April 6, 2020
This article was written by William H. Walker VI, a sophomore in the Schoool of Sustainability
Imagine you are in Senegal, working on a farm. It's your livelihood, your culture, and a part of your well-being. You grow millet, rice, maize, sugarcane, maybe even some wheat. You do all you can to take care of your farm and your family. Yet, there is cause for concern: locusts. When they swarm, they eat all of your crops, sometimes up to a hectare’s worth of hard work. How could this have been prevented? What can be done to empower communities? One way is by stopping locusts before they swarm. That’s what Master of Sustainability Solutions (MSUS) student Braedon Kantola is working on for his culminating experience and what he did on his recent trip to Senegal.
The project was initiated as part of a $500,000 grant to the Global Locust Initiative (GLI) by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA). The purpose of the grant is to support Senegalese farmers in preventing locust plagues. The grant was aimed at five villages in Senegal: Gossas, Gniby, Mbar, Nganda, and Boulel, where the GLI previewed educational booklets with farmers at workshop sessions in March.
The booklets Braedon helped to develop assist farmers in the identification, control, and management of locust species. The booklets highlight preventative techniques such as quickly counting locusts as they fly away from you while walking through fields. The quick count method can help determine whether a locust swarm may occur. Another technique is building light traps to trap pregnant locusts and to help predict when locusts will lay eggs in the soil.
Braedon organized the identification booklet by splitting it into four sections: an introduction; general background on locusts and anatomy; species identification information such as markings, habitat, or diet; and, local resource contact information. Braedon and his team were sure to write the booklets in English, Wolof, and French so that all community members could have equal access to pest management strategies.
In Braedon’s words, “having worked on this project has opened my eyes to so many experiences and learning opportunities, but at the end of the day, none of this would have been possible without the help from my team at GLI, ASU, and USAID. All the hard work that my team and I have been doing is valuable in the sense that we hope to improve Senegalese livelihoods, increase millet yields, as well as strengthen global food system sustainability.”
Ultimately, the project is more influential than mere pest management, it gives agency to communities and bridges cultural ties. As a result, international development is redefined as human development, creating on-the-ground solutions based on people's needs. By removing agricultural and cultural barriers, opportunities for equitable livelihoods are enhanced.