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KOICA bolsters rural development in Senegal

BELLY NAMARY/THIES, Senegal ― Nariel Sow, a 10-year-old resident of Belly Namary in Senegal’s northwest, had to walk around 3 kilometers several times a day to fetch water for her 14-member family due to a lack of wells in her own village.

The daily routine, an obligation for girls in her rural community, posed a major hurdle for developing her knack for French and math at school.

With a water tower built by the Korea International Cooperation Agency, she is now able to focus on her study, dreaming of becoming a math teacher one day. Now, her family and some 3,200 villagers no longer suffer from diarrhea, skin irritations and water-borne infectious diseases.

“Since the arrival of the borehole, we’ve been enjoying its good, positive impact as we no longer have to go to faraway wells. I love going to school without having to worry about water,” Sow said.

Belly Namary is one of the 12 towns with a collective population of about 100,000 that are basking in the transformation in their lives, powered by enhanced access to water.

The facility is capable of storing 150 tons of water, hoisted from aquifers 300 to 400 meters below the surface. The water is available for 300 CFA francs (50 cents) per ton, which means an average family of 20 people pay around 1,500 to 2,000 CFA francs a month. The funds are spent on repair and maintenance, officials say.

KOICA initiated the project in 2010 with a budget of $5.5 million, including the installment of generators and pumps, training local engineers and managers, and public education on sanitation. 

Students cultivate crops at a model farm built by the Korea International Cooperation Agency at a technical high school in Thies, Senegal. (KOICA)
Students cultivate crops at a model farm built by the Korea International Cooperation Agency at a technical high school in Thies, Senegal. (KOICA)

“The water tower marks the first-ever system in Belly Namary’s 230-year history in which the residents are capable of drawing water in their own neighborhood,” said Jung Rak-myeong, director of Dongbu Engineering, which is in charge of the project in Senegal.

“We had provided necessary training for five months until the end of March so that locals can operate the system on their own.”

While France, Japan and other donors opted to dig larger wells in urban areas, KOICA turned to rural communities to shore up water supply and agricultural development, the mainstay of the country’s economy, in line with the Senegalese government’s request.

Dakar aims to install 300 water towers throughout the country by 2017 and increase access to potable water from the current 66 percent to 82 percent in rural areas and 100 percent in cities over the next five years.

“The main difference with other donor countries is that Korea has an advantage in that once it decides, it goes quickly and implements; in some cases we end up waiting three years before the work begins,” said Diene Faye, secretary of state for rural hydraulics, in an interview with visiting Korean reporters.

“They are also flexible and open such as when forecasting problems and preparing for and adapting to them ... We appreciate their commitment to capacity building as well.”

Most residents of Belly Namary make a living by working in 64 plantation fields raising cows, sheep and goats, which requires a constant flow of water. But its absence had forced many to wander from place to place, while others traveled on foot for up to four hours every day to often-contaminated traditional wells.

To cater to the urgent sanitation needs, KOICA set up model toilets and shower facilities in several households and provided hygiene education, according to Song Ki-jeong, representative of KOICA’s Senegal office.

With the program nearing an end, the grant-aid agency plans to launch another $5 million project in the coming months in which it will erect 10 boreholes for three years.

“In the past, water shortages were a big problem, especially feeding animals,” said Oumou Nariel Sow, a housewife. “We couldn’t prepare for meals, girls could not go to school and animals died. With the borehole, we’re able to enjoy good quality water ― animals are healthy and people look better.”

In Thies, some 57 kilometers east of capital Dakar, KOICA supports agricultural development by setting up an automatic irrigation system and teaching cultivation techniques at a model farm built within a technical high school.

The institution, Lycee d’Enseigne­ment Technique et de la Formation Professionnelle, offers high-quality vocational education in areas such as electric engineering, electronics, architecture and automobiles to about 1,100 students. Some 100 of them are agriculture majors and after graduation a majority will go to college or land a job at state agricultural agencies.

“I was deeply touched when students came out to look after their crops out of their regular class hours,” says Lim Seung-hwi, a 24-year-old KOICA volunteer.

“Thanks to the automation, the students no longer have to spend most of the two-hour class watering the plants and can learn other useful knowledge.”

The $30,000 program is designed to raise agricultural efficiency, crop yields and eventually revenue. Lim teaches new farming tools and introduces tools and how to use them, including food processing and fertilization techniques, says Name Ndack Dior Sarre, an 18-year-old student.

“Irrigation is crucial to the sustainable management of water and plant nutrition. Before we started the automatic scheme, farmers had given water by hand, which resulted in lots of water wasted and greater physical labor,” says Daour Sene, principal of the school.

“With agriculture being the main source of income here, the main goal of this project is to teach promising farmers and scale up the farming area from here all the way to Darka, while raising the self-sufficiency of vegetables at home and exports.”

On a sunny day afternoon, the lush leaves of lettuce and other salad greens were flourishing. Onions, carrots and tomatoes were among other staples, but the type of crops depend on the demand from the area, with mango and papaya being newly tested.

Albeit small in scale, the project is aimed at contributing to Senegal’s efforts to boost food supplies around the country and lay the foundation for secondary and tertiary industries, KOICA’s Song said.

Senegal President Macky Sall has unveiled a vision to foster competitive, diversified and sustainable agriculture. The Accelerated Program for Agriculture in Senegal, or PRACAS, focuses on pushing up self-sufficiency in rice and outputs and exports in groundnuts, fruits and vegetables, increasing rural incomes and expanding jobs.

Dogo Seck, General Secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Equipment, expressed hope that Korea’s knowhow and assistance will spur the drive. He said he has found similarities between PRACAS and the Saemaul movement, a 1970-80s rural reform initiative, such as the significance of human commitment.

“To realize PRACAS, we’re working on how to mobilize labor in agriculture in partnership with Korean corporations,” he said in an interview.

“I believe we can take some lessons from Saemaul’s success in Korea to apply similar solutions for socioeconomic development in Senegal.”

By Shin Hyon-hee, Korea Herald correspondent (heeshin@heraldcorp.com)
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