SENEGAL- On Monday, the U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification named Senegalese singer-songwriter Baaba Maalits goodwill ambassador.
Maal has been advocating for refugees and climate change for a long time. In 2003, he began working with a variety of U.N. family organizations in Africa to address different development challenges.
Recently, his NANN-K Trust opened a solar-powered irrigation project in Senegal to combat desertification, which is one of the main reasons people leave the country on dangerous migration routes. Through the project, people will be trained to start similar projects in their own communities.
Maal told AP he believes young people and women should be empowered.
“We are tackling climate change impact, but also fighting desertification on the African continent, especially in my region where we are just not far away from the desert and we see it coming to us,” he said.
“And it had an impact because people who don’t get more opportunities to do agriculture, fishing and many more will have to run away from their places, go to the big cities where nothing is planned for them there, and then later on, some of the young ones will just take the boats to go to Spain or some of these places or just try to cross the desert and it’s really dangerous. We did lose a lot of lives.”
Born into a fisherman caste in the small town of Podor, a fishing community in north Senegal, Maal was expected to follow that career path until he befriended storyteller and musician Mansour Seck, who has spent his life performing, traveling, and raising awareness about his homeland’s issues.
“Our role is first to give news about what’s going on, because sometimes the local people, they don’t know what’s happening to them is the impact of climate change. They don’t know how to stand up against that. But at the same time, when they know about it, they will say what to do,” he said.
For the first time in 20 years, the veteran musician will headline the Barbican in London on May 30 for the release of his first album in seven years, “Being.”