12° 51’ 20” N
12° 21’ 02” W
Mako is a village located in the Kedougou Region of Senegal. Traveling from Dakar you cross Senegal’s biggest National Park the Niokolo Koba National Park to reach Mako. The village of Mako adjoins the Gambia River and is connected by the National Road, N7.
The potential of 2600 people
Mako has a population of approximately 2600 people and has seen substantial growth in the last years due to its accessibility and the presence of a functioning secondary school. The predominant ethnic group in Mako is Pulaar Futa, followed by Malincké. More than 1000 children are currently enrolled in the primary or secondary school. The low literacy rate in Mako has only recently begun improving as the local schools are able to offer sufficient facilities and personnel for the students. However, some of the classrooms are sporadic bamboo sheds and classes are as large as 70 students per teacher.
Mako’s population is majority muslim and religious values as well as preyer time are strictly respected by large parts of the population. Polygamy is common and women tend to have many children, finding a women having given birth to ten children is nothing out of the ordinary here. Multiple generations of the same family live together in big complexes with multiple huts and concrete buildings, circled around a Mango tree that becomes the centre of life.
Gambia River and Red Earth
Mako is located in the Kedougou region in the South-East corner of Senegal, bordering Mali and Guinea. The mountainous region is considered the poorest and most underdeveloped region of Senegal. The poor road conditions in the national park that has to be crossed in order to reach the region is separating Kedougou for the rest of the country. Kedougou has a particularly long rainy season (June - October) and a particularly hot season with temperatures way above 40° Celsius. Live in the Kedougou region evolves around the Gambia River, the stream provides water and fresh fish to many communities. Mako is located on the shores of the Gambia River and all kinds of people gather on the river banks to wash their cloths, bath, fish or fetch water. The Kedougou region can be characterised by the red earth of volcanic origin. The fertile soil and heavy rains during the rainy season create a jungle like forest in the hills of the region that is home to many different animal and plant species.
Pulaar, Malincké, Bassarie
Pulaar is the largest ethnic group in the Kedougou region as well as in Mako and the most spoken language. Pulaar people are generally characterised as easy going and very welcoming; “Teranga” - Hospitality- is taken very seriously here and you can always count on the help of strangers here. It is common to take the time for an elaborated greeting and long handshake. The Pulaar hold up their traditional values with pride and cultural ceremonies are taken very seriously. Preparations for a wedding or a baptism often start days in advance and the whole village is invited to these events. Islam plays a big role and religious representatives still take on important roles in the village politics. Traditionally, the Pulaar are a nomadic pastoral community and spread out across Westafrica. Besides raising livestock they have been practising agriculture for centuries and until today corn and peanut crops play a central role for the community as a source of income and main diet. Besides peanuts and corn, imported as well as locally grown rice is an important stable food. The peanut sauce “Maffé” as well as Kossan, a fermented yoghurt are traditional dishes. Next to the Pulaar the Malincké are the second largest ethnic group in Mako, they have their own language, but most of them know Pulaar. In the surrounding village the Bassarie people are found. Bassarie is a Christian minority and for long they were persecuted by other ethnic groups and have therefore established small village communities on the surrounding mountain tops. The Persecution has long ended and Senegal is an example of peaceful cohabitation of different religions, as any Christian is invited to participate in their muslim ceremonies and vice versa.
Agriculture and Gold
The unofficial outweighs the official economy in Mako. You rarely find documentation over provided services or sold goods, this is largely due to the high illiteracy rate as well as the little influence the central government has on the region. Traditionally large parts of the population have practiced agriculture as a main source of income and in that way provided for themselves. Besides peanuts, rice and corn, mangos and papayas are locally grown and sold to the more populous regions by the coast. Next to famers you can find a lot of small business in Mako, a couple of tailors, shopkeepers, metal workers and brickmakers in Mako, Women sell locally grown vegetables on the market every Saturday. In recent years international cooperation have discovered large gold reserves in the region and also close to Mako. Many men have since started working for the goldmine or decided to search with metal detectors for gold themselves.