Advocacy and Environmental Education in Senegal

Advocacy and Environmental Education in Senegal

By Marie von Schlieben

After a few weeks of preparation at Weltfriedensdienst (World Peace Service) in Berlin, I was finally able to leave in the autumn of 2018 and then landed in Senegal for the first time. I spent my first day there with farmers, ploughing and watering a papaya field. From the very beginning, it was especially important to my partner organisation, ENDA Pronat, that I should get close to our target groups.

I was keen to work abroad

Marie von Schlieben (far left) at a workshop on irrigation.

I had already travelled a lot during and after my studies. I worked on small NGO projects in Nicaragua and Vietnam and learned to speak several languages fluently. I always knew that I wanted to work abroad and that it was important to me to work closely together with local project organisers and target groups. After a year in South America as a project assistant for the Heinrich Böll Foundation, I was able to start my first term of development service. I worked for ENDA Pronat as an advocacy and networking consultant in an agroecology and food security project. Since 1982, ENDA Pronat has been working closely with rural communities to promote sustainable agriculture and food security in Senegal. Since it was founded, the organisation has used this community-oriented approach to action research to help develop a variety of agroecological methods and to train farmers. They have also drawn up local village agreements for the communal protection of natural resources, built up regional and national farmers' organisations to represent farmers’ interests, and established political dialogue at the national level. The main objective of our project was to further develop agroecological methods in cooperation with local authorities and thereby contribute to better environmental protection, food security, and higher incomes for farmers. But we were also keen for farmers’ political interests to be represented not only at the national level but also internationally. My own tasks were: to promote the interests of ENDA Pronat in the political discourse in Germany; to promote effective public relations; and to build networks with other civil society organisations in West Africa and Europe. It was helpful to be able to draw on my own experience: of political work for the Heinrich Böll Foundation, of diplomacy, of good networking, and of intercultural sensitivity. Two aspects were especially important for my work: on the one hand, having good knowledge and understanding of the everyday life and challenges of farmers in rural areas; and, on the other hand, having the ability to persuade politicians and diplomats to work for the benefit of these target groups.

Advocacy work: From the field into the Bundestag

When a delegation of members of the Bundestag (MdBs) travelled to Senegal in the summer of 2019, I was able to organise a meeting between the leadership of ENDA Pronat and the Green Party MdB Uwe Kekeritz. After a presentation of our work and a lively sharing of information, Uwe Kekeritz agreed to present the concerns of ENDA Pronat at a public hearing on "Global Nutrition and Climate Change" in the Bundestag in June 2019. This was, of course, a great success for our advocacy work. At the same time, at the national level in Senegal, we (ENDA Pronat) initiated and launched an alliance for agroecological transformation. This alliance now brings together both national and national NGOs, research institutes, and political actors, such as REVES, the Senegalese network of green cities and communes.

West Africa: a new home

My day-to-day work is often rather chaotic. A lot of processes progress very slowly. And you need a lot of patience before you can eventually see that there have been some minor successes and a few small changes have come about. Frustration is an inevitable part of project work. Don’t let it throw you off course. That’s what I learned in West Africa. So I have stayed in the region and now work for GIZ as a specialist in an agricultural project in Ghana.

Marie von Schlieben, B.A. Franko Media, M.A. Interdisciplinary Latin American Studies was 2018 - 2019: Senegal, Weltfriedensdienst (World Peace Service)  and since 2020: Ghana, GIZ.