The president of the Oasis Grow Biointensive Association, Lamine Diawara, was close to retiring from his job as a professor and planned on farming afterwards to provide for his family. However, all he knew at that point was conventional farming, based on the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. By chance, in 2006 Lamine was introduced to GROW BIOINTENSIVE farming, an ecologically-sound small-scale agricultural system that can grow high yields of food while using significantly less resources—including water—than conventional farming. Subsequently Diawara took part in two workshops in Kenya to build his own knowledge and skill in using the method. Once he experienced how Grow Biointensive worked, he was convinced of its advantages and knew that he should not only adopt it for himself but should also be part of spreading the system among small-scale farmers and gardeners in Senegal and the rest of West Africa. In order to carry out this goal, in 2012 he became an intern for six months at Ecology Action, a non-profit organization in California which has been researching, developing and refining the sustainable Grow Biointensive farming system for over 40 years.
Lamine was born in the city of Ziguinchor in the Casamance region of southern Senegal. His father was a merchant (food, fruits, cloth, etc.) until 1959 when he went bankrupt after losing large amounts of produce to spoilage in an unusually hot year. Lamine's granfdather had been a farmer as well as a scholar/teacher of Islam and in 1973 Lamine's father returned to this livelihood of cultivating crops in the countryside for a living. He grew maize, millet, sorghum, peanuts and sweet potatoes at the farm, and at the home garden the family grew cucumbers, okra and hibiscus (for drinks). In 1980 Lamine started working as a teacher. His father told him: "You've started working. Now you have to prepare for your retirement." After reflecting on the many possible options the answer came: Cultivate! So Lamine bought three small pieces of land, one-half hectare each. He has been farming on this land since 1994. Because of work with the Boy/Girl Scouts though it was not a full time endeavor.
Starting in 1963 Lamine became a Boy Scout, and never stopped. He has occupied all the positions there are in scouting, including at the national and international level. Lamine worked with the World Scout Africa Region Bureau for thirteen years, until 2011. He is currently Chief Commissioner of Scouting in Senegal for a three year term. Diawara is also a Program Officer in the Nature-Communities Development Association, which gives him access to many rural villages. He is skilled in French, English and three indigenous languages, giving him the ability to communicate directly in many different regions and countries of West Africa. The three pieces of land Lamine purchased earlier in his life will now be used for a headquarters and demonstration gardens where trainings can be held. This land will significantly contribute to the stability and longevity of Oasis Grow Biointensive. In addition, the scouting organizations in all the 15 countries of West Africa already own land that can be used for sustainable farming demonstration/training centers.
Lamine's introduction of the low input, organic farming method of Grow Biointensive was quite serendipitous. In March 2006, Lamine got a call from the Chief Scout Commissioner of Guinea telling him that an American woman named Margaret Lloyd was in Guinea teaching Grow Biointensive farming. After e-mailing Margaret to learn more, Lamine received a message which CCed Phil Donnell, an American in Palo Alto who has been very involved with scouting. The interests of the two scouts meshed and they've been working together ever since. Phil sent Lamine the link to the Grow Biointensive website which introduced a whole new way of farming. Up until then Lamine had only used chemicals and hybrid seeds. But when he saw the 8 principles of the Grow Biointensive method, he knew he had to learn this system deeply, not just for himself but to share with others. Lamine told Phil he wanted to learn more. With the support of the Africa Regional Office of the World organization of the Scout Movement, it was arranged for Lamine to go to the Manor House Agricultural Centre in Kitale, Kenya, for a five-day workshop in August 2010. The next month Lamine attended an eleven-day seed production workshop given at G-BIACK by Samuel Nderitu near Thika, Kenya. When he returned to Seneegal he started making compost, double-digging and teaching Grow Biointensive to scouts and farmers in several villages. In 2012 with Phil's help, Lamine was able to go to the United States for a 6 month internship to further learn low input, sustainable farming techniques.
Diawara gave his first Grow Biointensive workshop in December 2010 at Ndiaffate in the Kaolack region of Senegal. There were 96 participants: 30 women and 28 youth from 7 villages, 26 Scouts from Senegal and 12 Scouts from the Gambia. The next year he taught composting to about 65 people in three workshops financed by USAID. In December 2011 he gave another workshop at Ndiaffate for Scouts and youth from 8 villages. The focus was on preparing plant nurseries for tree planting campaigns, which gave Lamine an opportunity to talk about soil fertility and conservation. Lamine has taught many courses in sustainable farming since. He has just retired from his teaching job and can now use all his time and energy in spreading the GROW BIOINTENSIVE Sustainable Mini-Farming system throughout West Africa.