Located in western Africa, Senegal is a Sahelo-Sudanian country with a rainy and a dry season. Nobody really knows the origin of its name. Some people say it was named after the river that runs along the northern border, which is called Senegal. Others believe that it is a variation of ‘suñu gaal’, which means ‘our canoe’ in the Wolof dialect. There is a third theory stating that the name comes from a Sahara tribe, called Zenaga. Which one sounds more probable to you?
When the subject of stability in Africa comes up, Senegal is considered a model. The democracy is well-established and people can really participate in the government’s decision-making processes. You may think this is something new, but it started before your grandparents were born. Even as a colony, Senegal had representatives in the French parliament. The independence came in 1960, starting a 40-year rule of the Socialist Party. Senegal had decades of conflicts and electoral fraud, which ended in 2000 with a new and peaceful election.
The title of democracy model and stable economy does not come free of problems. Although the unemployment rate is decreasing, two-thirds of Senegalese households face difficulties to feed their families, according to a survey on poverty concluded in 2006.
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The flag was adopted in 1960, right after Senegal became independent. The design is similar to the French flag with three vertical stripes and brings the Pan-African colours. Green represents Islam, progress and hope; yellow is a reference to the natural wealth; and red stands for the sacrifice to achieve independence. In the middle, the star symbolizes unity and hope.
Topic Details Full name: Republic of Senegal Full local name: République du Sénégal Former name: Senegambia (along with The Gambia) Capital: Dakar Nationality: Senegalese (both singular and plural) Size: 196,722 sq km (75,955 sq miles) Population: 12.5 million Language: French (official) and Wolof Life expectancy: 54 years (men), 57 years (women) Major religions: Islam 94%, Christianity 5%, Indigenous beliefs 1% Urban population: 42% of total
Almost half of Senegal’s land is semiarid. The result is a high risk of desertification, especially if the country does not stop the cutting of forests to get fuel. The water is also a concern. More than 90% of water resources are used in agriculture.
The efforts to protect the environment must also be recognized. Senegal has six national parks that cover around 4% of the country area. The largest one, created in 1954, is the Niokolo-Koba National Park, which lies in the south and attracts lots of tourists. Only in this park there are 84 species of mammals and over 350 of birds, a wonderful diversity of wildlife included in UNESCO World Heritage list. In other regions, however, animals are threatened by poaching and need protection.
How can you help overcome these challenges? Have a think about it.
Senegal is surrounded by music. The vibration comes from everywhere: markets, cars, houses, restaurants... One of the most well-known sounds is from the tama, also called talking drum, which is a drum with strips of leather fixed to the skin and the base. Played under one arm, the drum is squeezed creating the traditional Senegalese sound.
The popular music can be traced back to the 1960s. After the independence, a lot of bands playing Western songs emerged. Some indigenous sounds were added to the rhythm along with lyrics written in Wolof.
Senegalese music has some Latin influence and a lot of folk. The band is not complete without the sound of the kora, a very popular instrument which looks like a mix of guitar and harp.
What about watching some Senegalese video clips? Just choose one of the artists. http://www.musicvideos.the-real-africa.com/senegal/
Under the influence of French, Portuguese and North African cuisines, Senegalese meals are considered one of the best in the continent. Are you interested in the national specialities? This will be a difficult choice. You can have chicken au yassa, served in a pimento, onion and lemon sauce; tieboudienne, an herb-stuffed fishcake with rice; or thiou, a rich sauce of tomatoes served with fish or meat. Not satisfied yet? Then try the traditional maffé, your preferred meat in a peanut sauce.
Local dishes are normally prepared with chicken or fish. Due to the largely Muslim population, pork is not part of the Senegalese diet. Meats and vegetables are normally stewed, marinated in herbs and spices, and poured over couscous, rice or eaten with bread.
It’s time for dessert! Very sweet, they are often served with fresh fruits and followed by coffee or tea.
A lot of different ethnic groups living together may result in some problems, right? Not in Senegal. They share common culture and practices, and greetings are a very important part of their social life. If two people are angry with each other, forget the hostile words. They just refuse to greet.
Senegalese also do not use their left hand when greeting people, eating or handing out different things, such as money. Using the left hand is considered extremely rude.
Another important part of daily life is taking a small gift when visiting someone. It can be a fruit or some tea. And remember: if you have guests, when the visit is over, show them respect and walk them down the street.
Dressing is also a very important aspect of Senegalese life. You can find tailors everywhere and the markets are full of clothes with bright colours. The most traditional is ‘kaftan’, a cotton or silk cloak for men, and ‘grand boubou’, a wide sleeved robe for women. To maintain the tradition, these clothes are normally worn every Friday.
Education is compulsory and free up to the age of 16. The Ministry of Labor has indicated that the public school system is unable to cope with the number of children that must enroll each year. With overcrowding in schools, non-formal education is common with practical and pre-professional topics being taught. Illiteracy is high, particularly among women, and one of the government’s main priorities for their 1998-2008 education policy.
Events and national holidays
Senegal decided to put two challenges together: ensure the preservation of natural resources and reduce poverty. The Senegalese government proved how important is to tackle both issues together by creating an ambitious strategy. Let’s find out the details and other environmental initiatives.
