Casamance’s First Farm-to-Table Restaurant:
Introducing our contribution to Kafountine’s up and coming Eco Village Centre
Ablaye Diabang, Abbie Hantgan, Mamadou Lamine Sonko
Advisor: Hamidou Tanjo Diabang
Kaïra Kunda, “The Home of Peace,” will be the first farm-to-table restaurant in the Casamance region of Senegal. It will rely on sustainable permaculture principles to grow pesticide-free fruits and vegetables and prepare delicious nutrient-rich meals for the local community of Kafountine. Building and running the farm and restaurant will also create jobs in an area that, while rich in beauty and natural resources, is poor in monetary benefits.
“Growing up in Kafountine, I was good at football. All I heard about was `Dakar, Dakar’, so eventually, I went there. I couldn’t believe the things I saw when I arrived. I went to visit my friend; he was living with 20 other people in a room about 4×5 meters in size. I met girls from my region who were so poor they were selling themselves just to earn enough for a ticket to go back home. I decided that when I returned to Kafountine, I would create educational and professional opportunities for the youth of my village so they wouldn’t have to travel to look for work.”
Hamidou Tanjo Diabang, Founder of Satang Diabang, Professional School, Kafountine, Senegal
As in many impoverished communities, today’s Senegalese farmers plant, weed, and harvest, by hand, the same crop in the same field every year. Instead of rotating crops or supplementing the depleted soil with organic matter, they buy cheap, readily available chemical fertilizers for short-term yields at the expense of long-term soil exhaustion and polluting run-off. Malnourished from eating only a few, poor-quality foods, men, women, and children work year-round but achieve less and less.
Senegal’s dependence on three products is a serious health problem. Women, the primary household chefs, will tell you that food is inedible unless it has one if not all of these ingredients: palm oil, monosodium glutamate (MSG) bouillon cubes, and refined sugar. Even the most basic ingredients are imported. Simple crops like onions, which have grown very well in West African soils for centuries, are imported from Holland by the tons. The diet of easy-to-obtain starches and sugars brings diabetes but not the technologies to cope with it.
Kaïra Kunda aims to break this cycle in Casamance by filling empty bellies with a cornucopia of produce, grown and prepared the not-so-far-removed traditional way. Located along the Atlantic coast in southwestern Senegal, Kafountine is home to a friendly mix of ethnicities. The fishing centre, one of the biggest in Senegal, is home to workers from all over West Africa, and the calm, beautiful beaches are a popular destination for tourists from around the world. Kaïra Kunda will serve locals and visitors alike, creating opportunities to learn, harvest, and savor the farm’s fresh, healthy approach to food.
Casamance has surprising technological advantages. Solar power is found on even the most remote islands off Kafountine’s shores. Community members are already planning an Eco Village featuring permaculture, where residents such as Miguel have been using these gardening methods for years. Ablaye Diabang, Farm Manager of Kaïra Kunda, currently manages Campement Kunja. He learned permaculture methods during a six-week course last year at Sandele Eco Resort, a huge inspiration for us, and is already building permaculture beds.
These papayas, planted at exactly the same time by Ablaye, testify to his efforts: the first was planted using conventional methods, while the second was set into the rich top soil, leaves, and brush at the campement that might otherwise have been treated as waste.
The restaurant’s chef, my husband, Mamadou Lamine Sonko, received his diploma from Satang Diabang Professional School in 2015 and practices his culinary skills at Campement Kunja and his mother’s restaurant in Kafountine, Adama Awa Alahu Wahedou, named in honour of his twin sisters and a favourite among fishermen. In lieu of a menu, guests will be invited to choose all their ingredients during a tour of the garden. They will gather their preferred fruits, vegetables, spices—even their choice of meat, fish, or poultry, and then Momo will prepare their dish while they enjoy the beauty of nature in the gazebo. They will have the option of dining collectively or privately at tables overlooking the beautiful forest that surrounds Kafountine. We will make prices affordable for both residents and guests and supply our produce and meat to the market.
As many of you know, before my current career in linguistics, I owned and operated my own gardening business for 12 years and have collaborated with villages in various countries in West Africa in building sustainable gardens and housing off and on since 1993. My time in Peace Corps taught me that you can only convince people whose way of life has been passed down since the beginning of humanity to make changes through cooperative action, not instruction. I’m inspired by people like Hamidou Tanjo Diabang, the Farm’s advisor, who has created not only a successful Eco Lodge but a school and a hospital. He is at the forefront of the movement to implement sustainable living methods in his home town of Kafountine. The farm, restaurant, gazebo, and lodging will be constructed by local people with natural, renewable resources and may one day serve as a model for rural communities all over the world.
We aim to purchase a 3-hectare parcel within a 4-hectare fenced area. This piece of land includes an orange grove equipped with a water tower and a well. The area has expressed its commitment to the project by setting the price at 23,000 million CFA (about $42,000), nearly half of its estimated worth. The remainder of the budget will allow us to build the restaurant, gazebo, and lodging for the farm team and our guests and to procure the supplies we will need to begin production. We welcome your gifts through our crowdsourcing website, which provides more detailed information about our team, our dream, and Casamance’s first Farm-to-Table restaurant!