The Casamance region of southern Senegal, hundreds of kilometres from the capital Dakar and the arid lands of the north, is only a stone’s throw away from Guinea Bissau and The Gambia, where tropical landscapes, grasslands alternate with palm trees and colourful birds fly across the sky.
On a chilly February morning, the sun hasn’t fully risen yet, Moro Mané walks through his family plantation, he proudly points at the works of his labour. Across one hectare, varieties of mangoes, oranges and other citrus trees are growing among rows of onions, tomatoes and peppers growing in the ground. Next to the plantations, Moro is building a chicken coop.
The 33 year-old has big plans; he wants to set up an integrated farm across twice the size of his family’s land. He is planning to create a farm with agroforestry integration, which includes the planting as well of grafting of his fruits, market gardening of vegetables and poultry farming with the production of chickens.
Moro Mané was not always so enthusiastic about his future in Diannah. Despite having finished his school and working as a fisherman, supporting his mother with farming and selling the produce imported from Dakar, he left Senegal to go to Europe in the spring of 2017.
“I said to myself maybe I don't have my place here, I have to leave. It was the time when the
scourge of Libya began. My friends were leaving, and it was having a big influence on me.” Moro was told that things would work out, that he would not have any issues once he got to Italy. “We were not well informed,” he says. His mother was trying to convince him to stay but his mind was made up. “I didn't realise the potential that was here until I left. It was the ignorance that drove me.”
When he returned to Senegal with the help of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Moro attended personal and professional development sessions. The reintegration support that IOM offered allowed to buy materials to build a chicken coop as well as chicks, drinking and feeding troughs.
Through IOM’s assistance, he learned about integrated farming and growing techniques that respect the preservation of the environment. The work is done cyclically: the mixing of fruit trees and vegetable production helps the process of soil regeneration due to the decomposition of leaves into humus, the storage of carbon dioxide and the release of oxygen by plants. This creates a microclimate suitable for the production of heat-sensitive vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, etc.
This practice constitutes a form of resilience in the face of climate change, namely the increase in temperatures causing a drop in the yields of heat-sensitive crops, the scarcity of rains or the irregularity of the seasons. Poultry manure from the hen house will be used to fertilize the plants. Through this method, nothing is left, everything is transformed on the farm.
“My life! Now I say ‘thank God!’ I don't envy anyone,” Moro says today. “Here, despite everything, I have all I want. After my reintegration, I built the chicken coop with my own force. Now I can raise and trade chickens. During the rainy season, I grow watermelon and vegetables too.”
Moro’s ambitions do not stop here. “I dream of a garden where I can do agriculture, breeding, processing and even – if it is possible to do fish farming and even beekeeping – anything! A garden that grows something at any time of the year.”
His passion about nature is visible when he talks about his plans: “I love nature very much. Before I left, working with my mother in agriculture, I even offered to do arboriculture; to plant trees and our branch came to graft and sell.” He would like to explore this further in the long run and to create his own orchard. There are more than ten orange varieties; there is "marceline", there is "tangelo", there is "tolizo", there is "ponkan", there is "norvère", there is "tonson", there is "fanta orange", there is "dombondir", etc. People who come here during the rainy season; they will pick, you weigh per kilo, and they transport that even to Europe.”
His experience leaving Senegal and building his agricultural business has shown Moro an alternative to irregular migration. The numbers don’t add up for him anymore: “you work to have 2 million to go directly to Morocco and then Spain where you maybe work for two years or even a year to have 1 million. Staying here and work, I can earn even more. I can expand my business to do something else rather than go on an uncertain adventure.”