Act for Life: A Grassroots Evolution
The African Reality
The grassroots experience of the EcoPeace team in Bayouf Pout, Senegal, amongst peasant farmers has highlighted the sad reality that the local population tends to consume second-grade produce, while first grade produce is always exported.
Local vendors sell second-grade produce, regardless of the long-term health risks. During mango season, there is fierce competition amongst the vendors to be the first one one on the streets selling mangoes. For this reason, the mangoes are “gassed” with chemicals to artificially ripened
Since 2006, EcoPeace is responding to this great challenge by creating awareness between producers, vendors and consumers.
“You are the change you've been waiting for." Nelson Mandela
EcoPeace is committed to train peacebuilders, agents of sustainable development, solidarity and sharing, who will be actors of their own development.
The aim is for the individual to learn to use his own human capital, his essential human qualities like self-esteem, self-confidence, perseverance, patience, love and justice to create, develop and impact change within particular socio-economic conditions.
Such individuals would have made a choice, taken a commitment and taken personal responsibility to serve the whole of humanity.
The training involves:
improved educational standards through adult literacy courses on site
parallel field training in new agricultural techniques, respectful of the environment and local traditions.
training in peacemaking (through the steps of the Initiatory Way to Peace and study of the lives of peacemakers in collaboration with The International Sufi School )
awakening individual consciousness to a nonviolent alternative
Act for Life
Awakening a new consciousness
The EcoPeace Mango campaign in Senegal came as a real shock to the fruit vendors of the village. They were puzzled to see EcoPeace campaigners on their stand with posters saying: “Act for Life: No to gassed mangoes!” Furthermore, EcoPeace refused to use plastic bags to sell its mangoes. We decided to use jute bags to propose an alternative to plastic pollution.
Our message to them was clear:“Think about what you are selling! We should work together and create a cooperative. In record time, the situation can be changed and we can work to improve the quality of our produce!"
Many would see in EcoPeace's approach an obstacle to their economic activity. They acknowledged that the approach was good, but it was difficult for them to make the choice and give up old practices. Their concern: they had a family to feed and their small income was enough only for daily subsistence.
Progress is slow as people's mentality take time to change. The good news in Senegal is that some vendors from neighbouring villages have agreed to buy EcoPeace mangoes to sell at their own stand.
EcoPeace plans to help them pursue this activity beyond the mango campaign, by producing and selling organic vegetables throughout the year.
Setting new standards: No to forced ripening!
Since 2009, EcoPeace launched an important campaign in Senegal to create awareness amongst the local population about the dangers associated with the chemicals used in forced ripening. Despite the numerous health risks associated with forced ripening, this practice is commonly accepted by the locals as the norm. A careful analysis of the situation by EcoPeace highlighted the fact that nobody dared to speak against the practice in fear of loss.
On one hand, the producer, worried by a potential financial loss, tries to sell his entire stock before the rainy season which brings along devastating fruit flies. On the other hand, the local women fruit vendors are afraid of insufficient income in case of poor mango sales. Therefore, they feel compelled to resort to “gassing”, a local practice of forced ripening which involves the use of chemicals, which make mangoes ripen faster and last longer.
As for the consumers, there are some who refuse to buy “gassed” mangoes. However, the vast majority still buy them, despite knowing about the health risks because they feel that they have no other choice. “We make do with what is available!” they answered. This mindset, shaped by historical conditioning, is revealed in their response: “Natural mangoes are good. But a mango is a mango! Quality is for the “toubab” (local jargon for tourists and foreign visitors)!”
EcoPeace stands against this and says: "No to forced ripening" and most importantly "Quality for All!"