A Discussion with Madeleine Penda Ndiaye, Program Manager of PROSAF

With: Madeleine Penda Ndiaye Berkley Center Profile

March 3, 2015

Background: The Lutheran Church of Senegal works with Senegalese communities to identify local food security needs. In March 2015, Lauren Herzog met with Madeleine Penda Ndiaye, program manager of the Program for Food Security in the Department of Foundiougne (Programme pour la sécurité Alimentaire dans le département de Foundiougne, PROSAF), a Lutheran Church of Senegal initiative. Ndiaye introduces the participatory community approach that the Lutheran Church has adopted and describes the three pillars of the project: agriculture, water access, and microfinance. The program involves the construction of health structures, assistance in stocking medications, advocacy on behalf of those living with HIV/AIDS, and support for individuals living with disabilities. Addressing disability through a human rights lens is a particular focus. Ndiaye highlights the interactions the program has with local communities and explores the challenges it faces.
How did you come to your present position?

I am from a small village in the region of Thiès called Péléo Sérères. I went to the city of Thiès and then to Dakar for my studies before working for the [Lutheran] church. I studied management and marketing for my masters II. I chose marketing because it encompasses many things at once: project management, personnel management, finance, communication, everything. Before working in Foundiougne, I had already coordinated a project in Mbour for five years, beginning in 2010. After five years, I returned to Foundiougne, still with the Lutheran Church of Senegal. I am Catholic, and this is the second time that I am leading a project for the Lutheran Church. I have had Muslim, Catholic, and Protestant Lutheran colleagues, but there is no distinction. The social climate in which we live in Senegal is excellent.

Were you raised in a Catholic family?

Catholic and Muslim. Personally, I’m Catholic, and my mother and my father are Muslims. But my mother’s brothers and older sister are Catholic. My mom’s younger brother who raised me with my grandmother is Muslim; my grandmother is atheist.

Atheist? That, I understand, is very rare here in Senegal.

Yes, it is very rarely found. She believes in God, but she does not go to church or to the mosque. She says that when she dies she wants people to dance, laugh, and party.

Could you describe your current program?

We are working on a social program called
Program for Food Security in the Department of Foundiougne (Programme pour la sécurité Alimentaire dans le département de Foundiougne, PROSAF). It aims to contribute to improving living conditions for the populations of Loog and Djognick in the communes of Soum, Mbam, and Djilor. Before detailed project planning, we completed community studies here in Foundiougne; we collaborated with the populations from the beginning to the end of the program development. When a document is well constructed, there is an incentive for them to take ownership of the project, so we decided together that the project would be implemented in three communes. We will work in three communes for five years with a budget of approximately one billion CFA francs. The program is composed of three projects. We have a project called “Right to sustainable resources,” another on health, and a third involving a healthy, protected environment.

I find it important to analyze the links between development and religion because even in Genesis, religion takes into account the spiritual and social development of every individual; it is really a noble gesture. The Lutheran Church of Senegal should be a very important actor in this regard—if accompanied by others—because it is a religious group that not only evangelizes, but also works on community development projects. These projects target the whole population, without distinctions by race or religion.

What does the “Right to sustainable resources” project involve?

It has three parts: agriculture, water access, and microfinance. We would like to improve agricultural production, doing this by raising awareness among the population and advocating with local authorities to help the population connect with seed companies. This is very important because for certain seeds that come from particular companies, one must purchase fertilizer and chemical products in order to have good yields. If you purchase the seeds without the other products, you will not have the expected yield. There are traditional methods that could fertilize the soil even better, and we must return to these methods and facilitate access.

There are also people who garden. It is necessary to train them to produce their own seeds in order to have better yields. We help them install rainwater catchments because it rains a lot during the rainy season in certain regions. We need to help them capture the rainwater to use later on. We must help them construct wells because the soil is very fertile, but sometimes they have water problems that pose an obstacle to their work. There are also people who work on large areas, and they need a drip irrigation system to facilitate their activities.

It is often said that if agricultural production is improved, it is possible to have better food production, so we must improve this aspect. How? Through a nutrition program with fortificants for children, pregnant women, and individuals who are sick. We must monitor malnourished children. We must also help women so that they are strong, especially when giving birth, to avoid complications. We should give fortified foods to the elderly because here in Senegal, we say that the elderly are libraries—they know a lot, and therefore we must keep them with us as long as possible.

The second and third project components concern water access and microfinance. Why are these sectors important?

We have salinated water here. One can find soft water, potable water, but there are also people who go kilometers without finding potable water. For them, we need water desalinization units. We are going to mitigate this in the region, and we will construct wells so that the entire population can have sufficient access to water. We also plan to construct troughs for livestock and water basins for gardeners.

