Italians and Israelis are working together to eradicate Senegalese hunger and
poverty in a trilateral agricultural development project formed between the
governments in recent weeks.
An expansion of a project that the local
Israeli Embassy launched in Senegal in 2006, the program aims to provide the
country’s poorest farmers with the technological know-how for integrating
irrigation technologies as well as the requisite management systems to keep them
going, according to Prof.
Dov Pasternak, the visionary behind the
The bodies responsible for carrying out the program include the
National Agricultural Research Institute of Italy, the National Agricultural
Research Institute of Senegal, the Senegal Extension Service, the Senegal
Project for Rural Development and MASHAV, through the Center for International
Agriculture Development Cooperation (CINADCO).
Prior to expanding to a
trilateral governmental project just a few weeks ago, the program was a branch
of the larger pan-African Techno- Agriculture Innovation for Poverty Alleviation
(TIPA) program – administered by MASHAV, the Foreign Ministry’s agency for
international development cooperation.
Prior to being acquired by MASHAV,
the program was called African Market Garden, developed by Ben- Gurion
University’s Institutes for Applied Research in collaboration with the Netafim
Company in 1999.
“This is an interesting successful model that can be
duplicated with adjustments to many countries within the region,” said Ilan
Fluss, the director of policy planning and external relations at
Fluss was speaking at a session on “Strategies for Development
Assistance to or for Drylands” at Drylands, Deserts and Desertification – The
Fourth International Conference: Implementing Rio+20 in the Drylands, held at
Ben-Gurion University’s Sde Boker campus on Monday.
Senegal is located in
the Sudano Sahel region south of the Sahara, which is delineated by the 300-800
millimeters of rainfall that it receives annually, according to
“It is also the poorest region on Earth,” he said.
farmers predominantly use an agro-pastoral subsistence system, in which farmers
grow grains and staple crops during the short rainy seasons and animals then
graze on crop residues.
“People eat what they produce.
very little,” Pasternak said. “They don’t have any resources. So when production
fails, people go hungry.”
Without the means to purchase food and with
ancient soils leeched of nutrients, the Senegalese small farmers need an
irrigation solution that is practical for them, according to Pasternak. A drip
irrigation system and its accessories act as the foundational “hardware” for
this solution, with accompanying management packages serving as the “software,”
Under the African Market Garden and then under TIPA,
farmers in Senegal piloted four different systems for irrigation – the first
being the “thrifty system” that uses 200-liter barrels for irrigating an area of
80 square meters and the second being a “commercial system” that provides water
through larger reservoirs to four 500 square meter units.
The first was
deemed to have little economic advantage, and the second only proved useful
among educated professional farmers, Pasternak said.
The third mechanism
– a “cluster system” – involves a number of 500-1,000 square meter plots
concentrated in one field, but with individual farmers operating their own
plots, fertilizer tanks and taps. This system was particularly beneficial among
male farmers, whom researchers found very difficult to organize into a solid
team. On the other hand, a fourth “communal system” was effective among women,
who thrived on having their own plots of land concentrated in one field but
their irrigation monitored by an overarching manager, Pasternak explained.
Already having formed solid community groups in many places throughout Africa,
female farmers benefited from such a system where they worked together with each
other and could even afford to take off time from their farms after giving
birth, he added.
In all of Africa, there are currently 10 TIPA sites. In
Senegal, two governmental organizations called ANIDA and PRODAM have already
installed 900 hectares worth of drip irrigation systems for farmers, and an
international NGO called World Vision is installing about 500 more hectares
conforming to the TIPA model, Pasternak said.
A Millennium Village
program is overseeing 1,000 additional hectares of TIPA projects in two regions
of Senegal, and now this official trilateral government cooperation is guiding
the formation of 400 hectares in three Senegalese regions, Pasternak
“We are going to supply all the know-how,” he said, stressing
that a service center will be at the heart of the program, in order to provide
training, follow-up, demonstration and market support.
Integral to the
program in Israel’s mind is not only assisting Senegalese farmers but also
strengthening relations with Italy, Fluss said.
“This will hopefully
become a model for trilateral cooperation between two donor countries and a
developing country,” he added.
“Cooperation with Italy is really
important and the discussions were extremely productive.”
To ensure that
such a model is successful, however, he stressed the importance of tackling the
challenges posed by adapting modern technologies to the needs of farmers in
“The role of donor is taking the smallest, the
poorest and even the medium-sized, show the technology, pay for this, using them
as demonstration and then more or less through osmosis the technology spreads,”
added Dr. Riccardo Morpurgo of the Italian Foreign Affairs Ministry.
while it’s spreading, it is also modified.”
Most importantly, farmers
must receive the know-how and then continue to have follow-up sessions and learn
to employ effective management strategies, according to Pasternak.
looks like in the near future hundreds of thousands of farmers are going to
benefit,” Pasternak said.