Africa

Woman Creates a Business Opportunity Out of a Natural Disaster

Woman Creates a Business Opportunity Out of a Natural Disaster

Reported by Lyonel Laverde-Hansen

Senegal, like most tropical countries, has dry and wet seasons. Lately its weather has been heavily affected by climate change. Severe flooding has occurred in almost the entire southwestern sectors of the country: from the capital Dakar to the regions of Mbour, Fatick, Djilor, Passy Kaffrine, and Kaolack.

Margareta Wahlstrom, who serves as the United Nations’ special representative of the secretary general for disaster risk reduction, came to Senegal after significant flooding last year rose to the level of public emergencies in the overall region. Wahlstrom noted that some areas of Senegal have undergone major flooding for ten months out of the year.

“There is a huge pressure for action,” Wahlstrom told Phys.Org. “I think particularly the flooding issue is so critical…because it’s very acute.”

Emilie Faye (pictured) lives in the Pikine suburb of Dakar. Her house’s walls have discoloration marks from the rainwater and earlier floods. Water levels, Faye told Reuters, have reached up to the levels of her couch.

Yet in this crisis, Emilie Faye is taking the terrible weather disasters and finding a great opportunity in them.

Faye has become a major force in the “Live With Water” project, according to Reuters. This program takes the excess water that comes from the floods and uses it to grow crops. She and her daughter can earn around $22 a month from selling the produce which grows in the water basins, such as basil and mint. Faye will spend the money on school costs and medical supplies.

“Before, one had to accept that houses here flood,” she told Reuters. “But this project opened our eyes to see there is a solution.”

The Pikine community has profited from a water system built by a architect named Mandu. Mandu has helped to put in a surface drainage system that both empties and filtrates the excess waters. This has created a reservoir and green space in the center of town.

The United Nation’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports that each year between 100,000 and 300,000 people are hit by deluges of rain water, which is exacerbated by poor infrastructure planning in developing countries. In a Reuters story, Pikine residents are happy that the new water system has both diminished flooding and created more economic empowerment — but they’re not celebrating just yet.

“Many projects come and go and nothing changes,” said Mariama Diallo, a partner with Faye at the “Live Water” project. But she also expressed hope that this system will expand to locales way beyond Pikine.

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