Facing Droughts, Senegal Teaches Its Farmers To Make The Most Of What They Can Grow : Goats and Soda The farmers realized that the way to succeed in spite of climate change was to make the most of what they've got.
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How A Glass Of Juice Inspired A Town To Get Smart On Climate Change

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How A Glass Of Juice Inspired A Town To Get Smart On Climate Change

How A Glass Of Juice Inspired A Town To Get Smart On Climate Change

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

To Senegal now, where farmers and villagers are looking for solutions to climate change. Drought can have devastating effects on the economy there. Here's NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMEN: (Clapping, singing in foreign language).

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: In gorgeous-colored hair ties, and voluminous flowing boubous, the women of Daga Birame village in central Senegal sit demurely under a giant shade tree, patiently waiting for visitors from Senegal's capital, Dakar. Their well-tended, fledgling green orchard test sites stretch out behind them. The sun's out, a break during the rainy season. When one woman claps a welcome, they all join in.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMEN: (Clapping, singing in foreign language).

QUIST-ARCTON: A group of scientists has come to learn more about how Daga Birame villagers are grappling with ways to increase their resilience to climate variability.

ROBERT ZOUGMORE: Working together to define what will be the future of this community vis a vis of the climate change impact, especially for agriculture and food security.

QUIST-ARCTON: Soil scientist Robert Zougmore is part of a research team working with these Senegalese villagers to take that challenge seriously. He says to shock them into action, the farmers were taken to the Linguere region, almost 125 miles away, that's been hard hit by drought. The scientists told the farmers that their village of Daga Birame was likely to suffer a similar fate within 30 years due to climate change.

ZOUGMORE: The farmers, they start asking questions, how people can live in this area. People cannot live out of doing rain-fed agriculture because the rain is not much in this area compared to the areas where they are.

QUIST-ARCTON: Agriculture in this area relies on good rainfall. So says Ousmane Ndiaye, a climate specialist from Senegal's national weather agency working with the research group.

OUSMANE NDIAYE: Because it's - the projection shows that area will be drier and hotter, will have less rainfall. And it will be hotter.

QUIST-ARCTON: This country of 15 million, with the Sahara desert bearing down on northern Senegal, sits along the arid Sahel, a zone straddling more than a dozen countries from Mauritania in the northwest to far-away Somalia in the Horn of Africa. All are prone to desertification and climate change. Over a 30-year trajectory, that reality presents a challenge for Daga Birame villagers, says Senegalese agro-forester Diaminatou Sangare.

DIAMINATOU SANGARE: (Speaking French).

QUIST-ARCTON: What was saving the people of Linguere was the baobab, a tree that grows in abundance in Daga Birame and what villagers there had long taken for granted, says Sangare. That's when it clicked with the farmers and villagers, says researcher Zougmore .

ZOUGMORE: They realized that they have a potential for increasing their resilience vis a vis of climate change, generating income with baobab fruits to produce juice and even processing the baobab fruit, packaging it and selling it. And this baobab fruits were coming from this community.

QUIST-ARCTON: Which gave birth to the community project One Woman, One Fruit Tree. Leading Daga Birame farmer, Ousmane Thiall.

OUSMANE THIALL: (Through interpreter) And we thought, well, as we have so many of these trees in our area, why don't our women do the same as the women in Linguere to make the most out of these fruit trees?

QUIST-ARCTON: The women harvest the fruit from the baobab's large, long pods full of succulent, snowy beans, says farmer Ramatou Diouf.

RAMATOU DIOUF: (Foreign language spoken).

QUIST-ARCTON: Diouf says Daga Birame women also grow other drought-resistant, fruit-bearing crops on their parcels of land. And they receive detailed, seasonal forecasts and climate and farming information, which they share with the community. The messages are sent by cell phone text message from Senegal's weather service and broadcast on community radio to help increase their yields.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: (Singing in foreign language).

QUIST-ARCTON: Ramatou Diouf and other women sing and dance in praise of the project they say has improved their lives and boosted their harvests. Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR News, Daga Birame, Senegal.

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