On Friday this last week we all woke to the lovely sound and smell of the first rain of the season. It was just a little shower, mind you, but was so nice after the long, dry days. This rainfall pattern of a long 9-months of dry and short rainy season determines most everything about agriculture and village life in this part of Senegal.
We loaded up our trusty bus and were off to visit Beer-Sheba, a Christian agricultural project and training center a little less than 2 hours away from Thiés. We were given a tour of the various projects by one of the teachers. There are usually between 15 and 25 interns who come from all over West Africa (but mostly from Senegal) for a year to learn organic and low-impact gardening/farming techniques, integrated into a wholistic Biblical view of creation care. Training includes some drip irrigation techniques but this requires more investment in equipment (pipes, wells, pumps, storage tanks etc.) than practical for many farmers unless they are part of a cooperative. So there is a shift towards experimenting with techniques that even small-scale farmers could implement with minimal capital. They also are experimenting with/demonstrating some intensive small livestock management and processing. For some reason our animal-loving group seemed particularly taken with the rabbits and the pigs! The project began by fencing off their whole area and letting the trees and vegetation grow back again, making the contrast to the surrounding farms quite startling. We had lunch with the folks there before heading back to Thiés.
The students decided that it would be fun if they would all stay overnight at Chez Goshen Friday night and to stay up baking cookies, eating snacks and watching movies. So they did! They all went out to eat together at one of the finer restaurants in Thiés before descending on us for the night. I must say we were a little skeptical (mostly wondering if we old folks would get any sleep), but this is a great group and all went well. When we got up in the morning the house and the kitchen were all cleaned up. We sent them off to their host homes again Saturday morning after we had breakfast together.
Students are ready to head into their final two weeks here in Thiés before service. It is interesting to see how much more comfortable they are now finding their way around town, walking or grabbing taxies or buses, buying the things they need, and talking to people.
Here are some pictures from our time at Beer-Sheba, plus a few more from Caleb and Jose of some of our recent trips.