By Deb Fall
Darke County Parks
Each time I visit my husband’s country, I find more similarities between his previous life in Senegal and our life together in Darke County.
The country of Senegal is the size of North Dakota. Africa has 54 sovereign countries and 2 disputed areas.
Senegal borders the Atlantic Ocean on the west coast of Africa. The north of Senegal sits on the border of the Sahara Desert. The south area is lush and green and produces some of the country’s food, but because of the irregular rainfall and the poor soil, Senegal relies on imports to meet approximately 70% of its food needs.
The agriculture there surprised me. Corn, sorghum, rice, groundnut and cotton are grown in this dry soil. Some of the same crops grown in Darke county. Senegalese researchers have begun harvesting experimental homegrown wheat that can endure the Senegal heat. Adding wheat to their list of crops is inspiring to the farmers. China happens to be the number 1 wheat grower in the world and the United States comes in 4th. In Ohio, Henry County yields the most winter wheat. Henry County lies north of us.
The lowest temperature in Senegal is 68 degrees and the highest can reach over 100 degrees, which is one of the reasons it’s difficult to grow food. August is the rainy season and flooding is imminent.
Most people aren’t bothered by the heat and sand. Women and children cover their hair and bodies with colorful clothing and scarfs that brighten the brown landscape. Beautiful drumming can be heard from blocks away when traveling through the city of Dakar. Fruit and nut vendors on each corner are ready to sell you whatever your taste buds desire. The people are happy and spend a lot of time greeting one another which is very important in Senegal. Asking a friend about their family is a sign of respect. Not spending time to greet your friends and neighbors is considered rude.
Just like here in Darke County, they too have farmer’s markets in Senegal. They are big and consist of farmers from miles away. Vegetables, breads, rice, fruits, nuts, fish and livestock are available. I attended the market with my husband’s cousin, Mage. Mage wanted to buy a live chicken for dinner, but I don’t have any butchering skills. So, we purchased potatoes, peas, onions, carrots and a slab of beef. The family asked me to cook a meal from Darke County. I was set on making beef stew.
When we returned to the house and I started to prepare the meal, I decided to send my husband back to the market for more beef. He returned with goat meat. I knew it wasn’t beef by the shapes of the bones. So, I cooked my first goat/beef stew ever and they loved it!
The livestock population in Senegal includes 3 million cattle and around 9 million sheep and goats. Farmers have 2-5 animals per farm. The majority of farms are under 6 acres and only 5% of the land is irrigated. Planting begins in June with harvesting in September through October, a shorter season than in Darke county.
Farming is a hard life in Senegal, but the farmers are proud and pass their knowledge onto their children, just like we do. Most of the ground is worked with hand tools. There is a growing
demand for tractors, farming equipment, and silo facilities. Larger farms started using modern equipment and have found it to be a great asset.
Senegal’s fishing sector is one of the country’s largest sources of foreign currency. With 448 miles of coastline, industrial fishing is year-round. Sardines, tuna, shrimp, sole & cuttlefish are just a few examples of the country’s seafood that is processed in local factories.
The world is large but people are the same wherever you go. Everyone searches for their best life, where we can pass on wisdom, knowledge and purpose to future generations. I see this in my county and I see it in my husband’s country.
I feel lucky living in Darke county, where food is abundant and people can grow a garden, farm and have livestock. We have great schools and parks. I appreciate our green spaces where we can jog, walk, ride our bike, spend time with our pet or just sit with a friend.
One of the first places my husband took me to in Senegal was a park. He was proud to experience this beautiful place with me. We have many more parks to visit in Senegal but for now, we are spending our time visiting all the parks of Darke County while admiring the preservation of their natural environment. It’s heartwarming to observe citizens of different countries relishing their parks and green spaces just like we do. The world is not so big after all.