Sustainable Livelihoods for 38 Talibes in Senegal

by Aspyre Africa
Sustainable Livelihoods for 38 Talibes in Senegal
Sustainable Livelihoods for 38 Talibes in Senegal
Sustainable Livelihoods for 38 Talibes in Senegal
Sustainable Livelihoods for 38 Talibes in Senegal
Sustainable Livelihoods for 38 Talibes in Senegal
Sustainable Livelihoods for 38 Talibes in Senegal
Sustainable Livelihoods for 38 Talibes in Senegal
Sustainable Livelihoods for 38 Talibes in Senegal
Sustainable Livelihoods for 38 Talibes in Senegal
Sustainable Livelihoods for 38 Talibes in Senegal

As our second cohort of talibés is well underway with their training and on the road to success, we wanted to give you a quick update on how things are going.  While the course started off with literacy classes, market gardening and fruit growing were quickly added to their training schedule. The course also included a number of field visits, which the trainees thoroughly enjoyed.   

In the words of their group spokesman Boukhary: “We are really starting to master things. We can measure and prepare the land, we can do it all now. It’s going really well. The breakfasts provided have been a great help. We can make it to training on time without having to worry in the morning. The individual follow up to make sure we don’t miss classes and the individual calls to make sure we are ok, have truly motivated us to continue the training, which we really hope to finish. I think that in the future, we can become successful farmers, even if we don’t run big companies. We will be better off and will be able to provide for our families and ourselves in the future. I believe that if there is continued support in place, we stand a better chance of succeeding.”

In the words of their course supervisor Mr Ndione: “This training has offered them a real opportunity to integrate the work environment by providing them with a formal training. It is not always straightforward for us as we have to adapt the content to their level. Through a skills-based approach however we are able to teach them all they need to know through demonstrations and practice, rather than theory. We are teaching them to learn by doing! In regard to their commitment, they are truly diligent. The breakfasts and individual follow-up have been determining factors here. I would like to seize this opportunity to ask Aspyre Africa and its supporters to make sure we can continue to support these talibés all the way to secure livelihoods. Training is most important, but the road doesn’t end there. Many of them have opportunities to develop income generating activities in their villages, and we need to make sure they can do that.” 

Since our last report we have also made great progress in securing key partnerships that will allow us to scale up our work and contribute to systemic change. We should be able to share more details with you very soon. In the meantime however we wanted to let you know that our next GlobalGiving campaign will be a 24 hours ONLY event for #GivingTuesday, a day that encourages people to do good. So stay tuned and mark the 30th November in your diary.

Thank you for your trust and your continued support! 

With warm wishes,

The Aspyre Africa team

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Nafi & our partner, his students (& his daughters)
Nafi & our partner, his students (& his daughters)

First of all, a big thank you to all of you who donated to our March “Little by Little” Campaign! Thanks to your generous support we exceeded our target for the campaign and raised a total of £1,887.  Every little helped!

We are thrilled to report that the next cohort of 20 talibes have now been enrolled and have started their training in horticulture at the CIPA training centre! As the long-awaited funding from the USAID Feed the Future programme “Youth in Agriculture” reached the CIPA, Aspyre Africa was able to start the recruitment process. Thanks to your support, these 20 young men, in addition to getting a technical training, will receive: 

  • social support and guidance throughout their training, 
  • nutritious breakfasts to sustain them throughout the training
  • individual follow up to plan their future (self)employment

This is the feedback we just received from the “spokesperson” of the new cohort:

“The training is going really well, and we are learning a lot. We are all doing our very best, respecting the timetable and making sure we don’t miss any classes. Everything is just as you promised, including the breakfasts! We know it wasn’t easy to provide us with this training, and it is really up to us now to respect our own engagements. To do everything we can to succeed. This training will allow us to have a job. And if our wishes come true… tomorrow we will be cultivating our own land and maybe even teach others what we have learned.”


On the 25th February, after a year without traveling, I was delighted to be back on my way to Senegal. I was relieved to see that COVID-19 did not have the same devastating impact there as it did back home. Life was pretty much back to normal, apart from the masks and practical hygiene measures. It was a joy to be reunited with the CIPA team and to be able to catch up with our beneficiaries. Our follow up and integration officer Nafi had done a great job keeping in touch with all of them, despite distances and restrictions. Without any delays we started making plans to make my 2-month visit most productive. 

