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Participatory reforestation and green enterprises in the Tocc-Tocc community reserve, Senegal

The Alstom Foundation has partnered with BirdLife International on a significant new project which focuses on restoring an internationally important wetland’s biodiversity and improving people’s livelihoods in Senegal, through community resilience to climate change and participatory ecology.

Are you wondering how we plan to achieve this? By moving towards more environmentally friendly buildings constructed with typha, a wild aquatic plant. On the sandy plains of northern Senegal, you can already see small houses which look like mushrooms popping out. These huts are partly constructed of typha, which has excellent thermal insulation properties. This unusual construction material is used for roof coverings and combined with soil to make light blocks.

Typha is a phenomenal eco-construction material for roof coverings with strong thermal insulation properties. © Lucia Way-Bricault
Typha weed is a large concern for public health and biodiversity preservation in the wetland area. © Elena Serra Sánchez

Most buildings in Senegal and Western Africa are built with concrete, which is not the best source of material when it comes to environmental sustainability and energy consumption. This is why typha is a perfect resource for building construction for the future, but terrible for the Senegal River, where it exists as a thriving invasive plant and is also a concern for public health, biodiversity preservation and water supply security.

The project targets the Tocc-Tocc Community Nature Reserve, an essential ecosystem for the local community and their livelihoods, as well as the main source of drinking water for Dakar residents. But this wetland area’s many benefits are being threatened by the large spread of typha and unsustainable use of its natural resources. Since the project’s objective is to strengthen resilience to climate change, local communities have been invited to participate in the rehabilitation and restoration activities.

This project’s success depends on participation from the area’s local communities. They are needed to make substantial ecological changes which will positively impact their livelihoods. © Elena Serra Sánchez
This project will empower women through green entrepreneurship such as processing natural products and gardening. © Lucia Way-Bricault

This participatory project will then support and train 150 or more community members in income generating biodiversity-friendly activities, and will include everything ranging from reforestation of 5,000 trees and green entrepreneurship promotion to re-purposing 15 hectares of Typha so it can be used as an eco-construction material. Furthermore, typha will be used for much more than just construction: it can also be used as a raw material for making cleaner energy and for feeding animals. In Senegal, where around 80% of energy consumption in households is made up of wood energy, it only makes sense to transform typha into a biofuel, as a sustainable restoration of the wetland.

Partner: BirdLife International

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