“Ayeeri Kneu Mbang!”:

DAART site visits to Bassari country (Senegal) and to Attitongon county (Togo

The Dakar American Applied Research & Training (DAART) is an 18-month program conceived, designed and implemented by The West African Research Association & Center. DAART’s objective has been to provide capacity building training in Dakar, at WARC, for a select group of young West African social entrepreneurs—‘select’ because the 11 participants in the program were selected from more than 100 applicants. A hugely diverse group, these eleven leaders play key roles—often being founders—of organizations and projects designed to empower their communities. The range of organizational goals includes providing educational support to young people from economically and otherwise marginalized groups, promoting women to run for elected office, support for the albino community, use of cinema as a tool for development, recycling of electronic waste as an environmental intervention and job creation, promotion of agriculture and support for farmers in getting their products processed and to market, music as an empowerment, independent investigative journalism, and more. The DAART project, funded through a grant from the US State Department, is designed to build capacity for young innovative African leaders. During the summer of 2012, all 11 participants were in Dakar for two months of training. In August, they returned to their home countries and their organizations to apply their new skills. Having developed, in the course of the training, strategic business plans for their organizations, each was awarded a significant grant to invest in the realization of his or her plan.

As part of the follow-up to the training, the DAART management team (including the WARC Director; DAART Training Director, Professor Eugenie Aw; DAART Coordinator, Mariane Yade; and Africa-based members of the DAART Steering Committee) has been making site visits to each of the grantees.

Some of the equipment purchased by the Ebarack farming group

Some of the equipment purchased by the Ebarack farming group

On January 7-10, management made a site visit in the region of Kedougou in eastern Senegal to monitor the implementation of the community project of Geremy Bianquinch, one of the DAART fellows. Mr. Bianquinch, a graduate from University Cheikh Anta Diop, has decided to stay in his own rural community, the Bassari village of Ebarack. There he is working with the population to give an added and commercial value to the various products generated by the hard labor of the local people. These include honey harvesting, processing and marketing of fonio (a local cereal) and karate (shea butter), large-scale production of cassava, and vegetable farming. Through the work of Mr. Bianquinch’s organization, the community is realizing that they indeed have the resources to stimulate the economic development of their rural area. The DAART project has provided training and funds for the purchase of basic equipment. This, combined with the energy and commitment of this DAART fellow who had come back to village to share his knowledge learning and know-how for the advancement of his people means that the future is looking very promising to villagers in Ebarack. This is so very true that during the whole visit everybody in the WARC delegation learnt by heart the Bassari phrase for “Thank You”: “Ayeeri Kneu Mbang”.

Young Togolese students sponsored by La Seve-Togo

Young Togolese students sponsored by La Seve-Togo

Later in January, the same words of thanks resonated in far-away Togo with its Ewe equivalent “Akpé!” (Thank you!) when the WARC team visited the “Association La Seve Togo” and DAART fellow, Miss Nora Noviekou.

With representatives of La Seve Togo, the visiting team toured schools in the Attitongon county where this committed group of young Togolese sponsor under-privileged students. La Seve Togo has also made it possible for another group of young Togolese to register as students at the University of Lome and complete their university degrees.

A forward-looking organization, La Seve Togo is already making plans to build a sustainable and self-supported organization. They are now engaged in negotiations with the Director of an organic pineapple processing plant to secure an outlet for their future pineapple production slated to be marketable in about two years. Agriculture is, indeed, getting to be the pathway to development for the new type of Togolese who form the Association La Seve Togo.

When leaving Lome to come back to Dakar, the WARC team had one single word on their tongues: “Akpé!”.

Thank you, indeed, to these dedicated African youths who seem to be heralding a new dawn of self-reliance and prosperity for the continent.