- A large number of small-scale irrigation projects are now to be implemented in Senegal, increasing the country's agricultural area by some 3000 hectares. Mainly rice production is to gain ground, thus reducing imports of Senegal's main food staple.
The Dakar government has embarked on ten smaller projects to support local small-scale irrigation in the country, with total costs being estimated at euros 19.8 million. Today, the African Development Fund (ADF) approved a loan that will finance the entire foreign exchange costs and 72 percent of the local currency expenditure of the projects.
There are eight departments in three regions that are to benefit from the irrigation scheme. These are Fatick at the Sine River between Dakar and The Gambia; Kolda in the southern Casamance province; and Tambacounda in the interior, located at the railway to Mali. The three departments belong to Senegal's less developed regions.
The two main aims of the project is to assure an improvement and extension of the 280-hectare small-scale irrigation schemes existing in the three valleys of these regions in addition to reclamation of 2,000 hectares of salt land for rice farming, mainly in the Sine Saloum mangroves delta.
Rice cultivation is the most important economic activity in the coastal delta area, where river-fed water provides the basis for agriculture. Due to temporal droughts and more intensive use of the water resource, however, rivers have tended to have a falling water level, letting salt marine water intrude into the delta and thus destroying the basis for cultivation.
Further inland - where livestock is a more important industry - the project includes the development of 21 livestock watering ponds, 400 hectares of bottomland rice farms and 10 small areas irrigated using pumping systems of 50 hectares. It also includes the construction of approximately 30 small diversified structures for retention and control of 480 ha surface water.
These schemes to increase the Senegalese cultivation acreage further imply the implementation of several smaller, related projects, such as the rehabilitation of 105 kilometres of access tracks and roads. An environmental balance is to be achieved by the reforestation of 300 hectares of land and the further protection of 450 hectares of land.
Finally, the project includes "organisational support and close supervision of 35 rural communities," advisory services and extension services in favour of 7,000 farms and provision of social and economic infrastructure.
According to the Dakar government, the project is believed to "contribute to poverty alleviation in rural areas and improve the living standards of the populations of the 87 rural communities concerned through small-scale irrigation and pastoral development that will help increase agricultural production and raise incomes up to 70 percent for over 7,000 farms."
Furthermore, Senegalese rural youth and women also were to benefit from the project, the government hold, as it "will create new permanent and temporary jobs that will limit the rural exodus of the youth, and favour the emergence of women and their integration into the economic fabric."
The population of the Fatick, Kolda and Tambacounda regions is almost exclusively engaged in agriculture and livestock production, mostly on a subsistence scale. Only Tambacounda has a significant urban economic sector.
Also for the Senegalese government, the longer term effects of these projects will be beneficial. A projected reduction of rice imports is believed to help improve the state's balance of payments, and thus secure foreign exchange savings in the order of 2 billion CFA Francs, equivalent to euros 3 million annually.
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