On Thursday, 15 September 2022, the farmers of the Baboulaye Valley in western Senegal welcomed special visitors. Delegates from the African Development Fund (ADF), the African Development Bank Group's concessional lending arm for the continent's low-income countries, visited this agricultural plain in Diofior province, 150 km from the capital, Dakar.
Delegates representing the Fund's development partners visited the rice fields in the Baboulaye Valley and engaged in lively discussion with the farmers and other beneficiaries of projects the Fund has financed.
The visit formed part of African Development Fund (ADF-16) replenishment meetings taking place in Dakar from the 15th to the 17th of September.
Located in the Sine Saloum, one of Senegal's richest agricultural regions, much of the arable land in the Baboulaye valley nonetheless used to have a highly saline water table, which deprived the rural population of a primary source of subsistence.
On their way to meet farmers, delegates from the African Development Fund witnessed the results achieved in the fight against salt encroachment.
As their vehicles rolled along the nearly one-kilometer-long anti-salt dam, the visitors were struck by the lush green rice plots stretching as far as the eye could see. As a result of the separation of the salt strip from the farmlands, these soils, it was explained, had been entirely abandoned by farmers, depressed at not being able to work on them.
Younoussa Mballo, coordinator of the Programme to Build Resilience to Food and Nutrition Insecurity in the Sahel, was the guide for the day. He explained the huge efforts that had been undertaken, with the help of partners such as the National Agency for Agricultural and Rural Consultancy, the Senegalese Institute for Agricultural Research, and the relevant government agencies, to reclaim these lands and anchor the farmers on the land. The African Development Fund financed the program.
"Before this Baboulaye Valley project, agricultural yields were around one tonne per hectare," he said. "Following its implementation in 2011, it has increased to 3 tonnes per hectare and even 5 tonnes in some areas." The partnership with the Senegalese Institute of Agricultural Research has made it possible to develop the high-yielding ISRIZ10 rice variety that can adapt to salty soil."
Veronika Baumgartner Putz, the Fund's delegate for Austria, said she was pleased "to see what has been achieved on the ground and to see how the financing by the African Development Fund has been spent. Good partnerships and better project quality at entry help to build the sustainability of projects for the beneficiaries," she said.
Delegates from China, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Kuwait, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, the Republic of Korea, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, and the United States were also on the trip.
For Marie-Laure Akin-Olugbade, The Africa Development Bank's Acting Vice President for Regional Development, Integration and Business Delivery, the field trip was an important moment in the relationship between the Bank Group, partners, and beneficiaries.
A few hours later, the convoy entered the town of Diofior, for an exhibition of project beneficiaries' goods, including rice, honey, local juices, textiles, flour products, handicrafts, and even solar-powered photovoltaic fiber equipment.
The provincial mayor, Youssou Diom and members of his municipal council and local farmers received the guests. "Thanks to the efforts that have been made , 1,500 hectares of land are currently available for the population. This is an important step towards food self-sufficiency in our municipality," Diom said.
"The Baboulaye valley has become our granary," said Babou Gningue, a farmer who met the Fund delegates. "The reclaimed land is now available for rainfed rice cultivation with a management system that allows for water retention for about three months," he explained.
The African Development Fund provides low-income African countries with grants, concessional loans, guarantees, and technical assistance. The aim is to reduce poverty and establish sustainable and inclusive development.
Amadou Mansour Diouf, Département de la communication et des médias, email@example.com