Ten a.m. was the time to meet with Dr. Bakary Kante, Director of Environment. I went to the embassy and arranged to have some traveler's checks cashed, which seemed to involve several offices and several people. I think I unintentionally asked for a bigger favor than I realized.
Dane and I hustled into the embassy car with Thierno at the wheel and we sped off with American flags flapping from the front fenders. In seconds we were at Le Building and went up to the floor where Kante worked, except it turned out he didn't. A young aide informed us that Kante was probably, or reasonably, at CSE, an environmental institute, at the north end of the city, actually not too far from the residence. Without too much time lost we whisked uptown with flags flying. We went in to meet with Kante, but it turned out he didn't work there, either. The secretaries were not exactly sure where he did work and tried to make some calls for us. I admired the skill with which they tried to take the situation seriously while now and then smiling at the SNAFU. Back downtown we flew-Thierno, flags, and our black embassy car-to Le Building, and back up the stairs to the hapless bureaucrat, who finally called around and discovered Dr. Kante in an office in the Tourism Ministry. While Dane is ordinarily cool, calm, collected, the soul of discretion and restraint, I distinctly heard some choice four letter American swear words echo up and down the stairwell of Le Building. Finally, in a few more blocks and flag flaps the imperturbable Thierno took us down old narrow streets and into the back lot of Tourism on Rue Calmette, and found Dr. Kante. We soon calmed down and immersed ourselves in Senegal's environmental issues.
Such as: Investment in gold and phosphates has increased, but in the east the owners of a cyanide heap leach gold mine have abandoned it with no clean-up, breaking their agreement. . . . A lot of Dakar sewage still flows untreated out to sea. . . . Some 100,000 cubic meters of treated sewage is being reused for agriculture near Rufisque. . . . Surface mining of phosphates has damaged land in the Thiès area. Kante himself, however, is about to move to a new post. He is Chair of the U.N. Subsidiary Body for Implementation of the Kyoto Protocol on global warming, a reminder of the high level and quality of Senegal's participation in international diplomacy. The report below covers more issues.
The next meeting was with Col. M'Barek Diop, a civil engineer and "Conseiller au President" on environment and transportation, in the Secretary General offices by the Presidential Palace. Since Dane had to talk to the President about embassy security, a young (a term which covers more and more people) foreign service officer from the economic section, Andrew Haviland, accompanied me, in another embassy vehicle, over to see the colonel. Mr. Haviland's card said he was "Second Secretary." Haviland had been a Peace Corps volunteer in Senegal, was fluent in Wolof, and had good things to say about his boss. Haviland himself was very committed and had market-oriented ideas about how Senegal should develop. As for myself, I am more concerned about cultural survival, the impact of rural agriculture and population growth on the environment, and the popular urban economy. (The popular, partially monetized, economy of the marginal population is a mix of family work, barter, and largely untaxed, low cost markets.) I'm skeptical of some aspects of development, especially the automobile. Globalization makes me nervous, yet at the same time I can see why so many leave their villages.
Colonel Diop was fluent in English and had a wealth of factual information. I read on his business card that his email address was "@hotmail.com," and I wondered a second if I'd really left the U.S. He explained policy development on desertification, discussed below, and transportation. The discussion between Colonel Diop and Mr. Haviland on bits of their mutual business was most interesting, one of mutual respect and appreciation focusing on issues. I kept noticing the map on the wall behind the colonel's desk. As he explained it, I became very impressed. It was a map of Senegal ecology, its problems, and remedies, which I will discuss in more detail below. There was also a map of the emerging road system, indicating some order could come out of the congestion I had observed here and there. At the end of our meeting we could not find our ride, so Haviland and I walked back to the embassy.
I returned to the residence for the 1:30 lunch, a bit late, and I came into the living room where my family was sitting around on the chairs and couches and talking to the guests. I met a slew of people whose names I instantly forgot, but, thanks to a guest list, can now report.
>Col. Diop, whom I'd met earlier,
>M. (Monsieur) Ousmane Thiam, Director of CETUD, the Executive Council of Urban Transport of Dakar,
>Mme. Lillian Baer of the Centre Baobab, a consulting firm which teaches languages and Senegalese culture.
>Mme. Haby Ly of AELP,
>M. Mouhamadou Ouattara, a young man working for Sony's computer operations in Senegal,
>Commandant Souleye Ndiaye, Director of the Parques Nationaux du Senegal, and
>M. Malick Gaye of ENDA (Environmental Development Action, an international non-profit organization helping self-help development, sponsored by 5 European and 3 UN aid agencies).
I was served a interesting local fruit drink, and asked for more. We were called to the porch, where two tables were elegantly set, including cards with a gold embossed U.S. emblem and our names with French titles. Dane gave a nice little speech about us, the guests of honor, and welcoming the guests, in French and English.
After lunch I went out to CETUD in Hann on the outskirts of the old city. Old Dakar is connected to the larger metropolitan area to the north by a modern highway, the Autorute. Hann is about 12 kilometers north, on the gulf of Hann where Cap Vert curves north east back to the main land. Hann has an old public forest and zoo on the north side and a village on the south side. CETUD is just off the Autorute. There was small two story office building and a bus maintenance garage. We went up a narrow open staircase in the middle of the office, down a hall that opened on the left to the courtyard below, past several doors, through his secretary's room, and into Director Thiam's spacious office. We sat on some chairs at one end and tried to talk, but his English was too limited. He called in a friend, Soudou Diagne, Executive Secretary of CETUD, who had the same problem, and they found a staff person who could talk to me. Details are in the report below.
My ride comes to pick me up at CETUD; it is the embassy van with Thierno
at the wheel, Judy, and the rest of my family. We drive further to the
northwest side of the metro area, to Pikine, a huge low income worker settlement.
The entry road to this neighborhood is congested, but soon we are on sandy
streets with two story row houses, and we come to a kind of settlement
house, the Jokkoo AJC3 Social Center, a youth center. The leaders know
Judy and we meet manypeople, shaking hands. We file through the narrow
door into a wide open-air hallway covered with matting for shade. A class
room is off to the left and small rooms off to the right, one of which
is library - TV room, with mostly French books and a few in English.
Chairs are arranged around the hallway, and my family sits on the left with Judy and the center director, Abdoul Aziz Ndoye, across from us. To my left sit some young women and, behind them, a passel of kids. I remember the side-by-side contrast between one woman in native dress and another in a grey suit, every hair in place, who looked like she could have been a receptionist for a major corporation, if not a young VP. To my right and across are other women and center leaders, and at the end on the right sit five elders in boubous, one of whom has a lot to say in answer to our questions. We talk about the youth center, and a soft drink is served all around. Judy has some questions, and I ask about the drought and peanuts. The older men gave animated responses about how drought drove them into the city, and we talked about their various occupations. After about an hour we file out, take a big picture of everyone, and take our leave. A "history" of this center was sent to us later, and I include it below in the report.
On the way back we visit a UNESCO educational facility, the "Ecopole,"
with various environmentally related displays. I buy a clever model bicycle
made from silver-covered wire.
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