July 2016 Update
Our local labour market analysis had led us to agriculture as the sector to prioritise in Senegal. Having mapped the vocational training offer in the Saint-Louis region, the Centre d’Initiation Horticole (CIH) had been an obvious choice. Attached to the Ministry of Agriculture, this training centre was happy to accommodate the needs of our students, tailoring the content accordingly. So in January 2016, we enrolled 14 young people (5 boys & 9 girls) in a 1-year training programme in horticulture.
As I went back to Saint-Louis in May, five months into the training, I was overwhelmed by what I found! Walking into the garden of the CIH felt like walking into a Garden of Eden: with its flowering rhododendrons, its lush greenery and ripening vegetables. Trainees were moving around the garden like busy bees, driven by an infinite curiosity and enthusiasm- encouraged and guided by their instructors. “The connection with this group is quite exceptional”, says Director Mr Diop. “We knew they needed extra support- so we treated them just like our own children… Now they joke with us, they don’t hesitate to come and knock on my door.”
All spoke with great enthusiasm about the training, how much they are learning, how much they enjoy the centre and the company of their fellow students. While they once had little hope for their future, today their ambitions are big. It is however the testimony of one father I visited that will forever be engraved in my memory: “After just one month of training- my son asked if he could help me in our little garden. Sceptical about what he could have learned in so little time, I hesitated. But a friend told me to just let him try. What happened next I could not believe. When I came back he had planted things, all carefully measured, in way that was so much better than what I had done all my life. And I was an agricultural labourer! Next, things started to grow and ripen and he even sold things to our neighbours. Since then… I have just kept quiet. All I can say is that this training is quality and that I am very happy. I once felt powerless, now I have great hopes for his future!”
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