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© Ingeborg Pint
© Ingeborg Pint

The 20th anniversary of the Naturefriends House Petit Mbao, Senegal – a colourful and cheerful celebration against an alarming background

by Ingeborg Pint

Senegalese Naturefriends and partners, including a high-level representative of the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature), a small group of Naturefriends from Germany and Austria, six "false lions", a group of drummers from the village, a delegation of the "Women of Kamb" and a colourfully dressed women's group "Mbao Force" celebrated together the 20th anniversary of the opening of the Naturefriends House "Maison des Amis de la Nature Alioune Diagne Mbor". It was not big event, but a colourful and cheerful celebration. 

A speech by Mamadou Diallo, Secretary General of ASAN (Association sénégalaise des Amis de la Nature), opened the celebration. He recalled 28 January 2004, the day of the official opening of the house, which had been preceded by a two-year construction process, and all the personalities who were present at that opening event, representing all those who had made the construction of the house possible: the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and many donors from Friends of Nature organisations all over the world.

In his message of greetings, Herbert Brückner, Honorary President of Naturefriends International (NFI) and then their President, not only looked back on the important role of Alioune Diagne Mbor and Michèle Davieau, but above all emphasised the current goals of the international Naturefriends family – climate justice as a major task and the "obligation of industrialised countries to assume costs and responsibility for past environmental damage". Manfred Pils, current President of NFI, referred in his message to the importance of the house as an infrastructure for seminars, training courses, environmental education, etc.

@ Ingeborg Pint
Ingeborg Pint reads the messages of greetings (© Mamadou Mbodji)


Many travel groups have used the Naturefriends House as a starting point for explorations in and around Dakar and for round trips in Senegal and The Gambia. I was delighted to be able to take part in the celebration with my 30th group. 

With their performances, the women of the "Mbao Force" dance group also expressed their gratitude for the fact that their children were repeatedly invited to the house for summer environmental courses – an important pillar of ASAN's work and a sign that the house is well integrated into the village. 

© Mamadou Mbodji
The women of the "Mbao Force" dance group (Foto: Mamadou Mbodji)


The "false lions" also came from the neighbourhood – this show is one of Senegal's great and popular folk attractions. The house also had special significance as a base for the NFI Presidents' Conference in 2011 and for the Landscape of the Year 2018/2019 Senegal-The Gambia.

@ Ingeborg Pint
Ingeborg Pint, a "false lion" and Mamadou Diallo (© Mamadou Mbodji)


However, the celebration also took place against an alarming background: Senegal is one of the African countries most affected by climate change, and the grounds of the Naturefriends House fell victim to catastrophic flooding, with water seeping into the ground-level premises of the house. The fact that the suburbs of Dakar are becoming increasingly urbanised has also contributed to this situation. The green spaces that originally surrounded the Maison des Amis de la Nature have had to give way to massive urbanisation, so that rainfall can no longer infiltrate the soil but runs off at the surface. 

Thanks to generous donations the damage in the house and on the forecourt could be repaired and the house is fully functional. Unfortunately, the area behind the house has also been badly affected by the massive ingress of water and the bungalows are unusable. The tree nursery and the "shade house" have fallen victim to the water. The plan is to build a pond and pump out the water from there. The funding for this is not yet available, nor for a photovoltaic system that would make the house independent of the enormously expensive electricity from the grid. Such a system would also fulfil a long-cherished wish of ASAN: to turn the house into an ecological model house. The PV system would supply the house with clean energy, which is particularly important in times of climate change.

Despite all the difficulties and with many thanks to their European friends, the Senegalese Naturefriends look to the future with confidence. Thanks are also due to them, who have made unforgettable experiences possible for us Europeans for 20 years now.

A report on the trip to the Landscape of the Year in January 2024 by Ansgar Drücker can be found in our tourism_LOG: