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By Fr Anthony Pizzaro CICM
Father Pizarro last appeared on these pages in January-February this year. We thank Missionhurst, www.missionhurst.org, the magazine of the CICMs in the
I met Abdoulaye Badji for the first time in 2002, here in the parish. His job-hunting itinerary read like a travelogue. He hails from the southern part of
Abdoulaye, a 35-year-old, deeply devoted Muslim and father of four, bravely asked that the parish lend him the vacant lot beside the church so that he could cultivate some vegetables. Cultivatable land is hard to find here in Podor. Some 500 kilometers north of
Getting permission, Abdoulaye started to work, plowing the dry soil, removing weeds, and making plots. After two weeks, he came back to the parish house, this time to ask for some help. A humble and honest man, he confessed to having nothing to start with. He would need various vegetable seeds, organic fertilizers, and fuel for a water pump. Luckily, just at that time, some donations for my mission work came from the
He started with onion, okra and bissap, an indigenous vegetable, – the three main ingredients in the daily Senegalese meal. Six months of hard, backbreaking toil and sweat under the sun paid off when the crops were ready for harvesting. I was very surprised when Abdoulaye came to offer us the first fruits of his labor. It was a sign of thanksgiving for him, a sign of honor for me, and, for the two of us, a powerful sign of down-to-earth inter-religious dialogue between a Muslim and a Christian. The soil gave forth its richness, and the harvest was very good.
A water pump assures continuous year-long cultivation of the lot. In his second planting, the crops included chili pepper, eggplant, corn, beans and watermelon. His rationale: ‘I vary what is planted so that the soil retains its richness and isn’t exhausted in the long run.’ According to his basic agricultural know-how, ‘A good harvest is made possible by hard work and good soil management.’ And as for his marketing strategy, Abdoulaye practices out-of-season cropping – planting vegetables out of their common season and when they are rarely found in the market, in order to command a very good price. The local market vendors come to buy directly from the garden, thus assuring Abdoulaye a very comfortable income for his harvests.
One time I saw him just before weeding his garden. Then he suddenly stopped his work, laid his sack on the ground, did the ritual washing that faithful Muslims do and prayed facing the east, towards
One year later he came to the parish house to pay back the good fortune he had received through our benefactors. I gently refused to accept, and asked him to simply extend that same good fortune to others. ‘Let the cycle of good gestures continue forward,’ I said to him. He solemnly answered, ‘Amin. Incha Allah!’ ‘So be it!’ in Arabic.
From tending this garden, Abdoulaye has become very active in the local association of farmers here in the town. He readily shares his knowledge of the soil and farming and is thus considered a young, innovative and creative farmer, esteemed and respected by everybody.
Now his family is finally with him, here in Podor. Three of his children are enrolled in the local elementary school and his wife gives him a hand once in a while in the garden. For Abdoulaye, God smiles on him. He continues his gardening with much passion and dedication, knowing that the earth sustains those who sweat it out and work toward bringing forth fruits for life. Yes, even here in the desert, life springs forth/!! … thanks to friendship, perseverance, and much faith.
You may write Father Anthony at Parish of Saint Michael, BP 41, PODOR, SENEGAL