In Summary
  • Senegal seized 12.8 tonnes of cannabis or cannabis resin in 2017, a marked increase on hauls over previous years, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Kafountine

Most Senegalese farmers sell peanuts and vegetables, but in one hamlet lost in a mangrove swamp in the West African country's south, only one crop is commercially viable -- cannabis.

Kouba, a village deep in the mangroves of Casmance and inaccessible by road, teems with caiman crocodiles and rare birds.

Locals say no police officer has set foot there since the 1980s, and a recent crackdown on cannabis cultivation has passed them by.

"Ever since I was born, people have been cultivating cannabis," says Philippe Diaba.

"If you don't grow cannabis here, you can't get by."

Kouba villagers say the drug fetches between 15,000 and 30,000 CFA francs ($25-$50, 23-45 euros) a kilo -- compared with just 500 CFA francs for a kilo of onions.

The money is attractive in Senegal, where two in five people live below the poverty line.

Senegal seized 12.8 tonnes of cannabis or cannabis resin in 2017, a marked increase on hauls over previous years, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

"Casamance is one of the regions in Senegal where the most cannabis is produced," an officer from the narcotics division of the Senegalese police, who declined to be named, told AFP.

Village women separate cannabis stalks by hand and leave them to dry on tin roofs, unafraid of the 10-year prison sentence marijuana cultivation carries in the former French colony.

They sort a recent harvest into bales for pickup by traffickers arriving by canoe.

Gaston Diaba, Philippe's brother and the village mason, gestures to large plots of cannabis lying beside rice fields.

"All these fields are reserved for hemp," he says.

Lacking other viable economic options such as tourism or conventional agriculture, the villagers have tended marijuana plantations in their lush backwater for decades.

"There is no road to market for vegetables, so we grow them only for our own food," Philippe Diaba said.

Kouba's 200 or so residents are secluded even within Casamance, a region already cut off from much of the north of Senegal by neighbouring The Gambia.

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