As you know, the model of participation designed for the Center is consolidating now that we are in Gandiol. The three lines designed are (1) Design and Construction Workshops, (2) debate sessions with different local collectives and (3) joint actions.

Last week we conducted the first participatory workshop with the youth of Gandiol and Hahatay’s volunteers. It was the Pilot Workshop, aimed to define the landscape design of Hahatay’s plot, where the Center is constructed. At the same time, this first workshop had the purpose to revise the proposed participatory methodology, find strengths and weakness in it, and analyze the community and volunteers dynamic.

We decided to make the Landscape Workshop the first one, because it is more logical for several reasons. As the landscape is defined (different zones, uses and paths, along with the vegetal species), it is possible to create a base for the other design and construction workshops. Besides, with this workshop we create unity in Hahatay’s plot, with integrated spaces that work as a whole, where one can feel comfortable (and, why not, even inspired). On one hand, it was necessary to define which species would be planted, combining the necessities of Hahatay and the local soil with the particular characteristics of each specie. On the other hand, it was also necessary to know where to plant, creating different zones and paths with plants and materials.

Therefore, the first challenge to prepare the workshop was to make a list with detailed information on the different local vegetal species. Considering that, we elaborated a table to fill with the most important information: the name of the specie, its adaptability to salty and sandy soils, presence of fruits or flowers, height, lenght of roots, among other characteristics. With that table in hands, we visited Saint Louis’ base of the Ministry of Agriculture. There, we met Babacar, who helped us to gather almost all the information we needed. Among many species, we found the emblematic trees “Neem” and “Neverdie”, both local and with medicinal properties. And it was hard to make it a short visit because at the Ministry’s plot there was an infinite display of trees with fruits, flowers, of bushes, climbing plants, and many others. Then again, each day we learn much more than we teach…

Later, we went to visit Sidi, Gandiol’s gardener, a smiling man who makes you want to hug him at the first moment. His garden it’s located at the side of Gandiol’s main road. As we walked through the gates, we felt like we entered into a small and particular ecosystem, with its different tonalities of green and its various species… so different from the arid and hot landscape typical from the North Senegal. We made our way through the plants, sat on a small plastic container and, under the shadow of a passion fruit tree, were able to fill the gaps of our information table. We also added some species, which Sidi considered important, reaching a total of 30 local plants.

The day of the workshop arrived and we all gathered together. Hahatay’s team was complete: Senegalese and foreign volunteers, Aminata group, and also other youngsters of the village who are engaging into the participatory process little by little… A total of 32 people! And of course, Sidi was with us, to advise the groups throughout the debate, and also because he loves to get involved in everything regarding the development of Gandiol’s community.

The workshop started with a brief presentation of Aminata Cultural Center and the participatory process. After, we presented some basic concepts of landscape design, fomenting a debate on environmental, functional, aesthetical, cultural and symbolic aspects, which are important to plan a space.

Later, we formed two work groups: The first one to study the different flows and paths throughout the plot, zones for orchards, for resting under a shadow… The second group had the task to select among the list the most appropriate plants to place in Hahatay, considering the physical characteristics and aspects discussed in the previous presentation. At first, we were a little reticent, but as the workshop started, we had wonderful results. Despite some small issues caused by the different languages, the debate flowed in a very smooth way. They all proposed ideas and a very constructive environment was created. All participants were concentrated and excited, so at the end it was even hard to finalize the debate and go to the last stage of the workshop.

After one hour of work, each group presented its conclusions and a space for final comments and suggestions was opened. Hahatay’s team also shared its vision on the landscape and the final results of the workshop. We also counted with the necessary and wise suggestions of Sidi, so we could work on a final proposal.

The next day, the architects started to work in Autocad to revise the project and adapt the design to the proper scale, combining as much as possible the work of both groups. We also revised the budget, in order to decide the viability of the proposal. And because of that and also some small logistical issues (the fact that many parts of the plot are still in construction and there is a constant flow of material), we decided to plant half of the plants elected in the workshop, which corresponded to the main entrance of Hahatay and the areas which are already consolidated.

Therefore, we were at that point almost ready to start the joint action of Saturday, where we would plant the trees along with Gandiol’s community. We were so excited that Saturday finally arrived!

We will soon tell you how was it in the following news… See you then!