political extremism in places as diverse as Indonesia and the United States

Lately, I’ve started wondering about the ways in which these three broad themes weave together. What is the connection between climate change, the movement of people around the globe, and the rise of xenophobic politicians? That’s the overarching question we’re hoping to answer with this reporting trip.

For more, read my longer piece about the origins and hopes of this trip.