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Near the Atlantic at Dakar’s harbour, STARS meets

Team STARS at the Atlantic

Me and my three colleagues from CIMMYT-Bangladesh started our journey from Dhaka to Dakar, Senegal on Saturday, October 10, 2015. It was really a long way and we reached Senegal on Sunday noon. Well, we were lucky about the weather as it was like Bangladesh. So, on the way towards the hotel from the airport, everything of Dakar and especially the mighty Atlantic delighted us. We already knew that the hotel booked for us was just at the shore of the Atlantic and we were very much excited. Among four two of us were lucky to get rooms facing the Atlantic. Later we came to know it was chosen randomly and I should be thankful to my luck because of the five nights I stayed at Dakar spellbound by the calming sound and rhythm of the splashing waves.

Sunset and the beautiful splashing waves of the mighty Atlantic

At the day of arrival, there was an ice breaker in the evening and I a m very thankful to the organizers for that because it not only broke the lags of a long travel but also bonded us together. It was a lovely evening with tech talks and simple chatting with each other and at the end nobody was a stranger to others. In addition we were also served with the traditional food and drinks like the famous Baoba juice, various types of kebabs and I was pretty sure that the upcoming days at Dakar were going to be delightful.

On October 12, the workshop started with a programme briefing by our coordinator Chiel. For me and my colleagues, day 1 and 2 were busy days. The days were dedicated to field data collection and UAV relevant themes. Almost everything we have done for STARS in Bangladesh was demonstrated, which clearly touched on all components from work flows, issues and challenges; data collection and analysis and advocacy for future plans for STARS. We also enjoyed beautiful themed presentations from the other STARS partners. However day 1 and 2 didn’t end up with these only but we had some fun also. At the end of day 1, we, the team CIMMYT from Mexico and Bangladesh went together for a dinner outside. We tried to be on the safe side and choose a Thai restaurant. It was not only a delicious dinner but also a short drive in Dakar city. Day 1 ended up with cheers. For the evening of day 2, ITC organized a group dinner and it was a charming moment for me. We had a lot of lovely main courses and mouth-watering deserts that evening but one thing was beyond all these: Catherine Nakalembe from the University of Maryland shared her touching experience from doing field work in Uganda, where she monitored crop conditions in a drought-stricken area. Fellows from Mali and Nigeria were interested to learn my native language Bangla and that time we all from Bangladesh were very good teachers. Murtaza was lucky to have his family here in Dakar. My and my colleague’s names were similar to those of his son, brother and friend. Day 2 ended up with a lot of fun.

  • We, the participants from CIMMYT-Bangladesh We, the participants from CIMMYT-Bangladesh

Day 3 was satellite day. Actually it was not a full day but a half day because we had a pleasure trip to some lovely places in and near Dakar. In the morning, presentations on satellite image processing showed some distinctive work flows, which were followed by discussions. The importance and applications of high altitude remote sensing was very clear to the participants. After the lunch, a bus waited for us at the hotel gate. We all were very much excited and our excitement was just doubled when we came to know about a twist in the trip. Initially, the plan was to visit Pink Lake (Dead Sea of Senegal) and then the Atlantic, but our bus took us first to a local market so that we could buy some souvenirs. I had prepared myself with some native words and I was successful in bargaining and bought some unique souvenirs. After half an hour we were again on the bus and this time nobody was empty handed. Next, we drove through the busy city to the country side. After being warmly welcomed by the African singers and refreshments, we rode on rough & tough four wheelers. First we explored the Pink Lake, had a group photo taken and a lot of fun, then the excitement started with a desert safari over the sand dunes and at the end we reached the shore of the Atlantic Ocean.

  • Let’s have a desert safari with these 4WD Let’s have a desert safari with these 4WD

It was not only me, but all of us who enjoyed the evening beauty of the Atlantic. Rolf was always concerned about the group photo so we took snaps. From the Atlantic we returned back, had a lovely dinner with steaks and enjoyed African singing with colourful dancing from some STARS fellows. We returned back to hotel, full of joy and excitement. 

Day 4 was again a busy day and it was all about database. We all agreed that we need a common database platform to share and explore all the STARS data. At the evening of day 4 we were invited by Daniel Annerose, the CEO and founder of Manobi for a dinner at his home. We had a warm welcome there from Daniel, his family, friends and pet. Thanks Daniel and his wife for the time they spent with us and the time it took them to prepare a special meal for us. The evening became night but who cares because we all were enjoying moments. We had a lot of friendly chats there and the party ended up with utmost happiness. That evening was outstanding and made a lasting impression on me.

 The last day of the workshop was also the last day in Dakar for me and my colleagues from Bangladesh. On that day, there was no presentation but we had some fruitful group discussions. Together we all realized the need for STARS, the need for remote sensing tools, data and decision support tools for smallholder farmers and to chalk out future plans. One special in this day was the rain in the morning.

 The 6 days in Dakar was like a long dream to me. Every second there was memorable for me. It was not only about the technical workshop where we shared with and learn from each other, but also about the beautiful landscape, the mighty Atlantic, the sun shine, the rain.......well I know I can’t finish this line because an infinite number “the” will come one after another. Just one thing I can tell this technical workshop was surely a technical one, but also filled with pleasure. I can describe by these three word “share, learn and enjoy”.