Our plans however were soon to be put on hold by tragic events. Following the arrest of a political opposition leader, unprecedented violent protests erupted throughout Senegal, which resulted in the loss of 6 lives. Saint-Louis was not spared and we could see the smoke from the CIPA centre where I was staying. For an entire week we did not venture out and hoped for a quick and peaceful resolution to the situation. Although things calmed down, the message to the authorities was clear. Many of the protesters were disillusioned young people who don’t see a future for themselves in their own country… The government would soon react by launching an “emergency plan” for youth employment. 

While this outcome was music to our ears, we know very well that funding alone cannot solve complex problems and structural inequalities. With our pilot projects, it has always been our aim to develop good practice and find sustainable solutions.  With our GlobalGiving project empowering talibes to secure their future, we are testing the best ways to overcome the barriers that have prevented talibes from accessing quality vocational training and accessing skilled (self)employment.

Someone recently asked me what it is that we actually do when we are out there in Senegal. I thought it would be nice to touch on this issue on this occasion.


Everything we do starts at the bottom. Our most important task is to listen. As soon as I had reached Saint-Louis Nafi and I visited the Koranic Teachers with whom we had already established trusting relationships over the years. We presented the project but also explained our long-term vision. We answered their questions, but most importantly we listened to their concerns: Would the training interfere with their religious education? Would all costs be covered? Would there be help to support them after the training? What was the motivation of the funders? Building on the trust we had already established, we were able to mobilise their support. Convinced of the need for their talibes to access such training, they helped us spread the word and mobilized other Koranic Teachers. This was a real success for us as it happened at a time when many Koranic teachers of Saint-Louis were simply refusing to engage with NGO’s, following the participation of many of them in a forceful “return of talibes to their villages” justified by COVID-19. 

The whole recruitment process of the 20 talibes would be done in the same manner: by meeting all the Koranic teachers in person and meeting the candidates one by one in their daaras. We listened to their aspirations and concerns. We were able to secure their trust in us and the project. Following a visit to the CIPA centre and motivational interviews, we ultimately selected the 20 best candidates based on objective criteria (age, origin, availability and motivation). 

On the 20th April the celebration of the “National Day of the Talibe” by the Federation of the daaras (Koranic Schools) of Saint-Louis” took place at the CIPA training centre. The fact that they chose the CIPA centre for this particular occasion was another achievement. It showed that the time Nafi and I had spent with the Koranic teachers had truly helped to break down the barriers and build a bridge between educational systems that have struggled to connect. The Koranic teachers took the opportunity to express their gratitude for the work done so far and the excellent collaboration. A government representative at the event confessed that the CIPA and Aspyre Africa had succeeded where others had failed before. For us this felt like a true milestone…The CIPA centre and the Association of daaras have since signed a memorandum of understanding to facilitate the recruitment and follow up of talibes. 


It remains Aspyre Africa’s mission however to make quality vocational training and decent work accessible to every disadvantaged young person in Senegal. While we continue to do this through the implementation of pilot projects (bottom-up), which help us develop and refine our model of services, we are also committed to tackling the issue from the top down. We aim to do this by developing key partnerships at the national level. During this visit we met with representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Vocational Training, the Government Fund for Vocational Training (3FPT), the DER, Luxembourg Development, GFA (GIZ) and USAID to explore opportunities for collaborations and strategic partnerships.  We strongly believe that only by tackling the issue both from the grassroots (bottom-up) as from the strategic (top-down) level can we hope to change the “system” that has prevented many young people from accessing the education and support they deserve. 

We hope you will continue to join us on this ambitious journey! 

To find out more about Aspyre Africa’s strategic plan make sure to follow us on Linkedin

To see the latest pictures from our beneficiaries and updates from the Aspyre Africa team, make sure to follow us on Instagram or Facebook

Talibes in training at the CIPA
Talibes in training at the CIPA
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Dear Aspyre Africa supporter,

I hope you are well and keeping safe! Here are the latest updates both from the field and the Aspyre Africa (virtual) office: 


With the COVID19 figures on the rise in Saint-Louis, many of our beneficiaries, who went back to their (often remote) home villages to help out with the seasonal harvest, chose to extend their stays and support their families a little longer.

