One of the first things that I learned about my village of Mako was that the Gambie river flows right through the middle of it. I grew up in Richmond, Virginia where we call ourselves “The River City”, so I was beyond excited to have a river in my new home because it would feel like home. Upon arriving to my community the river became a huge part of my life. The women bath, clean dishes, and fish at the river and then bring the water back to their compounds to cook, clean, or water plants. Without that river life would be very frusturating and a lot less fun for women. It would mean 4 or 5 trips to the water pump every day, which for my family is not close to our compound. It was also be a lot less fun. One of the best parts of my day is going to river and bathing or washing clothes with my sisters and seeing all the women from the neighborhood laughing and gossiping. I have also discovered that there is a British gold mining company in Mako called Toro Gold that plans on polluting the river, so that nobody will be able to use river, specficially for fishing and washing lettuce and other vegetables. This not only endangers the health of the people who depend on the river for fish, but it also endangers the hippos that live in the river. This also doesn’t just effect Mako, it effects the whole river.
What angers me most about this situation is that how much Toro Gold is exploting the people. They explained to the village elders what was going to happen to river, but promised to buy them a new health post, books for the school, new pumps, help them bring electricty to the village, and that they would be providing jobs to the people of Mako. When I talked to my Senegalese mom about this she said “si a jogake nyeri e goto okima nyeri a namay, ka?” or “if you don’t have food and someone gives you food then you eat it, right?” She is right. This company is exploting people who feel helpless. They understand how bad this is for their environment and how it will effect their lives, but they also need and want new books, a better health post, and of course jobs. Who am I to deny them all these things that they need, when in a few weeks I will be going to back into a world of extreme privilege, but who is this company that knows better than to destroy the environment and pollute an essential river.
Throughout this year I have thought a lot about foreign aid. I have seen some very influential and important foreign aid, such as Toastan, which is trying to stop female circumcision. Toastan employs a lot of Senegalese women and I have seen how is empowers women to break down many of the gender barriers that hurt Senegalese society, but Toro Gold is not foreign aid. This is foreign exploitation. This is something that would have happened during colonialism. I assumed that everyone wanted to help poorer countries improve and become a bigger part of the world’s economy, but how can they do that when other countries are coming in and stealing their resources. What if Senegal could pocket the billions of dollars that is expected to come from this gold mine? What if developed countries took the responsibility to respect environments and help development economies of less developed countries?