Voluntary drains clean-up in Grand-Yoff!


In the neighbourhood of Dakar where the brothers live, drains were built a few years ago to dispose of the rainwater which regularly floods the streets, the yards, and often the basements of houses. These drains are covered by heavy paving stones, with gaps in between. Over the months, these fill up with sand and with all the rubbish thrown in – and so the drains become useless.

Of course, the council staff should take care of the maintenance, but for the moment nothing is happening and the rainy season is approaching. Last year, we narrowly avoided a catastrophe, and it could be worse this year. Something really must be done, but what?

Mobilising the neighbourhood is no easy task: people expect the “public services” to do everything. In this urban society of displaced people, solidarity and the general interest are rarely found values, but we are starting to talk to the young people. Some react well, so we shall at least try.

One Saturday morning, a brother, with two or three young people, starts work. They remain the only ones working on the few lengths of drain that have been cleared. There is no “training effect”…

On the Sunday morning, work recommences … and, suddenly, everything gets going. A dance hall DJ turns his sound system on full blast; young people come along; more spades have to be bought. Paving stones fly off; mud gushes out on all sides; rubbish and sand end up on the road. In a few hours the district is clear, the drains are clean, the paving stones are back in place, and the piles of debris are steaming.

It worked! We can breathe; and the rains can come ... !

Last updated: 27 July 2007