Washington — Three U.S. Peace Corps volunteers recently collaborated with more than 45 Peace Corps/Senegal volunteers and 25 local community members to restore a mangrove forest in the Sine-Saloum Delta region of Senegal.
Peace Corps volunteers Garrison Harward of Ojai, California, Robert Rivera of Fremont, California and Jamie Whitehead of Tallahassee, Florida, led the reforestation effort, the Peace Corps said in an October 23 news release.
The third annual event resulted in the planting of 40,000 red mangrove seedlings in the area, with the help of a local nongovernmental organization, the Peace Corps said. In 2010, volunteers and their Senegalese counterparts planted 10,000 seedlings, and in 2011 they planted 20,000 seedlings.
"It's really amazing how the program has grown over the years. It's a testament to the effectiveness of Peace Corps' grass-roots approach," said Harward, according to the Peace Corps. Harward, a graduate of California State University, Chico, has been living and working in Senegal since 2010.
Mangrove trees are important because they provide vitality to the environment, the Peace Corps said. They help to clean the water and air, prevent erosion, provide habitat and contribute nutrients to the extremely fertile waters off the coast of Senegal. The Sine-Saloum Delta provides habitat for countless species, including some endangered species, and is essential as a nursery for fish. The slow-growing red mangrove is especially susceptible to deforestation.
Local community members chose the reforestation site and collected all 40,000 seedlings - involvement geared to ensure their continued ownership and appreciation of the project. Volunteers worked with community members to monitor and evaluate the survival rates and success of previous plantings and will use the data to make improvements to the project as it continues.
"What we're doing is going to have an impact for generations to come, not just because of the new trees, but because of our involvement with the people here," Rivera said.
More than 3,190 Peace Corps volunteers have served in Senegal since the program was established in 1963, and 254 volunteers are now serving in the country. Volunteers work in the areas of agriculture, environment, health and business. They are trained and work in the following languages: French, Wolof, Pulaar du Nord, Fulakunda, Pulafuta, Seereer, Malinke, Mandinka and Jaxanke.