Thursday, September 22, 2011


Turn and face the strange! Don't wanna be a richer man! Cha-cha-cha changes! Gonna have-ta be a different man! Time may change me, but I can't trace time!  -David Bowie

I feel exceptionally scatterbrained today, so I apologize in advance for the extremely poor writing below. Plans are running smoothly in village. The rainy season is running along and the village is covered in corn. You used to be able to see what someone was doing three family compounds away, but now corn stalks are blocking your view in every direction. The corn is almost ripe and that's going to be amazing. People roast it over charcoal. I'll be keeping enough margarine and salt on hand for that day.

I've officially requested a Case des Tout Petits (CTP) be installed in my village. This is the Senegalese version of a kindergarten. If the request is filled our village of 1000 people (including 115 kids of CTP age, 3-5) will have a center of learning for the little naked kids that run around my village all day and play with garbage or eat dirt. My school director told me if they approve the CTP there would be a big part and he would dance, he also said everyone in the village would dance including my host father the village chief. We will see!

I now have 150 new tree sacks in my backyard. Thirty of them are a thorny species which will eventually be used to make live fencing for the school garden and health hut gardens. A hundred of the sacks are cashew trees. The rest are a mix of pretty interesting species, orange trees, desert date trees, grapefruit trees, etc.

Live fencing is a fence made of trees or shrubs. I have 20 Agave Sisal plants in one nursery bed in my backyard for such a fence. They are cactus-like shrubs that grow a meter or 1.5m tall. I also have a bunch of thorny trees; these can be planted at very close proximity so they become like prison bars or a bit farther apart but their branches weaved together so they grow into a wall. Trimmed correctly they can be impenetrable! Take that goats, sheep and cows!

My school director and I will be drawing a plan soon for all these trees. I've also been exploring the prospect of collecting and exporting a natural resource that goes untapped in every village here in Senegal, the Neem seed. Neem trees are wonder-trees that are everywhere and ever-ignored. After cold-calling many different people in the neem industry (neem soap manufacturers, R&D labs testing neem, neem pesticide manufacturers, neem advocates) I've found one person that is motivated to work with me in setting up a business exporting raw neem seed to India. We've been speaking quite a bit, and perhaps when March-April-May rolls around (the harvest time for neem seed) I, my villagers, and the villages around mine will be collecting seed, bagging it up and putting it all on a truck to Dakar, where it will be exported to India. I'm still collecting data to see if this is a feasible plan, but so far it looks pretty solid.

After I teach villagers all around me how to correctly dry the seed they will go ahead and harvest, dry and bag it themselves. I will give them a certain amount of money per bag depending on total costs. Neem seed can be priced anywhere from $.01 to $1 per kilo. Each tree gives 30-100kg of seed. Dried correctly thats 20-70kg of dried seed per tree. 50kg sacks will most likely be used. One 50kg sack will most likely weigh out light, like 25kg. So each sack filled to the brim will represent one or two trees, and could potentially snatch $25 on the global market. Depending on all transportation costs, villagers stand to make at least $5-10 per sack, which would be pretty good supplementary income for a country with an annual per-capita income of $1000.

This business will be established by myself and specific counterparts. If successful, these counterparts will then take the reins and run the business themselves.

I've also been looking into grad schools and I think I know what I want to study. As an undergrad I studied human rights, international law and relations, and Criminology, which is an amalgamation of sociological, anthropological and psychological studies relating to crime theory and criminal justice systems and policy. As a graduate I'd like to study criminal justice policy and perhaps eventually work at a criminal justice policy research and advocacy organization. Drug policy, prison policy and many other criminal justice policies intrigue me, and I know of many think tanks/research organizations that I would love to work with. If I try this path and realize it's not for me I'll bail, we'll see.

I'm actively looking for things to do here in Senegal in relation to crime policy. Domestic violence, forced marriage and FGM are all illegal here, and each carry specific definitions and punishments, but I'm not sure the people here know exactly what protection their laws entitle them to. These three crimes happen all the time in little and big villages, road towns and cities. Very soon I will be attending a volunteer summit on Gender and Development in Dakar. There I plan on speaking to other volunteers and putting together a tourney, or village-to-village tour, to address these issues and make people aware of the protection their own laws provide them.

I could just keep typing but I'm going to stop now, as I'm sure many of you have stopped reading this post already because of it's poor quality and scatter-brained rambling. Later!

Love you,


  1. Hi Costa,

    Interesting plans. Just wondering if you have an export license for your seeds. Also, don't you have to register your business with the government? The government will probably take 50% of your profits for taxes.

    If you get cornmeal flour, I will send you a recipe for your okra. The dish is known as Coo Coo in Trinidad. It's referred to as Foo Foo in Ghana. I bet they probably make it in Senegal.

    Love you,

  2. Hi Costa,

    There's quite a bit of research posted online about the use of Neem cream as an insect repellant. A lot of the research was done in India. Apparently, Neem is already used in some villages.

    The research shows that the duration of effectiveness is very short when compared to other products.

    You should check out the research.

    Take care,

  3. I've been communicating with a Senegalese ex-pat in Texas who works with different organizations based in America, Senegal and India strictly on the utilization of Neem. We are collaborating on the export, he seems to have people in Dakar, exporting agents as well as "friends of the government".

    That sounds great! Cornmeal flour is easy to get, so is couscous! Is it like couscous? I want to eat it!

  4. Hi Costa,

    Nice to see your plans .Its very interesting. Actually I work for a Indian Biopesticide company. We would like to import neem seed kernels from Senegal. I hope we can talk more about this. This is my email id:

    awaiting your reply,

    Thank you,