Fifty years ago a massive lagoon lay next to the village of Toubab Dialow. Today a small puddle gathers in the rainy season, but, come September, the land is dry and barren once again. Changes in vegetation and soil have destroyed the lagoon and, along with it, the community’s fishing industry.

A cooperative of women (and a few men) have taken it upon themselves to protect the community and the lagoon. Stopping individuals from building on the exposed land, they ensure that the area remain in the possession of all. Planting trees and laying rock lines to stop erosion and filter incoming waters, the group looks towards a time when the rains will fill the lagoon, more permanently, once again.

In the mean time dozens of women come to collect salt from the over-salinated earth. They scrape what crystallizes on the surface of the ground and sell it to ocean fishermen from other villages who use it to preserve their catch. This work provides a small income for the women. It also helps restore the area.

In the last few months, unfortunately, much of the revitalization work has paused as the Women’s Group seeks funding and support. However, coop members continue to reinvest their money in other services that increase the overall capacity of their community. The group runs a health insurance system and a school. In an attempt to tap into the small tourist market, women learn French and also make memorabilia items to sell to visitors.

Throughout most of Toubab Dialow residents can see and hear the Atlantic Ocean rolling against their shores. They await the return of fresher waters.