Here are some of the whatsapp messages we received from the young people whose training and integration YOU helped fund: 

“The training I received at the CIPA vocational training centre thanks to ASPYRE AFRICA has truly served me well. This season, I’ve supported my family to cultivate peanuts, millet, maize and local beans in our village in the department of Dagana. I will soon be returning to Saint Louis to take care of our chicken coop.” Mbodji

“This is a picture of me in my family’s rice fields. Sadly, the harvest this year isn’t very good. We usually harvest about 100 bags of paddy rice, but this year we only have 60. We are not sure what the cause is. Perhaps the heavy rains…On the other hand, we will have plenty of fodder to feed our flock of sheep, so that will be good.” Abdoulaye

Meanwhile, on the outskirts of Saint-Louis, Ndeye sent us the following update: 

“On my plot, I am currently growing lettuce and mint  until I secure further funding to start growing onions and other more profitable crops.” Ndeye 


Nafi, our ASPYRE AFRICA  follow-up and integration officer, has been advising and supporting all our graduates to face the ever-changing context, keeping up to date with job and funding opportunities in and around Saint-Louis.

“While there are many funding opportunities available for young entrepreneurs in Senegal  these days, the competition is fierce and the processes are very slow. In addition, with the pandemic, everything seems to have been put on hold. This illustrates more than ever the need for us to be able to offer these young people quick and flexible support, so they can advance in their income generating activities.“ Nafi


It has been very frustrating not to be able to spend as much time in Senegal as planned in the past year. After postponing my flight to Senegal once, (COVID19 permitting) I will be on my way to Saint-Louis at the end of this month. The plan is to stay in Senegal for two months to launch our new projects and mobilise the support we need to implement our NEW STRATEGIC PLAN (more details to follow soon). I can’t wait!


Are you already following us on social media? We are on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin, so make sure to follow us if you want to hear our latest news. 


Last but not least, if you have been thinking of making another donation to Aspyre Africa, please note that we are enrolled in the GlobalGiving LITTLE BY LITTLE CAMPAIGN taking place from 8-12 March 2021. This means that your donation up to $50 will be matched by GlobalGiving by 50%! New monthly donations set up during that week will be eligible for 2 matches: the immediate 50% Little by Little match (up to $50) and a one-time 100% match (up to $200) (as long as the new monthly donation remains active for a minimum of four payments).  So make sure to put the date in your diary. Thank you!

Warm wishes and please stay safe, 


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Dear Friend,

I can imagine that by now we have all experienced or witnessed the devastating consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, whether through the loss of a loved one, our income or the social contacts & activities essential to our mental health and well-being. But while Europe is facing new lockdowns, Senegal has been hailed as a success story. If the number of cases is relatively low, the negative social and economic impact of the measures is, like everywhere else, considerable.

“I was put on furlough with no income.  With no other job opportunities in Dakar whatsoever, I decided to come back to my hometown Saint-Louis, to be close to my family and support them through these difficult times. But there is no work here either. We are truly struggling to get by.” says one of our former beneficiaries, who was working full-time at one of Dakar’s most prestigious hotels. 

During the lockdown, talibes were not allowed to leave their daaras. While the older boys could no longer earn money to pay for their food, the younger ones couldn’t visit the families who usually feed them. “It was a real struggle” says one talibe “we were very lucky our neighbours were so kind to share their food with us.” As they were stuck in often-overcrowded living conditions with a lack of sanitation, it was almost impossible to implement social distancing and hygiene recommendations. As COVID fears intensified, talibes also became prime targets and stigmatised as potential "super-spreaders".

But as one Koranic teacher told us: “Nothing justified the way some people forcefully removed talibes from their daaras. Children were taken against their will, and packed into a room, before being transported back to their villages. On one occasion I witnessed them beating the children, so I had to call the police.”

If dealing with the pandemic and the measures in place wasn't enough, on the 5th September, Senegal suffered severe flooding due to an “exceptional” rainfall (more than what the country would usually experience during the whole rainy season). Many daaras were inundated, exposing the talibes to further challenges and health risks. 

With the end of the rainy season now in sight and the relaxation of the COVID measures, people dare to be hopeful. Many of our (cohort 1) talibes, who voluntarily returned to their villages to help out their families with the seasonal crops, are looking forward to coming back and starting their second batch of chickens. Cohort 2 should be recruited to start their training as soon as the CIPA centre is once again fully operational. Even though we are feeling optimistic about the future, and have faith in the resilience of our beneficiaries, many are currently in dire need. I hope we can count on your continued support to help them weather this storm. 

