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Microfinance in Saint-Louis, Senegal: The Impact of Heterogeneous Values, Norms, and Expectations Among Interdependent Agents

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By volunteering with a microfinance program in the historic coastal town of Saint-Louis, Senegal in the fall of 2016, I became embedded within the Senegalese culture and gained a unique

By volunteering with a microfinance program in the historic coastal town of Saint-Louis, Senegal in the fall of 2016, I became embedded within the Senegalese culture and gained a unique perspective on the loan process. Coordinated by the for-profit organization, Projects Abroad, the microfinance office aimed to help women and Talibés (young men studying the Quran) gain financial independence through small-scale sustainable entrepreneurship while simultaneously providing its volunteers with meaningful experiences.

The purpose of my thesis is to examine the interactions among the Senegalese staff, international volunteers, and Senegalese loan participants, and the ways in which their constantly evolving reactionary relationships impacted the program. The paper provides a context of Saint-Louis, Senegal as well as the Projects Abroad Organization and outlines the loan process prior to examining the daily activities of the program. I highlight important factors such as religion, education, gender roles, and saving techniques in order to show how juxtaposing values and traditions played key roles in the program’s evolution. Ultimately, I argue that the heterogeneity of values, norms, and expectations among those participating in the program created both obstacles and opportunities for program implementation and the ways in which to gauge its success.

By sharing my personal observations and experiences, I hope to provide the reader with a greater understanding of the complexities of intercultural communication in the microfinance arena. In the words of the American economist and philosopher Tyler Cowen, “Real cultural diversity results from the interchange of ideas, products, and influences, not from the insular development of a single national style.”

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  • 2017-05

Adding a Soil Fertility Dimension to Locust and Grasshopper Management, a Case Study in West Africa

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In Senegal, West Africa, soils are a vital resource for livelihoods and food security in smallholder farming communities. Low nitrogen (N) soils pose obvious challenges for crop production but may

In Senegal, West Africa, soils are a vital resource for livelihoods and food security in smallholder farming communities. Low nitrogen (N) soils pose obvious challenges for crop production but may also, counterintuitively, promote the abundance of agricultural pests like the Senegalese locust, Oedaleus senegalensis. In this study I investigated how the abundance of locusts and grasshoppers are impacted by soil fertility through plant nutrients and how these variables change across land use types. We worked in two rural farming villages in the Kaffrine region of Senegal. Overall, there was little variation in soil properties and an agricultural landscape low in soil organic matter (SOM) and inorganic soil nitrogen. I corroborated that SOM is a significant driver of soil inorganic N, which had a positive relationship to plant N content. Of the management practices we surveyed, fallowing fields was important for soil nutrient restoration and years spent fallow was significantly correlated to inorganic soil N and SOM. O. senegalensis was least abundant in groundnut areas where plant N was highest. Additionally, I found a significant negative correlation between O. senegalensis abundance and plant N, suggesting that plant nutrients are an important driver of their populations. Grasshoppers, excluding O. senegalensis, were more numerous in grazing areas and fallow areas, perhaps due to a higher diversity of ecological niches and host plants. These results connect land use, soil, and vegetation to herbivores and suggest that improving soil fertility could be used as an alternative to pesticides to keep locusts at bay and improve crop yields.

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  • 2018-04-10