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Claire, an ecologist who cultivates her nature in Senegal

Kourientine. On the banks of the Gambia River (near the border with this country), about 500 kilometers south-east of Dakar. The village has 350 inhabitants, divided into five ethnic groups. Around, the bush, wildlife, especially monkeys, hippos too. In the village, a well where Claire Clément goes to collect her water every day, “because that of the river is not very drinkable”.

Medicinal plants and essential oils

This 39-year-old Burgundian has lived in Senegal for fifteen years: first in Tambacounda, when she worked for ten years as an ecologist (specialist who identifies, foresees and analyzes the impact of human activities on the environment) at the Boundou community nature reserve ; then, not far from there, in this village of Kourientine where only two or three other people speak French. She married Moussa, a farmer from the village.

Kourientine, in the south of Senegal, is a village of about 350 inhabitants (Pierre Cottens)

“I participate in the work in the banana plantation, the market gardening that we have created. I do a lot of experiments with medicinal plants, for food supplements. I initiated the production of essential oils based on mint, basil and a local plant, hyptis, a large aromatic herbaceous, wild, found everywhere. But here they don’t use it. And they don’t know about essential oils. I analyze the molecules to see if there are any contraindications ”.

I have always liked living in nature and I grew up in the bush in Burgundy!

Trained in ecology and beekeeping in Lyon, Paris, Montreal and Vesoul, in permaculture in Laval (Mayenne), Claire Clément chose this place to practice. And make a living. “I have always liked living in nature and I grew up in the bush in Burgundy! », Explains the young woman mischievously. With Myriam Cottens, her mother (and Pierre, Myriam’s husband), she created in Porspoder (29) the Nawari Kourientine association
en 2019, to help the inhabitants of this village. “Nawari” means “thank you” in Sarakolé, the language of this ethnic group of mainly Malian origin.

Claire, an ecologist who cultivates her nature in Senegal
Claire Clément, visiting her parents in Porspoder (29) (Le Télégramme / David Cormier)

Honey instead of bananas

The village chief welcomed her and allowed her to settle. He is a honey collector. “My main project is the beehives. He gave me part of his land, while there is speculation to plant bananas in this region, ”she says gratefully. “When I told him I wanted to make honey, he said: finally something different! », She smiles, aware however that she will not be able to live from it. She also benefits from the support of her in-laws, while her research bears fruit.

We see people in the fields with a cart and a smartphone. It’s amazing, this anachronism

Claire had to get used to the heat (“even though I would rather be too hot than too cold!”), Recalls that when she arrived, at the age of 24, there was no cellphone. “Today, in the village, I have the tablet, the SIM card. The flow is not very good, but… You can see people in the fields with a cart and a smartphone. It’s astonishing, this anachronism ”. As if he had missed a step or two in between.

Porspoder’s association has worked on different things there and recently launched a women’s house project, to help them better educate their children (there is a school recently), to develop activities, to promote health , to respect the environment…

Participatory prize pool to contribute to the action of Nawari Kourientine on