How Nuns in Senegal are Sustaining New Community amid Prolonged Drought, Limited Resources

Credit: ACN

Members of the Religious Congregation of the Poor Clares who recently established a community in the Catholic Archdiocese of Dakar in Senegal are working against all odds, including prolonged drought and limited resources, to sustain their mission in the West African country.

In a message shared with the Catholic Pontifical and charity foundation, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) International, the five members of the Poor Clares who arrived in the West African country in December 2020 say that they have been sustaining themselves by growing millet, peanuts, and corn.

The Poor Clares in Senegal also have a workshop where they make candles, medicinal ointments, and liturgical ornaments, which they then sell. 

However, according to the December 10 ACN report, the Sisters’ living conditions are “more than modest” as they sometimes share the little food they have with their neighbors in the impoverished community.

The Catholic Nuns often have no electricity, ACN says, adding, “They have to pray by the light of lanterns.”


They say that owing to the scarcity of rainfall, they are struggling to get food for themselves and for those who come knocking on their door for help.

“Rainfall is scarce and it rains only three months a year, while the dry season here lasts nine months. So, we have to rely on divine providence, hoping that the next season will be better,” the Catholic Nuns have been quoted as saying.

Senegal has been strongly Muslim since the 11th century; and today, more than 90 percent of the 17.2 million inhabitants of this West African country are Muslims. 

Traditionally, however, there is coexistence between Muslims and Christians in Senegal, and the country has been peaceful and tolerant. 

Although Christians constitute only about 5 percent, a majority of them Catholics, the Church runs numerous schools and charitable institutions such as orphanages and dispensaries.

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These facilities are open to all religious groups, ACN has noted in the December 10 report, adding, “The core that gives life to these activities and sustains them, and from which the life of the Church is nourished, is prayer. Without prayer, everything else is sterile.”

ACN further reports that the five members of the Poor Clares were sent from their convent in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, to establish a branch of their Religious Order in Senegal at the invitation of Archbishop Benjamin Ndiaye of the Catholic Archdiocese of Dakar.

Archbishop Ndiaye, ACN says, hopes that through prayers of the members of the Poor Clares in the country, the Good News will be more deeply rooted in the hearts of the faithful in the West African nation. 

The Nuns’ Convent in Ndollor, in the Archdiocese of Dakar, is still provisional. At the moment, the members of the Poor Clares are still housed in a temporary location and are sustaining themselves by farming.

In their letter to the Pontifical charity foundation, the Poor Clares highlight the poor living conditions of locals in Ndollor, who they say rely on the Church for support.


“Here, poverty and the struggle for survival are part of daily life, both our own and that of others. As a mendicant order we live largely on the donations we get from different sources, but the farmers in the area are also poor, so we share with them what little we have,” the Catholic Nuns have been quoted as saying. 

They add, “Besides, the fact that we are relatively new here is an added difficulty, because building a convent is not an easy thing to do; it requires a lot of financial resources, and that doesn't exactly help to improve our situation.”

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.