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New irrigation project a boon for Senegalese farmers

Villagers plan to use the project – developed by the Israeli embassy in partnership with local and international nongovernmental organizations – to drastically increase their local production.

Better yields: Students help tend fields in Dap Dior, Senegal, that have a new drip irrigation system.

Ricci Shryock

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D'dieme Faye's muscular arms pump energetically as she pounds millet for her family's lunch with an over-sized mortar and pestle.

In the past, Ms. Faye would have cooked a rich dish of rice, fish, and vegetables. But food prices are going up around the world, and West Africa has been one of the hardest-hit regions. The price of rice, alone, has doubled here in the past year.

"Life is too expensive," she says, "too expensive."

Her husband, Mamadou Diouf, says he hopes a new irrigation project in his village, Dap Dior, will be the answer to his family's food problems. Villagers plan to use the project, developed by the Israeli Embassy in partnership with local and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), to drastically increase their local production.

Traditionally, farmers in Mr. Diouf's village wait for the rainy season to plant seeds. In a semi-arid place like Senegal, the rainy season only lasts three months. And if, like last year, the rainy season falls short, entire crops can fail.

It's one of the big reasons behind the current food crisis, says Jacques Faye, director of the Rural Agricultural Prospective project. "Senegal produces less than 50 percent of what the people eat. We are very dependent on the exterior."

Like many development experts, Mr. Faye says the solution, beyond reacting to the current crisis, is to produce more food at home. "If we can make all the necessary efforts ... and investments, we could increase agricultural output very rapidly. There is a potential for production that is not being exploited."

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