Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Getting more than you fish for

The hotel  I am staying at is in Yoff,  north of Dakar, right on a cove of sandy beach and this morning there were enormous waves bounding the hotel wall;  enormous at least compared to the best that Morecambe Bay can offer. I walked to the Yoff fishing beach with a group of women who happened to be passing the hotel as I left. They were all in dresses of the same bright yellow, pink and blue fabric, all of slightly different styles, and really well cut. I assumed it was a post-election party as everyone seems to be very happy here today about the results: the election of Macky to replace the out-going president Wade. Later I discovered, talking to beach traders, stall vendors, almost everyone I met, that the Senegalese are not only highly aware of, but extremely proud of their record of peaceful democracy.  Not surprising given some of the alternative forms of ‘democracy’ in West Africa. As a cafe owner  said  “Senegal - no oil - less corruption.”

Anyway, the women I learned, were all from the same family and are here for a  4 day family celebration at an aunt’s house.  I am kicking myself as my phone (camera) wasn’t charged. So for the walk to the beach imagine a dusty sandy road turning into small alleyways between head-height sandy breezeblock walls, sometimes so narrow to have to squeeze past people coming in the opposite direction. Through open ‘doors’ in the wall short terraces of stone rooms on 2 or 3 sides create large yards . Each time I managed a glimpse, the yards had women washing clothes or cooking outdoors and children playing there.
 As this opened on to the beach there were a hundred or so long narrow wooden boats  ‘pirogues’ on the shore . I sat with a woman and her nephew on some netting inside one, after she had thrown out some dead fish heads and spoke to her via the nephew translating  my limited French into wolof (pronounced olof). Gradually more and more boys came to join us, one of them delighting in fiddling with the velcro on my shoes. (I think) I learned:-no fishing today due to the high waves; the children are on holiday from school for the (easter?) holidays , even though the population is predominantly muslim; where are all the girls? - at home.

A wonderful glimpse of fishing community life in Senegal. But one of the shocks of the scene was the amount of plastic rubbish strewn all over the beach, in the sand and being washed up with every wave. One of the proposed resolutions at the Global Greens conference is on the sustainable management of the worlds’ oceansand fisheriesAt the recent GPEW national conference in Liverpool  we  updated and passed a full and far reaching  national Marine and Coastal policy  which was highly welcomed and commended by Greenpeace and other Marine conservation campaigners at conference.   Just one of the issues highlighted in the Global proposal concerns “Our taste for plastics has filled the oceans with plastic debris, most of it smaller than five millimetres, now dispersed in all the worlds' oceans and far deep into the water column, entering and poisoning the marine food webs.”
We forget what is out of sight, but today the plastic debris was very much in view and begin washed ashore, completely ruining a local community’s own environment.
Very politely, after translating for a good half hour, the 14 year old asked me to buy a football. Round the corner the shopping street was filled with kiosks interspersed by women working in small groups together- washing clothes , preparing vegetables; cooking . Ball duly handed over,  the dozen or so boys ran back to the beach immediately starting a game and oblivious of the rubbish under their feet.   

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