Berta Gielge

Princeton Bridge Year On-Site Director, Senegal

Berta grew up in Austria, in a Polish-Austrian bilingual family with four siblings. After finishing high school, she traveled to France for a “gap-year” of volunteer service, before studying Ecology and Natural Resource Management in Vienna and in the Eastern Caribbean, where her interest in sustainable farming traditions and practices was sparked.

She first came to Senegal in 2009 for a workshop of Senegalese drumming and dance and to visit various agricultural communities. That’s when she first met the eco-village of Ndem, its people and their activities, and decided to stay for good in 2011. After eight years of living in the community and taking initiative and responsibility in various agricultural and educational development projects of its local NGO “Association des Villageois de Ndem”, Berta has since built her home in a village close to a coastal nature reserve and created her business-label, “Yoonu Suuf”.

Always rooted in her own gardening practice and food-processing for the local market, she frequently travels across Senegal to deliver workshops in gardening and permaculture, or to assist international research teams working on topics connected to agro-ecology in the Sahel. She is actively involved in the local network of organic agriculture movements as well as in cultural and ecological projects in her village, Thiafoura. She is fluent in English, French, German, Polish and Wolof.

Berta has been working with Dragons since 2016, leading a summer course and supporting the Princeton Bridge Year Program every fall, before taking on the role of On-Site Director for BYP Senegal in 2022.