I have just got back from two weeks in Senegal, collecting pearl millet grains from farms in the regions of Thiès, Diourbel and Kaffrine. The lush green trees and two-metre high millet stalks were a huge contrast to the dusty brown soil that I saw at the end of the dry season last year.
It was sweaty work collecting heads of millet from 50 fields, recording their perimeter, collecting soil and finding out from the farmers whether they had used compost or manure and if so, how much.
But it was wonderful to have the opportunity to visit the villages and see millet being stacked up to dry in the fields, extended families and friends harvesting fields of millet before lunching together, and cattle being driven through the harvested fields to munch on the leaves.
The work wasn’t over outside the fields as we removed 100 grains from each millet ear – 500 ears of millet wouldn’t have quite fitted in the suitcase! These will be mixed to give a random sample of 1000 grains from each field that I will grind before measuring the isotope values. Fingers crossed that I will have some results in January!