Senegal’s strategy has nine programmes with the following objectives:
- Improve the knowledge about the environment and natural resources
- Intensify the fight against the destruction and degradation of the environment and natural resources
- Strengthen the capacity of the country to implement conservation actions
How are they doing it? The community has an important role, by participating in the programmes and offering ideas to improve them. The government also provides support and training to authorities and local communities, and has several research teams working together with international experts to understand the effects of climate change. Private initiatives are also very welcome to be part of it.
For more information about the programmes, have a look at the website of the Ministry of Environment, Nature Protection, Retention Basins and Artificial Lakes - http://www.environnement.gouv.sn/
The Kyoto Protocol requires developed countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 5%, based on 1990 levels, between 2008 and 2012. You may ask: why only developed nations and not all the countries? Well, because the industrialization of rich countries is pointed as one of the main causes of climate change and the cut of emissions may reduce the pace of development. So all developing countries that signed the Protocol, such as Senegal, are not obliged to cut their emissions – at least until 2012, when the first commitment period ends.
National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs)
Every year, representatives of almost all nations meet at a climate summit called CoP, or Conference of the Parties. During the COP7 in 2001, negotiators recognized that least developed countries (LDCs), such as Senegal, had specific needs to deal with the effects of climate change. To help them, a new initiative was created: the ‘LDC work programme’. One of its missions is to support LDCs to create and put in place adaptation projects – the National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs).
The NAPAs are focused on urgent and immediate needs. The projects are sent to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and presented in a simple format, so everybody can easily understand it, from policy makers to local communities. The money to implement the projects comes from the LDC Fund.
Senegal has already submitted projects in four sectors: terrestrial ecosystems; water resources; coastal and marine ecosystems; and education and capacity building. To know more about them, access the UNFCCC website:http://unfccc.int/cooperation_support/least_developed_countries_portal/napa_priorities_database/items/4583.php
The Adaptation Fund was created as part of the Kyoto Protocol to help developing countries to cope with the effects of climate change. The total amount available to fund projects is expected to be between USD 250-350 million by 2012.
As a first step, each government had to select an institute of the country to receive proposals, distribute the money and monitor funded projects. In Senegal, this is managed by the Ecological Monitoring Centre (CSE) – http://www.cse.sn/adaptation. The first call for project proposals from all over the country was issued in April 2010.
If you want to know more about it, the Adaptation Fund website provides a lot of information on how it works and the latest news.http://www.adaptation-fund.org/
The Senegalese government is also concerned about reducing greenhouse gas emissions and has developed some national strategies, such as:
- A special project on biofuels using a plant called Jatropha curcas. The oil extracted from it can be refined to produce high quality biodiesel.
- Microcredit finance to help communities to increase renewable energy consumption and reduce emissions.
For more information, have a look at the details of the programme (in French): http://www.compete-bioafrica.net/policy/070801-Programme%20National%20Biocarburants.pdf
Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs)
The Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs) allow developing nations to put in place voluntary targets or projects to reduce their emissions and, if needed, ask for financial assistance from the developed world. The initiative created a lot of discussion among negotiators. It was first mentioned during the Bali Climate Change Conference in 2007 and is part of the Copenhagen Accord issued in December 2009. As of October 2010 Senegal hadn’t submitted a NAMA to the UN, however, the option exists for the country to use this opportunity to put additional mitigation measures in place.
For details of submitted NAMAs, have a look at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) website -http://unfccc.int/home/items/5265.php
La Grande Muraille Verte
Senegal has also launched an important project called ‘La Grande Muraille Verte’ or ‘The Great Green Wall’. A green belt 7,000 km long and 15 kilometers wide, with different species of plants, will link Dakar, in Senegal, to Djibouti. The aim is to have a protective wall against desertification, restore and protect natural resources, and unite the Sahel-Saharan countries. For more details, access the project website: http://www.grandemurailleverte.org/
West African Mayors Talk about the Need for More Climate Action at the Local Level
Mayors from all over West Africa come together to discuss how West African countries can work together more closely on issues like adaptation at the community level.
(23 September 2011)
Developpement de l’Afrique d’ici 2025
La voie idéale pour accélérer le développement de l’Afrique reste son unité en matière de politique agricole, selon l’agronome et chercheur, Moussa Seck.
L’Observateur (2 August 2010)
Senegal seeks to plug power gap with gas-fired plant
Senegal said it was close to a deal with Danish company Jacobsen elektro for a new gas-fired power plant that could help it end its chronic electricity shortages by next year.
Reuters (9 August 2010)
The green house to the Senegalese? Utopia or reality? The architects opened the debate
Long regarded as a mere utopia, the idea of green house made its way around the world through the foolishness of some activists of environmental thinking.
Southern Daily (12 August 2010)
Senegal to send contaminated sand to China
Senegalese authorities are planning to send lead waste in sand to China for treatment after the waste killed 20 children in Dakar in 2008, a senior official said.
AFP through Yahoo!News (13 September 2010) http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20100913/sc_afp/senegalchinaenvironmenttoxicwaste
Last Updated (Thursday, 06 January 2011 11:09)