Please look after yourself and your loved ones. Stay safe.

With warm wishes,

The Aspyre Africa Team

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Dear Friend,

We hope this message finds you and your family well in these most challenging of times. Few of us could have imagined the extent to which COVID-19 would affect our lives and the world around us.

Just like the rest of the world, Senegal has been heavily impacted by the pandemic. While the virus initially appeared to have been effectively suppressed thanks to the prompt response of the Senegalese government, cases have steadily risen in recent days. With 5,173 confirmed cases and 64 deaths, there are fears that Senegal has not yet reached its peak. The country remains in a state of emergency as it battles a host of health, social and economic challenges posed by COVID-19.

In recent days, the IMF has cut Senegal’s 2020 economic growth forecast to 1.1% from a 3% estimate in April. In a country where over 40% of its population currently live below the poverty threshold, and where social safety nets are quasi inexistent for anyone working in the informal sector (97% of enterprises), the impact of the pandemic on people’s livelihoods has been devastating. In addition, with 42% of total loss of activity, Saint-Louis (where we currently work) also ranks amongst the regions most affected in Senegal.

Our chicken-rearing project

The first official case of COVID-19 was diagnosed on March 2, after which the government undertook gradual response measures, including a curfew and a travel ban between regions. Needless to say, our fears for the project grew as measures were tightened. With schools and restaurants closed, and gatherings cancelled, the market for the sale of chickens shrunk overnight and competition rocketed. Even for already established and successful entrepreneurs, the context became seriously challenging.

Our talibés however were determined not to lower their expectations. They had done an excellent job rearing their 350 chickens, which were large and of great quality. Their product could handle a little competition. They therefore decided to stick to the standard price and avoid selling in bulk at reduced prices. Despite the restricting measures in place, the CIPA team continued to support them and did a fantastic job.  They mobilized all their contacts but also provided a freezer, which allowed the talibes to extend their sales period. Many of our Saint-Louis- based friends and contacts also showed their support by placing orders. In light of current circumstances, the end result of this project was a real triumph as they:  

  • managed to sell out without lowering their price;
  • secured all the funds needed for the next batch of chicks;
  • shared a small part of the profit to cover their urgent needs;
  • still managed to put aside a considerable amount of savings.

 “For me this first income generating project for talibes was very important, because it helped them understand the limits of their knowledge, learn by doing and strengthen their skills. Many of them have put a lot of hope in this project. And this is just the beginning… if all goes well, this will be a great success, and a glimmer of hope for talibes, as they realize they too have an oportunity to succeed in life and become economically independent. The success of this project will also give Koranic teachers confidence to guide their talibés towards vocational training, while the talibes will be able to enrol, knowing they have the same chances to succeed as any other young people their age.” Nafi (CIPA Training Centre)

While everything was technically in place to move forward with the next batch of chicks, the current crisis has posed a range of challenges. As such, the talibes are now planning to commence the second batch in July. The chicken coop of the CIPA is reserved for them, as well as a small plot of land adjacent to the coop, where they will start horticulture activities to expand their income generating activities. We are most grateful for our partners at the CIPA Centre, who have and continue to go above and beyond the call of duty.

Next Cohort (CIPA/USAID project) & Aspyre Africa Strategy

Meanwhile, the recruitment of the next cohort was again delayed due to additional administrative requirements from USAID, as well as the closure of the CIPA centre. Given the rapidly changing context and the new challenges that the pandemic poses, the next pilot project is more crucial than ever. As forecasts predict a sharp fall in economic growth, there are real worries that existing problems of inequality will be exacerbated. Since the start of the crisis, 89% of the population who were educated in a Daara (same % as those who did not receive any education) experienced a drop in income, compared with 68% for those who pursued graduate studies.

While it would be tempting in times of crisis to focus on “emergency support”, Aspyre Africa has always been committed to “systems change” through the introduction of long-term sustainable solutions. Our projects aim to pave the way to make quality vocational training more accessible. We want to make sure the most vulnerable young people in society, as well as the services that support them, remain resilient in the face of any crisis ahead.

Thank you for your continued support.

Stay safe and healthy,

Warm wishes,

The Aspyre Africa Team

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Organization Information

Aspyre Africa

Location: London - United Kingdom
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @AspyreAfrica
Project Leader:
Savina Geerinckx
London, United Kingdom
$14,413 raised of $23,500 goal
219 donations
$9,087 to go
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