It was a late summer evening that thefirst conferenceof our Jiwnit association was held in Montreal. Thursday, September 14, 2023, a great gang friends, friends of friends and curious people gathered at the Place commune café, for a presentation of Kamyaak, our ecovillage in Senegal.
The Place commune is acooperative of ecological and citizenwhich offers multiple services to the community of Parc Extension, where it is located. It is a café which notably offers a community fridge, musical brunches, and where members run a food solidarity network. They can thus get involved in shared gardens, fruit picking and recover surplus food from market garden farms or partner organizations which are then redistributed or transformed at the café for the benefit of the people who have it. most needed.
In short, a welcoming, bright place and full of life, with mismatched furniture and warm decor.
It was in this auspicious setting that our meeting took place. The objective? Present the eco-village: its history, its activities and its impact, but also highlight modes of thought and action decentered from Western thought to create of the discussion around what emerges.
Disarmed in the face of a capitalist elite
Montreal is fertile ground for these conversations since Montreal youth feel very concerned by climate upheaval: the 2019 climate march, which included among the marchers the young Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, brought together the historic number of 500,000 people.
But people also feeldisarmed in the face of a capitalist elitewhich pollutes without consequences; they feel anxious, in a media landscape populated with anxiety-provoking news about the ever-worsening health of our planet.
This is why it is important to show that hope is there and that it is possible to act, thanks to projects that work and which offera real alternative to the systemwhich suffocates us. To show that we can create projects whose goal is not profit for profit's sake and which have meaning, in a world where people struggle to find it. To realize thatthe power to change thingsis on our side, if we are capable of questioning our lifestyles, of deconstructing the patterns that imprison us and to understand the importance of a close-knit community.
Kamyaak is all this and much more, and the participants understood that well.
The expansion of hearts or economic?
During the presentation, we addressed the challenges encountered in the Fatick region, the issues that the populations face, the search for alternative solutions and the foundations of the eco-village.
This was followed by a lively and lively question/answer session. The participants spoke in particular on the question of financing, on the relationship between Kamyaak and international NGOs, which sometimes appear imperialist.
The question of the layout of the village was also raised: How were the trees chosen? What are the consequences of reforestation on wildlife and climatic conditions?
Questions were also asked around the daily functioning of the village: How are decisions made? Who participates in village life? What is the relationship of the inhabitants of the region with Kamyaak?
Certain questions shed new light and began toundo certain ways of thinkingthat we can sometimes believe to be universal, such as the idea of economic expansion. Expand yes, but on what territory? Isn’t the expansion of hearts more necessary than economic expansion? The questions were interesting, the answers nourishing.
After presenting the different ways to come and visit Kamyaak, the discussion closed with a warm round of applause.
The truth behind the scenes
Well, all that is the visible part of the iceberg... Behind the scenes, this event took place in the image of Kamyaak: thanks to the strength of the collective !
After a last minute cancellation, we had to find a new space the day before the conference! Fortunately, the Common Place team was extremely accommodating and responsive. Contacted urgently by email, they freed up space for us and were of great help with logistics. Geneviève mobilized her team for the next day and Rose and Gabriel took great care to prepare the arrival of the participants.
But there's a new challenge: the planned video projector doesn't work in the end! Four hours before the meeting, there is a frantic Google search for “video projector rental Montreal”. We literally ask everyone we know, we even consider buying one... Finally, the solution falls from the sky: a friend calls us, her friend doesn't have a video projector, but two! Two hours before the conference, a short round trip by bike worthy of the best times of the Tour de France, the machine is in the bag and heading to the café.
We say hello to Gabriel and Rose, plug in the wires, connect the wifi and there… no white wall to project! But it doesn't matter, we understand now, for every failure, an angel has what we need. A phone call and a friend arrives on the line with a white sheet, perfect for the projection.
There we are, we’re good! Help yourself, a small glass of bissap, a cheese gougere and we sit down comfortably, the presentation can begin...