Asambleas Ciudadanos


the Sahel Saharan Citizens' Assembly



Report of the second stage of the Sahel-Saharan caravans in Senegal

Translations : français . Español . English

The referents Mamadou Niang and Mint Tolba Mint Sédoum (Moulkheiry Sid El Moustapha was not able to attend due to a recent surgery) set off from Nouakchott on May 25, 2009 in a vehicle that crossed the river (frontier) from Rosso Mauritania on board of a barge that does round-trips on a daily basis.

The Saint Louis caravan began with the referents’ visit to the city’s Prefect’s buildings, whose assistant received us promptly and seemed in favor of the citizens’ assembly’s ideas. Later on, we contacted the local actors from the various neighborhoods of the city, who are dynamic and strongly committed to the local changes.

The main worries and challenges mentioned were :

  • The industrialization of agriculture to offer jobs to the population who dwells on the river banks.
  • Access to low-cost renewable powers in order to achieve sustainable development.
  • The support and an appropriate framework for women to gain access to credits and real estate.
  • The creation of employment for young people
  • Support for the fishing sector.

This is why thoughts and proposals were put forward in order to set the strategy lines and axis to be defined by the assembly’s actors within the framework of the 2010 Assembly with a view to creating alternatives.

  1. Access to low-cost renewable powers, such as solar and wind power, so as to satisfy the needs of families and the industrialization of agriculture.
  2. The implementation of development economies’ benefit societies to support the many women initiatives by providing them with access to credit and real estate.
  3. The creation of professional schools in rural areas, with module syllabuses, adapted to the socio-economic realities of the territories, to promote true employment for young people, who are victims of a high unemployment rate and a lack of job opportunities.
  4. The solution to problems related to areas of fishing resource separation, so as to create fishing permits and to give access to the exploitation of such common resources in more favorable conditions for the citizens who face the daily supply difficulties in their market.
  5. The need to organize cultural and artistic festivals to re-energize the ancestors’ heritage common to both countries, so as to boost a novel cooperation dynamics that give value to transnational, shared development.

The city of Podor

The city of Podor is located in the center of the Fouta Toro region. It was the meeting point of the Sahel and Western Sudan caravans. Due to the heat, the assemblies can only hold sessions at around 11 p.m. A meeting was held with six out of seven neighborhood delegates, which constitutes the local initiatives nucleus. They have received the citizens’ assembly’s initiatives quite favorably and they have mentioned the challenges that the populations have to face:

  • The industrialization of agriculture and the spreading of cattle raising
  • Access to water for people, animals and agriculture
  • Access to renewable power
  • Support to associative and youth movements.

The local actors put forward these proposals :

  1. Access to low-cost power, such as wind and solar power, to encourage agriculture and cattle-raising sustainable development by means of their industrialization and modernization.
  2. The production of great water and retention watersheds works at large scales so that water is available in sufficient quantities for man, animals and crops.
  3. Supporting women’s initiatives by freeing women from the hard demands of life and work (early marriage, little schooling, terrible household chores, hard family burdens) and by supporting their access to credit and real estate.
  4. The creation of decent, sustainable employment for young people, through development programs adapted to local contexts. We also had a radio interview in an FM Radio Station, whose presenter was a delegate and which allowed for the information about the citizens’ assemblies to reach the populations on both river banks.

The city of Matam

We organized meetings with the neighborhood representatives. The exchanges were similar to those in the other cities which we visited. The following alternative proposals were put forward:

  1. To break the isolation of these regions which are very far from the supply and decision centers by means of sub-regional and trans-national projects which will allow the citizens of both margins to develop programs in common, especially connected with agriculture, cattle raising, access to water, youth education and the promotion of women’s activities.
  2. To look for true integration dynamics of the immigrants’ transferences in sustainable development, instead of being mostly oriented towards individual real state investments.
  3. To Institutionalize trans-national cultural programs to restore exchanges and the heritage common to both river banks, in order to favor further sub-regional integration.

The city of Kanel

Kanel is located in the north-west of Senegal, a few kilometers away from the Senegal river and on the border with Mauritania, between Ourossogui and Semmé.

The Kanel stage was very rich and varied. We were welcomed in the Mayor’s office, where we met the three most dynamic associations from Kanel. The debate was rich and from it derived the following proposals :

  1. The need to widen and open up in order to build encompassing initiatives which can face the challenges and allow a synergy between local actors. A more integrated associative movement was suggested, capable of facing the important development challenges that deeply affect these hostile climate regions.
  2. The importance of the creation of large development centers focused on the local realities, where teaching is adapted to the region’s context. In this respect, the creation of sub-regional universities with basic study and research programs on agriculture and cattle raising, which are the basis of the economy in these regions – both on the Mauritanian and the Senegalese sides – was put forward.

The challenges are the following :

  • Access to drinking water
  • Access to renewable energy
  • Employment for young people
  • Development of agriculture and cattle-raising
  • Support to the women associative movements
  • The problem of emigration and its repercussion on families.

Water supply is a very significant issue. Kanel is very isolated and its economy is based on wild cattle raising activities. Throughout all the stages, we came across religious guides who agreed to take part in the citizens’ assemblies.

These learned religious men are currently involved in the conversion of the traditional Koranic school which are increasingly incorporating the teaching of other languages, such as French, so that the Koranic students can pass modern schools examinations (entrance to secondary school). This region is strongly marked by oral language, so the traditional communicators (a term that refers to the ancient griots) are involved in the citizens’ sensibilization campaigns in programs which struggle against HIV/AIDS (quite current due to emigration), the struggle against female genital diseases quite widespread in the area, child and mother mortality due to isolation from care centers.

The creation of a thematic group was proposed on the role of traditional communicators in west Africa contemporary societies to rationally explore their potential for organization and on the role of the group of people responsible for the citizens to transmit education, emancipating and development messages.

The Senegal stage lasted fourteen days and was rich in teachings and experiences. The populations from those regions still retain a strong legendary and proud tradition of solidarity, feelings which make them prone to helpfulness and solidarity. Within this framework, women turn out to be an essential and dynamic link whose energy and determination contribute to the existence of these cities and towns, from which most men have emigrated both to other cities in Senegal and abroad, where some have even established permanent address.

Twenty-seven human resources have been identified during this second caravan in Senegal.







Pictures of the first citizens' caravan in Mauritania

Selection of images of the 1st caravan organized towards Aioun in Mauritania in February 2009