Volunteer examines oyster lines in mangrove forest
When Shinichi Mori was working on the Tokyo Grain Exchange he probably never thought he would end up in the mangrove forests of Senegal in West Africa via an interest in bee keeping.
But the 34-year-old Tokyo resident followed that unlikely trajectory and is currently at work as a JOCV volunteer living and working with villagers among Senegal's delta mangrove forests improving their bee keeping skills, the harvesting of oysters and other rural development activities.
Senegal has around 200 square kilometers of mangrove forests in its southern delta region, spilling over into the neighboring state of Gambia.
But 20% of all global wetlands have already been destroyed, the world's remaining 40 million acres of mangrove forests are under threat because of increasing human exploitation and climate change and the livelihood of millions of people dependent on the forests is at risk.
In a 2005-8 project, JICA dispatched Japanese experts to the region and local officials received training in Japan in an effort to stabilize the disappearing forests.
Mori's activities built on that project to encourage the sustainable development of the region.
After graduating from Wasada University with a degree in international business, he became interested in bee keeping and then reforestation after he attended a festival in Tokyo's famed Ginza district promoting honey.
Shortly afterwards he was en route to West Africa as a volunteer. The villages of the Saloum delta had seen their livelihoods quickly slipping away as the surrounding mangroves were slashed, often by the villagers themselves seeking quick profit or just survival from the forests, according to Ibrahima Diouf from the village of Sangako.
The way back has been slow and painful. Splashing through the forests on foot at low tide the villager and his Japanese colleague inspect a clutch of beehives underneath the trees.
Volunteer and villager examine bee hives
The volunteer has introduced improved methods of honey production which is increasing the income of the village.
In another stretch of mangrove reached by local canoe the two inspect strings of oysters strung from low hanging branches.
Diouf said the village produces salt, peanuts, millet, beans and other vegetables but the oysters and the honey have become its main source of revenue.
Because of its special taste derived from the mangroves, the locally produced L'Or de Saloum (the gold of saloum) honey fetches premium prices in the capital of Dakar.
"These activities are helping us to again put food on the table for our children," Diouf said.