THE SITUATION

About the project “Dithialaki

Situated about 20 Km from the town of Kaolack, the village of Thialame is part of the national program of Eco-Villages in Senegal. Due to the high rate of unemployment and malnourishment, a large percentage of young people is migrating to urban centres or to Europe, thus weakening the entire economy of the community.
In order to strengthen the local reality, root young people to their own land and provide social and technical infrastructure for the Eco-Village, the community of Thialame aims at realizing the ecological multifunctional complex “Dithialaki”. This should be built in a participatory process, during which its members will play the role of the main actors. The building is intended to open up new possibilities for the community, bind the local folks to their own territory and increase its growth in many other respects.
The self-empowerment of the community is considered as the only sustainable strategy for fighting the aforementioned problems and reach a sustainable capacity development. This should be achieved by means of participation in economic life, self-determination and food production in the form of self-production of goods. Longer-term results to be achieved are the strengthening of local system capabilities, the social-spatial inclusion, the improvement of economic and environmental conditions as well as the preservation of local traditional practices.

The problem

The village of Thialame belongs to the city district of Kaolack (Senegal) which is the largest urban centre in the area, located about 20 km far from Thialame and entirely inhabited by the “Pehul” ethnic group. The village is located in the middle of a settlement of about 40 villages, positioned 2 to 4 km far from each others. The road network system, connecting the village to the surrounding ones with the town of Kaolack, has big deficits, so that Thialame can only be reached through very difficult roads and long journeys. For this reason, it suffers a condition of deep isolation.

The village of Thialame consists in 16 households, running along an unpaved road. Each house complex includes several house units developing around a centre and whose boundary is marked by a fence. The house units consist of rectangular clay buildings, covered by pointed roofs. In the village, any kind of (social) infrastructure (such as schools, a hospitals, or places for meeting or recreation) is missing. Technical infrastructure are lacking as well: there is no connection to the water system or to the electricity network.

75% of men in the village are farmers who never had access to education. Their working conditions are very problematic: due to long drought times, they lack both of agricultural equipment and of water resources. All these issues gives rise to emigration to cities or to Europe, particularly among the youngest folks. In addition to agricultural activities, part of the local population is engaged in small jobs in cattle-raising, crafts and trade.
A further shortage in the village is the access to education: most of the adults, children and adolescents suffer from illiteracy. This is due to the lack of appropriate educational facilities and teachers. The nearest school is located about 4 km away and in most cases can be reached only by foot.
While men are engaged in agriculture, women spend most of their time in their courtyards, usually carrying on household activities and taking care of the children. This is a consequence of the lack of job opportunities, a further element this last, which deepens isolation.
Despite the hard conditions, the community is trying its best to break this state of things. In order to strengthen the local economy, male members of the village decided to pursue collective farming, thereby generating higher yields, to sell on the local market. Also women get together during the day and turn their courtyards in improvised workstations where to convert the harvests in products to sell.

Even though there is high social cohesion and a collective demand for growth, the lack of suitable infrastructure prevents the development of any future perspectives. However, a first step towards improvement of infrastructures has been made with the inclusion of Thialame in the national Senegalese Eco-Village program. This measure aims to connect Thialame to the water system and to the electricity network in the near future.