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Landscape of the Year 2018/2019 Senegal/Gambia News (7)

© Doris Banspach

A Landscape of the Year that will move you!
Manfred Pils, President of Naturefriends International, took part in the opening ceremonies of the Landscape of the Year Senegal/the Gambia. Here is what he experienced:

A fantastic opening ceremony
On January 13, 2018 more than 800 people in colourful clothes came together in Koumbidja Socé, about 300 kilometres from the Senegalese-Gambian border. Every group wore traditional masks and showed traditional dances to honour the guests. Speeches accompanied the dances. This was the fantastic opening ceremony of the Landscape of the Year 2018/19 – Senegal/the Gambia.  

  The chosen motto “Living climate justice” was printed in English and French on T-shirts worn by our hosts from Senegal. A memorial stone can be found in remembrance of the opening of the first African Landscape of the Year, the first one outside of Europe. In addition, many, many fruit trees, which were planted after the festivities by both African and European Naturefriends together with the local community, will serve as reminders as well..

Village tourism and developing the civil society

We had similar experiences in the Gambia, where also 800 people came to the Kankurang festival in Janjanbureh. The masks and their meaning were now easier to understand, especially since there is a museum about the culture behind the masks right next to the fairgrounds. After the regime change last year, the Gambia is on its way towards democracy. The civil society is just starting to develop – so it was not easy to find partners for the Landscape of the Year. Thus, the large crowd at the festival was even more special. One of the priorities within the Landscape of the Year is the development of community based tourism – a tourism which creates income for the local people. This country should be able to achieve this: The Gambia River is a big lifeline with many nature reserves where wildlife such as chimpanzees, crocodiles or hippos can be found.

 Ambassadors for the Landscape of the Year

Parallel to the start of the Landscape of the Year, the international Naturefriends holiday “Tour d’Horizon” took place – accompanied by Ingeborg Pint and Senegalese Naturefriends. 40 Naturefriends from nine countries took part and also helped with the tree planting. 40 Naturefriends, who are now ambassadors for the Landscape of the Year Senegal/the Gambia. They will hopefully be an inspiration for many more to visit this area, to support solidary activities in their local groups or to contribute to the Climate Fund in order to make further tree plantings and other climate protection projects in Africa possible. .

We are have been changed and will be the change …

This landscape has changed us: The bright-eyed children, the excitement visible in people’s faces, the passion of everyone involved and the smart art of improvisation, needed for survival. Mamadou Mbodji, Deputy Secretary General of Naturefriends Senegal, often told me: „You have the clocks – We have the time.“ I would extend this by saying: “We have the wealth – You have the joy of life.” Having both would be great! However, not only we have been changed, but we will be the change through the Landscape of the Year: Trees for survival and climate protection, the development of the civil society in the Gambia, the development of a sustainable tourism industry … And I am sure that the Landscape of the Year will bring the Senegalese and Gambian Naturefriends many more employees and members.

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