Hélène Boucher | October 28, 2019
Farming is common in the Kolda region of Senegal, but it is not a popular career for youth. Belal Sow is trying to change that. He has opened his farm to young apprentices so that they can learn through internships. Mr. Sow believes that, to ensure the well-being of the community over the long term, it’s important that youth join him in farming the land. Mariame Ndao is one of these young apprentices. She has been working at Ranch Sow for a month, where she is learning how to feed poultry. Mrs. Ndao hopes to have her own chicken business one day.
In Kolda, people have been farming since the dawn of time. Kolda is an area in the Casamance region of southern Senegal, 80 kilometres north of Guinea-Bissau. Here, Ranch Sow has dedicated itself to continuing the farming tradition, attracting young apprentices to learn through internships. This enterprise is motivating youth with its ecological philosophy: “Healthy farming and breeding are at the heart of our concerns.”
Belal Sow is the owner and manager of the farm that carries his name. Mr. Sow was trained in the United States, where a ranch is a large farm. Ranch Sow provides fruits, vegetables, meat, and milk to the community, responding to local needs. His philosophy is simple: to ensure the health of consumers through respect for the land, people, and animals.
Mr. Sow believes that, to ensure the well-being of the community over the long term, it’s important that youth join him in farming the land. But unfortunately, not many youth are interested in agricultural work. So Mr. Sow invites young people from across the region to join him on his farm to learn his ecological practices, and hopes that they will be inspired to follow his philosophy.
Behind a mesh chicken coop, a young woman is preparing feed for 1,100 chickens and chicks. Mariame Ndao comes from Ziguinchor, a major city in the Casamance region, where she is enrolled in an agricultural training course. She has been working at Ranch Sow for a month, where she is learning how to feed poultry. She feeds and cares for the birds in exchange for room and board.
It’s difficult for Mrs. Ndao to say what she enjoys most in her weekly routine. She likes everything! Seeing the birds in good health makes her smile, and she happy to look after the day-to-day health of the lively chickens. She feeds them an organic mixture of local dried fish that contains a lot of calcium. When they are ready for market, the chickens are sold to restaurants across the region.
Just beyond the chicken coops, fruit trees explode with freshness. Dozens of lemon, orange, tangerine, and moringa trees are cared for by Mr. Sow’s son, Aliou. Aliou is 20 and proud to follow in the footsteps of his father, the ambitious manager of this farm.
Aliou is responsible for taking care of the trees. He pulls out weeds and adds organic fertilizer to the base of each tree to improve their health. The fertilizer is made from the droppings of the various animals on the farm, including pigeons and chickens. On Ranch Sow, crop production depends on livestock, and vice versa.
Sadio Baldé is a shy livestock keeper. He has been taking care of the ranch’s cattle and oxen for four years, ensuring that they are fed, secure, and healthy. He is also responsible for milking and selling the milk in the Kolda market.
Growing up in Koumbakara, not far from Kolda, Mr. Baldé had an affection for cows. Mr. Baldé looks carefully at the livestock enclosure and points to two cows that will give birth in a few months. When this happens, he will ensure that the cows are separated and in a space that is conducive to their well-being. He helps them throughout the pregnancy, caring for them meticulously, and helping them give birth in the best conditions.
For these farmers-in-training, their experience at Ranch Sow opens up job opportunities in organic farming. Mrs. Ndao hopes to have her own chicken business one day, while Aliou will continue to follow in his father’s footsteps.
Mr. Sow is hopeful about his business and its impact on his beloved Casamance. Ultimately, he hopes that his efforts will assist in the great collective project of ensuring nutritional self-sufficiency and greater exports from Senegal.