COA's Jenna Farineau ’18 will establish a seed bank in West Africa to help food security issues after winning a $10,000 grant.COA's Jenna Farineau ’18 will establish a seed bank in West Africa to help food security issues after winning a $10,000 grant. Credit: Juneshoo Shin ’21Farineau’s project aims to create food security in a region beset by years of soil salinization, food shortages, and drought. The seed bank aims to give people, especially women and youth, agency over seed conservation and production and help them create more resilient communities, Farineau said.

In an area where seeds are traditionally owned and distributed by the national government, local control is at the root of community health and wellbeing, she said.

“The resources are not owned by the people, and this program will empower communities to decide what they do with their local seeds,” said Farineau

Residents of Albreda, a subsistence farming area comprised of nine villages, have been unable to maintain seeds that are adapted to the local climate for traditional crops such as peanuts and millet. Environmental changes such as soil salinization, poor rainfall distribution, and drought have led to food shortages and subsequent seed losses as families have resorted Jenna Farineau ’18 has completed two internships related to climate change, agriculture, and environmental education in Ghana and Senegal while a student at COA. Jenna Farineau ’18 has completed two internships related to climate change, agriculture, and environmental education in Ghana and Senegal while a student at COA. Credit: Jenna Farineau ’18to eating the crops they would normally save for seed to replant for the next season. In addition, in order to cover farm input costs farmers must sell their products at such low prices that they are unable to sustain their livelihoods.

“Because a majority of seeds aren’t locally adapted they are producing a very poor yield and really threatening the survival of the community,” Farineau said. “And these conditions severely impact the well-being of the farming families. It’s very difficult to be happy, have community, and feel comfortable when you’re constantly worrying, ‘Am I going to make enough money for my family and myself to survive?’”

The idea for the project sprouted from a desire to help communities in The Gambia become self-sufficient and less reliant upon the government when it comes to deciding how to ensure food security.

“In the parts of West Africa that I’ve visited, communities are centered around food, but often seeds are not adapted to the local environment, which is important to consider as the climate changes. When communities don’t have their own food sovereignty it makes it harder to have community around their food,” explained Farineau.

Farineau plans to live in Albreda, which lies in the Upper Niumi District of the North Bank region of The Gambia, for three months this summer to get the project started. A local village store in Albreda will be renovated into the seed bank.

To assure the project takes flight and will sustain itself into the future, Farineau will collaborate with the multiple local and regional developmental groups. A seed bank management committee will be established to oversee and carry out responsibilities concerned with emergency preparedness, store management, pest and disease control, quality control measures, and proper seed selection.

Projects for Peace's objective is to support and encourage today's motivated youth to create and test their own ideas for building peace around the world.Projects for Peace's objective is to support and encourage today's motivated youth to create and test their own ideas for building peace around the world.Women, children, and other leaders from the Albreda Village Development Committee (VDC) will make up the management committee. Farineau is working with Mamsamba Joof, the director of the Agency for the Development of Women and Children (ADWAC), and the Department of Agricultural Services (DAS) to train the committee.

Exchange visits to share experiences and best practices with other farmers from neighboring Senegal will be part of the capacity and alliance building for the project. The VDC and the women’s group will monitor and evaluate the project monthly, and ADWAC and the DAS will annually evaluate the project.

“Having this bank with specific seeds of the area that are produced by the local farmers gives this community agency over what they are creating and what they are producing and, because its managed by the community, that can help people relate to each other in a more connected and positive way,” Farineau said. “When you have secure food access and you have control over that access, your health, wellness, mental capacity, and ability to empathize with others is going to improve.”

“When you have secure food access and you have control over that access, your health, wellness, mental capacity, and ability to empathize with others is going to improve.”

Set up by late philanthropist Kathryn W. Davis, Projects for Peace comprises an annual competition open to partner schools of the Davis United World College Scholars Program to create projects that will help shape a better world. The program is meant to encourage student initiative, innovation and entrepreneurship focusing on conflict prevention, resolution or reconciliation, and to create building blocks for sustaining, global peace.

COA was one of the first American colleges to partner with Davis United World College Scholars Program, and the diversification of and cultural benefits to the school community have been enormous, said COA president Darron Collins ’92

“We are proud and excited to have Jenna selected for the 2018 Projects for Peace initiative,” Collins said. “The vision of Kathryn W. Davis to create a more just, sustainable, peaceful world is one that we all can aspire to, and Jenna will help realize that vision with her work in The Gambia.”

Jenna Farineau '18, winner of a $10,000 Projects for Peace grant, studies global environmental politics and sustainable food systems at College of the Atlantic.Jenna Farineau '18, winner of a $10,000 Projects for Peace grant, studies global environmental politics and sustainable food systems at College of the Atlantic. Credit: Juneshoo Shin ’21During her time at COA, Farineau has delved into learning about global environmental politics and sustainable food systems both locally and internationally. She has taken courses such as Agroecology and Seeds with Elizabeth Battles Newlin Chair of Botany, Suzanne Morse,  Sustainability, Justice & Policy in Alternative Food Systems with the Partridge Chair in Food and Sustainable Agriculture Systems, Kourtney Collum, and international courses focused on the politics of climate change and European food politics with Dr. Doreen Stabinsky. She has been attending United Nations conferences since her first year at COA, including Sustainable Development Goal and climate change negotiations and the World Committee of Food Security. Farineau also completed two internships related to climate change, agriculture, and environmental education in Ghana and Senegal.

Farineau is from Louisville, Kentucky, where she graduated from the Visual Arts Magnet program at duPont Manual High School.

After experiencing the culture of Senegal and learning about local farming issues there during an internship with ActionAid Senegal in communications work related to agriculture and resilience, Farineau said that she is excited for the opportunity to return to the region and help build community there.

“It feels right to get this grant and just run with it,” she said. “ADWAC has such a footing in the overall national community that we could totally change the course of food security in the Gambia for the better.”