From Raleigh to Djilor: Dannica Wall and Poultry Farming in Senegal

WRITTEN BY Jennifer Terlouw,

On January 17th, CALS SAIGE was able to host NCSU Poultry Science PhD student Dannica Wall for an eye-opening presentation on her time spent in Djilor, Senegal. Wall was sent abroad through Farmer to Farmer, a USAID-funded program that seeks to increase agricultural productivity, sustainable farming practices, and strengthen existing institutions. Farmer to Farmer offers opportunities for outreach in over 30 countries, with experiences available on every continent except for Australia. The US-based NGO, Winrock International, provided the connections necessary to facilitate Dannica’s work in Senegal.

Wall reports that preparation is key when applying for programs like Farmer to Farmer and the application involves communication across professors, employers, and applicants. An international trip, even for a short time commitment, requires up-to-date important documents such as a passport and sometimes vaccine records that include the required vaccines for travelling to the specific country your program will take place in. Wall also related that, specifically in travelling to Senegal, she had to acquire a supply of insect repellent and sunscreen to take with her to prevent any foreseeable complications to her trip as she worked outdoors.

Wall and Djilor poultry farmers outside of a broiler house.

Wall’s 17-day trip required 4 days of travel, altogether, which she described as sometimes frightening and frustrating, given the length of plane travel and the unfamiliarity of making the long journey. Ultimately, she landed in Dakar as planned, and moved on to the registration process that would precede her program in the town of Djilor. During that registration period, Wall met with a host of poultry professionals from the area, VTC administrators, and school staff to ensure that her training materials would fit the needs of the community she would be working with.

On arrival in Djilor, Wall noticed a few significant issues for Djilor poultry farmers that she hadn’t previously anticipated. Tall grass around the broiler houses, which house, at maximum, 75 broiler hens, allowed for snakes to hide and pose a risk to farmer and animal safety. Very high temperatures during the day also required farmers to keep broiler house temperatures closely regulated to avoid losing animals to the heat or related illnesses. Other issues like ventilation and air quality as well as drinker and feed organization posed even more problems for the farmers to retain healthy stock. Wall was able to build up a dialogue with farmers, which took time, but ultimately resulted in the establishment of better practices, improving on the existing systems in place. For example, farmers became more conscious of throwing away poultry feed that had become contaminated by mice, which could potentially spread illness to the flock.

Wall and Djilor farmers examine the inside of the broiler house.

Even in the face of tackling the tougher issues, however, Wall was able to learn a lot about Senegal’s poultry industry through her time immersed in the Djilor poultry farming community. At the weekly Tuesday market, farmers could buy, trade, or barter for birds to stock farms and if farmers needed initial stock to get their farms started, Sedima, a Senegal poultry firm, would provide birds to them.

Outside of her work in Djilor, Wall used a small amount of her free time to explore Senegal. She was able to visit Gorée Island, known for a historical tie to the slave trade, where she visited the Maison des Esclaves; a museum built to document the island’s history from the 15th to the 19th century. Wall also made sure to sample local cuisine at every opportunity, learning that Senegal’s meals usually consisted of rice, paired with a flavorful meat or vegetable dish, which was shared in one large serving between all participants in the meal.

Wall and Djilor farmers engaged in discussion about feed storage.

Wall’s takeaways from her rewarding trip were that she was able to educate others while being educated herself, building new relationships with international farmers is essential to the sustainability and progress of agriculture, and she saw firsthand that her developed training curriculum made an impact. Wall was able to build trust with the community in Djilor and better understand their farming practices and the challenges they had to work with. That understanding was a necessity to developing the best trainings for building long-term improvement in Djilor’s poultry farming community.

Wall keeps in touch with several of the farmers from the program, keeping a long-lasting connection to the Djilor community even after the end of her visit.

If you are interested in learning more about international agriculture opportunities, CALS SAIGE is hosting Carlos Iglesias, the new Director of the Plant Breeding Consortium at NC State, to speak on his experiences abroad. The seminar will be held on Friday, February 21st, at 1:00 P.M. in 2405 Williams Hall.