Nouakchott — The Mauritanian government recently launched a new initiative aimed at cutting youth unemployment and boosting agricultural output.
"This ambitious scheme will recruit 185 unemployed graduates into the irrigated agriculture sector through managed plots of land," Sid El Keir Ould Taleb Khyar, the acting director in charge of the M'Pourie Plain, told journalists on October 28th. "Cultivating them will guarantee a decent standard of living for the beneficiaries."
He added that "the government must work to consolidate the progress made in achieving food self-sufficiency".
He also pointed out that the project was part of an area of more than 4,000 irrigated hectares in the Senegal River valley in a zone created in 1970 to promote rice growing.
"M'Pourie has been selected to host the unemployed graduate recruitment scheme as a way of curbing unemployment and increasing production with a view to achieving food self-sufficiency at national level. The project began in 2011 and has been a great success," Ould Taleb Khyar said.
The zone also has a power station with a capacity of 660 kW, four generators, five irrigation pumps, and two discharge pumps, according to the official.
"This scheme has made it possible to manage 1,850 hectares within the M'Pourie Plain and recruit 185 graduates, including some in specialised fields where job opportunities are limited, by giving them each 10 hectares to manage and assisting them technically and on the ground to ensure that they are recruited effectively and sustainably into this sector," Ould Taleb Khyar said.
He also noted that "another aim of the scheme is to increase national cereal production by developing new land, farming it and lessening the impact of unemployment by recruiting a number of unemployed people into the agriculture sector."
On the subject of implementation, the official said: "The roll-out began with the development of 1,250 hectares for the first cohort of graduates comprising 125 individuals. This took place during the 2011-2012 rainy season, during which time 1,141 hectares were cultivated and 1,065 hectares were harvested, with an average yield per hectare of 5.01 tonnes - 5,383 tonnes of rice - with profit margins of 1,858,000 ouguiyas for producers and 216,000 ouguiyas per hectare."
As for the summer harvest, which has just been gathered in from an area of 1,185 hectares, the net profit margin for producers was 1,845,000 ouguiyas.
The official pointed out that the project in the south was just part of a larger nationwide programme that will cover 6,000 hectares by December. Seven hundred hectares are being worked in Begmout, in addition to 600 hectares in Dakhlet N'Tekane, Trarza provice, as well as 750 hectares in Aire Mbar and Bilane in Brakna province.
Beneficiaries are pleased with the venture. One of them, Sidi Mohamed Ould Salek, told Magharebia that it was "a laudable initiative which has given jobs to hundreds of young people".
"What really marks it out is the fact that unlike several other schemes, this one has been well monitored by the authorities," he added.