Cannabis cultivation, although prohibited in Senegal, is the main resource of some remote villages in Casamance. Cannabis use in Senegal remains a concern for the authorities, according to Matar Diop, Comptroller General of police and a member of the inter-ministerial committee for the fight against drugs. Casamance has laws against cannabis and the crops discovered there were destroyed.
Cannabis in Senegal provides a main resource for the country. The lost villages of Casamance in a remote corner of the country, at the mouth of the Casamance river, are only accessible by sneaking in a pirogue between the Karones, a patchwork of islands with banks covered with mangroves.
On one of these islands, at the end of a sandy track, the women of the village of Kouba are busy at the corner of the earthen houses. In the eyes of all, they separate the seeds from the hemp stalks and dry them on sheet metal roofs.
The Karoninka live from this culture, however, cannabis in Senegal is still strictly prohibited and is punishable by 10 years in prison.
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Cannabis in Senegal drives buyers to remote regions
“All these fields are reserved for cannabis,” said Gaston Diaba, the Mason of the village, pointing to a vast area with fenced plots on the edge of the houses, next to the rice fields.
“If you don’t grow cannabis, you can’t get out of it,” said his younger brother Philippe. “There are no roads to go to town to sell the vegetables, so we only grow them for food.”
The kilo of onions is barely sold for $0.77 versus $25 to $49 for cannabis. Cannabis income has flooded the islands from the 1970s.
For those who grow cannabis in Senegal, there’s no need to worry about delivery. Buyers come to get cannabis by canoe. The goods produced here help to supply the Senegalese market.
A neighbor stores several hundred kilos of brownish cannabis in his garage, packed in bundles.
“It’s worth millions of francs,” observed Philippe Diaba. “Cannabis funds the education of young people and the search for work outside the region.”
Officials destroy illegal cannabis in Senegal
Casamance, which is no stranger to the conflict waged from the early 1980s by separatists against the Senegalese central government, is conducive to trafficking.
To get there from Dakar, you have to cross or bypass another state: the Gambia. The journey through the labyrinth of the estuary is still long to the Karones Islands. The continuing conflict in Casamance provides additional cover.
The use of cannabis in Senegal remains a concern for the authorities, according to Matar Diop, Comptroller General of the police and a member of the inter-ministerial committee for the fight against drugs.
“Casamance is not a lawless zone. Illicit cannabis crops discovered there are being destroyed by the defense and security forces,” he reported.
The strategy used against cannabis in Senegal
Cheikh Touré, regional coordinator of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), praises Senegal as one of the good students in the fight against drugs in West Africa.
He calls for a strategic plan for the fight against drugs until 2020. According to UNODC, authorities seized 12.8 tons of cannabis in Senegal in 2017. Dakar signed an agreement with Gambia in 2018 to strengthen controls on their common border.
“The repressive actions of recent years send a strong message to networks and producers of cannabis in Senegal,” said Touré.
In Kouba, the villagers say they haven’t seen a policeman for ages. Victor Diatta, a sociologist and mayor of Kafountine, Kouba’s hometown, would like to see other activities emerge. The nearby heavenly beaches could attract many more tourists from abroad.
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First published in Le Monde, a third-party contributor translated and adapted the article from the original. In case of discrepancy, the original will prevail.
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