Beneath the scorching sun that beats down on Senegal’s savannah, the verdant gardens of Ndem village are a sanctuary. Within a hibiscus fence, rows of vegetables grow under fruit trees. Men and women in technicolour robes dye fabrics and stitch handbags destined for luxury boutiques and furniture companies in Spain, Italy and the United States.
They are members of Baye Fall, a branch of Senegal’s Muslim Mouride brotherhood who believe that labour is a form of prayer. In Ndem, they have created an oasis in a region long plagued by drought.
A plate made in Ndem can even be found in the White House, a gift from a visiting consultant to former President George W. Bush, one of the NGO’s project managers said.
The NGO Ndem Villagers was founded in 1984 to manage myriad development projects. Since then, the group has grown to about 4,600 members who have renewed the landscape with the help of irrigation systems and solar power.