Concerning financing, we encourage people to do income-generating activities. But how? It is not easy. Sometimes people want to do activities, but they don’t even have the means to provide for their family. We put a credit system in place. We will give them money—for example, four million CFA francs for the group—after receiving a well-constructed business plan. We support them in project implementation, with training and advice, so income-generating activities can succeed. There is no interest on the money.

Before, the church did not plan to charge interest on the financing, but some evaluators recommended that we charge an interest rate on the loans to avoid unfair competition. Being the church, we are not competing. When we charge interest, two percent comes back to the church for other activities and three percent to the group that received the credit. We run many training activities to make the activities more sustainable.

PROSAF also works in the health field. What type of activities do you do?

We have realized that, generally, individuals living in remote locations are not well informed. They are unaware of many things, and we need to give them greater awareness of the common illnesses in their areas. In planning interventions, we collaborate with health posts in their area and administer questionnaires to determine health needs. When we receive the responses, we can determine the themes for our training activities. There are other themes like AIDS and tuberculosis. Tuberculosis is an illness that is taboo in Senegal; people are embarrassed by it, but it is treatable.

In some zones it is difficult to access health services, at a health post or health hut, because the roads are terrible. We therefore construct health structures in certain villages and restore those that have already been built, but are dilapidated in others. We must also restore the health posts, the most important local health structure, and distribute medicines. For example, if we give 200,000 CFA francs worth of medicine to one center, it could function for the whole year with that amount. We do not provide the full range of medications, but we deliver what is needed. In the end, there is 200,000 CFA francs of profit and they have autonomy, thus a self-financing for their activities. We plan to give one million in medications to each health post to improve access to medications.

We need to build the capacity of community health workers and conduct trainings to sustain local capacity. These trainings allow community agents to manage health, even if our project is no longer there. This is why we place great emphasis on the trainings.

You have said that you work with people living with HIV/AIDS and also people living with disabilities. What do you do with these groups?

We have observed in this area the phenomenon of marginalizing individuals living with disabilities or people living with HIV/AIDS. We believe that we must advocate with the local authorities on their behalf, especially affected by HIV/AIDS, to support their integration into the professional world. In the program, we also have planned to grant financing to these individuals, to permit them to initiate income-generating activities. During the planning phase, it was very difficult to gather information on these individuals and thus, determine what types of services to provide them. As collaboration with the district continues, we will be better oriented towards the type of actions that benefit individuals living with HIV.

For individuals living with disabilities, they usually don’t do much. They are marginalized and have difficulty taking care of their health. We would like at least to cover some of their consultation costs. Together with the association of people living with disabilities, the program, the health post, and the doctor, we establish a system to improve individuals’ access to funds for consultations. It may not be free, but the funds are available. The detailed procedures have yet to be worked out. They could say that it is necessary to provide the fees, but it will be between them and the district.

Some people with disabilities have a hard time getting around because they don’t have crutches or wheelchairs. The deaf and mute need orthopedic devices. Materials need to be distributed to people who really need them. We have plans to do this and will offer training on their rights—they are generally unaware of their rights and responsibilities because they are marginalized by society. Training is also needed on specific needs. Everyone should know that human rights are universal, without distinction. That is not generally the case in our localities. The principal difficulty is that marginalization begins with the family of the handicapped individual.

What about the third project: the right to a protected and sustainable environment?

On the environment, we have realized that with climate change, many things come from man’s doing, and today we are living with the after effects, the harmful effects. What can we do to spare future generations? We, who are here, need to do everything we can to protect the environment. How? We must decrease cutting wood for cooking as that causes problems. We have found an alternative solution, which is to distribute improved stoves. These stoves cook faster, save wood, and do not emit much smoke; this improves the health of women who cook and the health of their families too.

Some people raise livestock so we work to make better use of animal dung. For example, it can be used for biodigesters, a system that allows us to obtain natural gas from cow patties. We support and finance families to do this. There is a very complicated system with latrines related to biogas. In Senegalese society, some things are taboo. It is even difficult for us to speak about it in villages when we explain our different activities. Concerning the toilets related to biodigesters, people say “How? Is it our toilets that we use that will produce the gas that we will then use to cook?” It is not easy for them to understand, and our presentations can be seen to disrespect them, especially if we speak about toilets in front of important people. That is not possible. So we speak about the environment and eliminating waste. Waste, we argue, is “solid gold.” We must do all we can to create value from the trash we have. This is why we build latrines for people who have a real need. But these latrines contribute to resolving two problems: illnesses transmitted through fecal matter because there will be improved hygiene, and it harnesses gas, which can reduce the amount of wood cut in the forests. We are working to inform people and will continue. We also envision creating surveillance and sanitation committees; we will train them particularly on recycling and also provide them cleaning material.

As we work to do all of this in the environment, it will contribute to reduce the deforestation that affects this area. We must train women, children, and youth to accept this. Certain species have disappeared because of man; we must bring them back by reforesting. We will reforest with youth, women, and on the school level also.

Have you worked with schools to protect the environment?

