KAFFRINE, Senegal, Oct 13 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - In
the humid heat of Senegal's rainy season, Mbayan Fam points
across a bleak expanse of sand dotted with grass to the shallow
sea inlet where she and her fellow salt collectors harvest white
"gold" with their bare hands.
The wide delta, reached by a flood-prone dirt road, is a
tough place to work, and the women lack protective equipment,
causing them skin problems. In recent years their incomes have
dropped too, as sand swept across the denuded landscape by the
wind has silted up half the inlet, the young woman says.
But the salt gatherers of Keur Mboucki municipality, on the
western edge of the central region of Kaffrine, are hoping
efforts to reforest the inlet's shores with salt-tolerant trees
will make life easier for them.
"With these trees that we have planted, we can reclaim the
land, and carry on with our activities," said Fam. "We will have
shade where we can sit down and rest a bit. And we can also use
the trees to treat illnesses."
The reforestation push is just one of 22 community projects
in the area being financed by Britain under a flagship £140
million ($174 million) programme known as BRACED, which aims to
help over 5 million people become more resilient to climate
extremes and disasters in 13 countries across Africa and Asia.
In Senegal, as well as in Mopti in neighbouring Mali,
environment and development group IED Afrique and its partners
are aiming to show that local communities are capable of using
international funding for climate change action effectively -
whether to tackle shrinking forests or worsening floods and
At Keur Mboucki town hall, Lieutenant Babakar Dème, who
heads the local branch of the government's water and forest
service, stresses there is still a lot to learn.
Not all the 48,000 or so tiny eucalyptus and native species,
including acacia senegal and "sump" (desert date), put in this
year along 5 kilometres of the inlet's banks are thriving.
A few have already shrivelled in the relentless heat and
salty soil. The goal is for four-fifths to survive, says Dème.
His team set up a nursery to cultivate the saplings - a
skill villagers will need to acquire so they can carry on the
reforesting work initially funded by 12.6 million West African
francs (around $21,500) from the UK government's climate change
Dème says the environmental problems here at the tip of the
Saloum Delta lie not with salt, which has always been exploited,
but rather the rising rate at which people have cut down trees
in the past decade.
The inlet is dotted with large piles of salt covered by
acacia branches to protect them from the elements. In other
parts of the region, the savannah forests are under attack from
charcoal makers and farmers clearing land to grow crops.
"All the actions of humans combined have resulted in
reducing this ecosystem to nothing," said Dème. "Now we want to
If the trees grow as planned, they will secure the sandy
soil and add nutrients to it over the next couple of years,
reducing erosion by the water and wind, and helping recuperate
some 50 hectares of land for agriculture, he added.
For Keur Mboucki's mayor, Abdou Aziz Diagne, protecting the
salt business by restoring its surroundings is vital for the
economic life of his 11,900-strong community - and could help
prevent migration, he says.
"Salt is our 'gold'," he said. "All our young people do this
work if they are not herders or in local government. It means
they can stay here because they can earn money."
IED Afrique director Mamadou Bara Guèye said the billions of
dollars in climate finance being channelled from wealthy
countries to help poorer parts of the world adapt to climate
shifts are usually spent by national-level state agencies.
The money does not filter down to local groups, which often
lack the information and expertise to tap into urgently needed
resources, he added.
"It is a bit paradoxical because even though (communities)
do not have access to finance mechanisms, when you go into the
field you realise that they have developed strategies for
adaptation, without waiting for policies," Guèye said.
That is particularly the case for nomadic livestock herders
in Africa's Sahel region who have adjusted to variable rainfall
patterns for decades or even centuries, he added.
The aim of the BRACED project in Senegal and Mali is to
enable local people to identify their needs in coping with
climate stresses, and to design and run their own projects.
In doing so, IED Afrique wants to influence the big hitters
in providing climate aid.
Top of the list is the $10 billion Green Climate Fund (GCF).
It has approved 17 projects to help developing countries tackle
global warming since becoming fully operational last year, and
is considering 10 more at a board meeting this week.
But the poorest countries are finding it hard to directly
access the GCF's money, which is a demanding process.
"What we are hoping is that, at the end, we will (be able)
to say to the GCF, 'Here is a model we think is best suited to
funding (local) adaptation'," said Guèye.
More climate finance is starting to filter down to
communities but it is not yet enough, said Saleemul Huq,
director of the Dhaka-based International Centre for Climate
Change and Development.
"Funders - whether they be national or global - are very bad
at ensuring that money goes to the poorest and most vulnerable,"
he said. "There is very little effort to get it down to the
lowest level because it does require a lot of effort."
In general, donors find it easier to hand over $100 million
for a big national programme than "find 100 people to give $1
million to", Huq noted.
There are some institutions that are doing things
differently, such as the Global Environment Facility, which has
a long-running programme giving out small grants of up to
$50,000 directly to community projects.
And there are a growing number of organisations and networks
that are hoping to act as trusted intermediaries between global
funds and communities, Huq said, such as Shack/Slum Dwellers
International, which represents the urban poor in 33 countries.
In Senegal, IED Afrique wants the state's National Programme
for Local Development (PNDL) to play that role, filtering money
down to "communes", the smallest administrative division.
At the same time, the idea is to put climate change firmly
on the development agenda, as the two issues have been largely
disconnected until now, said Guèye.
"We did not want to reinvent the wheel, so we are using the
system that is already in place," said Samba Faye Diop, director
of the Agency for Regional Development in Kaffrine.
So far efforts to provide technical support to local
authorities planning projects are paying off, he said, with
nearly all submitting proposals for a second round of funding.
Most of the projects backed so far are linked to forestry
and farming because of the need to profit from the rainy season,
which usually ends in October.
Others in the pipeline include infrastructure to store crops
safely from floods and vaccination centres for the region's
plentiful goats and cattle.
IED Afrique is also working with Senegal's meteorological
agency ANACIM to expand efforts to get practical weather and
climate information into the hands of local farmers.
Aissatou Ndao works on one of six "test fields", where some
crops are planted using traditional practices and others
according to the latest climate and weather information filtered
down via text message and the region's agriculture service.
"To get better results, we pay attention to the forecasts,
and select seeds based on them," said the chair of Kahi
commune's environment committee, proudly surveying healthy
peanut and millet plants ripening in the sun. "We always know
exactly when to sow."
Ndao and others involved in forest projects in the area said
they need funding for equipment such as tractors, vans and
machinery to work more efficiently, as well as fencing to keep
replanted land secure from people and marauding livestock.
Regional development director Diop said work remained to be
done with community groups that, in most cases, still lack the
know-how needed to benefit from international climate funding.
In Keur Mboucki, Dème said local officials have also asked
for more training in winning and managing climate finance.
"The communes still don't really have the skills needed -
they don't have enough human resources. Putting together a
project is not obvious," he said.
($1 = 0.8042 pounds)
($1 = 585.6200 CFA francs)
(Reporting by Megan Rowling @meganrowling; editing by Laurie
Goering. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the
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