The « Ententes » project



Written by Chantal Moreau from Belgium

March 2024

Person in a forest

Life is made up of lots of things: sometimes wanted, sometimes random, sometimes mere coincidences, and sometimes choices. Sometimes there is no choice at all. As for myself, I am an expert in choices and decision-making, especially when it comes to travel. But it’s not coincidence or luck; it’s the art of navigating between risk and reward.


Working during my holidays

This year, wanting once again to escape winter and spend an active holiday trip, I turned towards a country from the so-called Global South. But, what can I do? Where to go? And with whom to go? I liked the idea of planning a trip with my neighbour Véro; we hardly know each other and our friendship was just beginning to grow. She told me about the SCI, and this is where it all began. We decided to go to Senegal for the “Ententes” project, organised by the SCI.

It was my first time. We always remember the first time. My first immersive trip in Africa, the first holiday during which I wasn’t going to visit, hike, or even take it easy. I was going to work. And yet, being 62 I have travelled a lot, but never have I had this kind of experience.

Saliou, our reference person for the entire trip, welcomed us as soon as we arrived at Dakar Airport. A kind and insightful look, a person with great interpersonal intelligence. He is a strength for the SCI, the “Ententes” project, and the people he works with.


The « Ententes » project and the farm

To encourage young people to stay in their countryside and prevent rural exodus, the “Ententes” in Senegal initiated a project that aims to train young people in various land-related works for a year. The aim is to preserve food security, reduce poverty, and provide jobs to inhabitants. Diam-Diam’s Farm is home for four young Senegalese who are paid and trained. A little extra help from SCI volunteers was welcomed to pursue the project’s implementation.

Participants planting a lemon tree

Planting a lemon tree, Senegal 2023 © Chantal Moreau

The “Ententes” project is composed of 16 entities in different provinces of Senegal. By entity we mean an agricultural cooperative, whether it is a farm, a market garden, an animal husbandry, etc. This movement was born in the last century and has been thought by and for the people. The goal is to raise awareness among youngsters on the issue of rural exodus and offer them an alternative that benefits the rural community. The “Ententes” is a Multifunctional Rural Cooperative, which encourages the participation of local populations. To do so, an incubation farm was created in each entity to train staff who ensure the continued existence of the farm (market gardening, animals, etc).

For our work camp, we were hosted by the Koumptenoum entity in Diam-Diam, in the east of the country, halfway to Mali. A young German woman, Lénia, joined us there. We worked with the entity’s team, made of farm workers, women from the village, an agronomist, and the project leader; to care for young lemon trees and other plants. This was the first time that lemon trees were planted in this region, and hopefully, it will work.

We spent three weeks working in the fields, despite the heat and Ramadan. We stayed in the family with some difficulties; we slept under the open sky because the room seemed too small and not comfortable to me, and the language barrier forced us to find other ways to express ourselves. We ate and we drank. How happy I was to drink fresh water, once a day.

We rode though villages and baobab forests on our motor tricycle, flooded with sunshine that followed us the whole day. We slept under the shadow of a farm’s wooden hut accompanied by some lizards, which is the only thing to do at midday. We were a group of people who shared time, looks, strengths and difficulties. We got along very well, I never felt uncomfortable, and I can’t recall any argument, but rather conversations and shares.


Beds under the open sky

Our beds under the open sky, Senegal 2023 © Chantal Moreau


And what about my thoughts on all of this?

Back in Belgium, ideas made their way into my mind, particularly through the ‘Development & Interculturality’ training offered by SCI Belgium. I am struggling with myself. Have I left to help others? Have I left because I liked the project? Am I selfishly altruistic? As someone who is not part of any social movement, should I be trying to salve my conscience by volunteering? No hasty conclusions, this experience was unique and allowed me to get rid of all those cumbersome ideas I do not particularly want to answer. I did it because it is fair, and that’s my motto. It is fair to work, to laugh, to eat, to talk, to share, to sleep, to sing, with others and somewhere else. I have been honest, I have shared, I have learned, I have gained, I have given. I have grown.


What next?

As I write these lines, I turn my head and my eyes fall on a houseplant, a cotton plant. Saliou had given me some seeds. I sowed them. I send him a picture and he congratulated me. Will this special plant grow? Is the Belgian climate adequate for it? I enjoy this wink, and that’s the core of my testimony; seeds taking root…


This article was written by Chantal Moreau, volunteer of SCI Belgium.