Senegal’s granary in search of water

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Irrigation works in the market gardening area of ​​Niayes, Senegal.

A verdant field of potatoes emerges in the middle of the white dunes of the market gardening area of ​​Niayes, on the Senegalese coast, about a hundred kilometers north of Dakar. Here, Thioute Dieng also grows eggplant, peppers or cabbage, which he sells at the market in the neighboring town of Mboro.

But with a wave of his hand, he points to his land closest to the sea, which he had to abandon in 2018. “The water is salty there now, I can’t work anymore, he says, annoyed. I only have one field left, it is much more difficult to cover daily expenses. » Especially since production costs have increased since he had to invest in mini-boreholes and motor pumps to fetch water from more than 12 meters deep, while he was digging less than 2 meters deep. in the 2000s.

This vast region of the Niayes, nicknamed the “granary” of Senegal, and which stretches along the coast between Dakar and Saint-Louis, provides 70% to 80% of the country’s vegetable and fruit needs. A region which is becoming more and more urbanized, and where the Chemical Industries of Senegal (ICS), the largest producer of fertilizers in sub-Saharan Africa, which draws from deep waters, are also located.

Faced with this pressure on water resources, the surface water table drops by 7 centimeters each year, while the deep water table decreases by 45 to 49 centimeters per year, data from the water management plan for the northern coast. Groundwater recharge decreases and water exploitation increases. But there is still time to change practices”wants to believe Niokhor Ndour, head of the management and planning of water resources in the Ministry of Water and Sanitation.

Read also: Article reserved for our subscribers In Senegal, the World Water Forum calls for guaranteeing a “right to water”

The stakes are high to ensure the country’s food security. The subject was at the heart of the discussions on the 9and World Water Forum, which ended on Friday March 25 in Dakar. The participants (public and private institutions, NGOs, etc.) called for “guarantee the right to water for all” and to adopt “sustainable management plans” to preserve water resources.

keep the humidity

On his sloping land on the side of the dune, Thierno Gningue has just harvested his cherry tomatoes and has started planting potatoes. For three years, the producer has noticed that the water table tends to decrease due to an ever lower rainfall each year. He then chose to change the watering technique. “When I was working with a spear, I used three to four times more water than with the sprinkler technique that I just implemented”, notes the farmer. Strips of flexible plastic with holes every 20 centimeters now circulate between his potato shoots and let out fine drops in a jet.

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