There will be a “green school” system to educate youth about environmental protection. This could involve fruit trees and forests, or it could be a small garden. My primary school was a boarding school, and the World Food Programme gave us rice, corned beef, and everything we eat. The vegetables came from the garden, and we were the ones responsible for the garden with the older students and the caretaker. It is good to do this in schools with cafeterias. In certain recently constructed schools, there are no trees. When the students have recess time, they don’t go outside. We must plant trees to establish an enjoyable atmosphere. We plan to do this with the youth.

How do you engage the communities on your many activities?

We are still in the planning phase and have yet to start various activities. Before starting them, we meet all the local authorities in the region. We organize a departmental development committee so that the entire department will be up-to-date on the program. At the town level of every commune, everyone is kept up-to-date; we have held meetings with the entire targeted population to explain fully the different activities that we will conduct with them. This participatory approach has been very well received.

After this phase we can get to work on the ground. We have identified different participants in the area where there are a number of programs and projects. We must find out if others are doing similar projects. We must discuss and try to collaborate in order to avoid repetition. That is what we are currently doing. A number of projects are underway, and we are trying to see how we can, for certain activities, formalize collaboration. That is how we plan to work in this area over the next five years.

How does your team organize itself to direct your activities?

Currently, we are a team of 15 members. I am the program manager. We have a coordinator for the right to sustainable resources project, and another who coordinates the health and environment project. The right to sustainable resources project is a large program that also covers health and environment. Each coordinator is assisted by two trainers who go into the community regularly to carry out activities. There are two outreach agents in each commune. Six agents are intermediaries between the project and the population. We rely on them to adapt the strategies in their towns over five years.

Do the communities know that this project comes from the Lutheran Church? Does this pose any problems?

There are no problems now, but there were earlier. They were familiar with projects like those of Caritas. Even so people at first said, “These are Christians; they want to bring us to them.” There were people who refused to cooperate. It appears that Caritas had constructed boreholes, and certain people refused to drink water from them. People thought that we came just to convert them. After a while they understood that Christianity has two facets: evangelization and community development, and that everyone is free to follow the faith that they want.

Those earlier taboos have lessened. We told them that we are workers from the Lutheran Church on a program that was initiated by the Lutheran Church of Senegal and financed by Finland’s Evangelical Mission in collaboration with the Minister of International Affairs. They know that it is really a project from the Lutheran Church of Senegal. People are free to choose if they want to change or not change their religion.

What are the activities that you lead with youth?

For the moment, we have not started any activities specifically for youth, but we plan reforestation projects. We must also collaborate with the youth on the sanitation campaigns and the trainings. As they say, youth are our future. If we begin instilling them with good environmental practices, they will be active in this field. Youth are dynamic, and the message will pass easily. We must work with them also so that they persuade the older generation to change.

When you did your community study, what were the challenges that you encountered regarding food security?

As you know, there are multiple challenges. For the first project, we realized that we must improve agricultural production. We must also improve the nutritional status of women, children, and the elderly. We also need to ensure that everyone in our targeted zones can access potable water, as well as ensure that dedicated women and youth who must work to develop their community can also access credit to realize their projects.

For health, we need to do all we can to facilitate access to healthcare and services. We should ensure that health structures have sufficient medications to fulfill the needs of the population. We would like to train individuals in illness prevention and reduce traffic at the health posts, especially for illnesses where children are the most vulnerable. Consequently, we want to improve and increase infrastructure and equipment, build the capacity of health personnel, and improve care for people living with HIV. On the environmental side, we want to improve plant life and encourage people to resort to other alternatives and establish better management of waste and wastewater.

How do you interact with the communities? How do you present your projects to them?

At first, when we came, we had to see the prefect first because he is the leader at the departmental level. Together with the prefect and the president of the department council, we organized a department development committee and invited all of the actors working in the area, local authorities, and other leaders. There were women’s groups, youth representatives, and religious leaders, and we shared our program. After this phase, we made courtesy visits to our collaborators.

In Foundiougne, our team met with the religious authorities to explain the project. At the local level, we organized local development days, program kick-off days. For example, there is even a message airing on 2STV television channel. On the kick-off day, we called together the population of Djilor in the village of Ngékokh. If the team has to work in the community, we first inform the mayor, then the village chief, then the imam or pastor of the village. We explain that we are here to work with such and such a group. After that, he says that he will find an agent who will assist with activities there.

In Senegal, the approach is extremely important, especially when we are young and we need to work with older respected individuals. Joking and greeting are important. For example, when I arrive people ask what my name is. I respond, “Penda” or “Penda Ndiaye.” They tell me, “You don’t do anything but eat, you’re going to eat our meal!” We begin joking through the system of joking cousins. When the people organize, we can easily share the message. You must always follow the hierarchy. Gandhi said, “Everything that you do for me, and without me, you do against me.” Therefore, it is necessary to respect the hierarchy.
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