My translator, Djibril Ba, stands with his daughter and nephew in front of the house he built for his family.

In the villages I visited, most of the men had left for the city. This farmer chose to stay with his children but was not at all sure that he could feed them.

These ‘agents polyvalents’ bring economic and ecological skills to Colufifa’s villages. As one told me, “We do anything, anywhere, anytime."

One ‘agent polyvalent,’ Nima Fofana, runs literacy and micro-finance programs for Senegalese and Gambian women.

Colufifa invited me to a meeting of village leaders. Topics ranged from the plastic bags clogging local waterways to poultry vaccination programs.

Along the highway, village women sell bags of charcoal to drivers on their way to the city.

My translator, Djibril Ba, showed me this ‘charcoal mine’ in the forest outside Faoune village. (pp. 72-3 in the book)

Sekou Bodian teaches high school biology by day and, with the help of a light bulb and a small generator, plants trees by night. By his estimate, he has planted 300,000 trees in his lifetime.

In one of the villages I visited, all of the young men had left. I was greeted by a spirited group of women who called themselves “The Dancing Fools.”

My driver brought me to his village along The Gambia River to meet his family.

Villagers in Sinteth were proud of this boat, which would soon make fishermen of young men who had never seen the ocean and didn’t know how to swim. (pp. 90-1 in the book)

The boat’s builder holds the hand tools he used to build the boat.

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Colufifa, a French acronym for the Committee to End Hunger (Comité de lutte pour la Fin de la Faim), is not really an ecovillage. Rather, it is a Senegal-based network of 350 West African villages seeking to become self-sufficient through the following efforts:

Colufifa’s work, as in much of the developing world, is not to build new villages but to make the existing ones sustainable.

While Colufifa was founded in 1964 and predates the ecovillage movement by decades, it joined the Global Ecovillage Network because it shares GEN’s commitment to village self-sufficiency.

Yet while Colufifa’s impoverished villagers have minuscule ecological footprints—by far the smallest I encountered—the term ecovillage meant nothing to most of them: their austerity is involuntary. I visited several of Colufifa’s member villages. In all of them, the vast majority of young men had left in search of jobs in African or European cities, making a significant rupture in the social fabric. Women’s empowerment is therefore a big part of Colufifa’s work.

Official website (in English):

Colufifa ‘s international partners include the Danish NGO, Cycles to Senegal

and the French offices of ActionAid International