Oil and gas will make water our precious source of wealth for agriculture, livestock and aquaculture...By Mary Teuw Niane
Growing crops year-round is an impossible challenge in most of the country. Even in the Senegal River Valley, where this is currently possible, we are struggling to ensure its sustainability: the alternation of off-season crops with winter crops is not working properly.
Every year, pastoralists are confronted with the issue of access to water and the large movements of their herds in search of pasture.
Until now, there has not been a systematic policy of supporting pastoralists in the cultivation and conservation of fodder.
Obviously, pastoralists rely more on the traditional transhumance in the dry season. These movements compromise the education of children. Senegal does not have a specific policy for the children of nomads, as some countries in the sub-region have with UNICEF support.
Water remains a concern for pastoralists and their wives. In Jolof, women have become experts in driving carts because of the water issue. It is not uncommon to meet a beautiful young woman, whip in hand, standing on her cart going at high speed!
However, opportunities for water transfer exist. There is the re-feeding of the fossil valleys of the Ferlo, the construction of the Baol canal and other possibilities from the Lac de Guiers.
Every year the Senegal River discharges billions of cubic meters of water. The OMVS should allow Senegal and Mauritania to exploit this precious water for agriculture, livestock, aquaculture and for domestic and industrial needs.
Senegal has significant groundwater resources.
Apart from the few retention basins built, we do not have a real policy of rainwater harvesting in the North, Center and South of the country.
Technical means are needed for water extraction, pumping stations, boreholes, motor pumps of all kinds, pipes for water transport and distribution, drip or sprinkler irrigation devices, equipment for greenhouses, etc.
Water harvesting must go hand in hand with a systematic policy of water saving to safeguard both ground and surface water. It must also go with a serious environmental policy to avoid the pollution of ground and surface water by fertilizers, pesticides, etc., the salinization of soils, the proliferation of invasive plants, etc.
This approach leads to a qualitative transformation of our agriculture, our breeding and a real rise in aquaculture.
It must be accompanied by a policy of massive training of young people in different levels CAP, BEP, BT, BTS, DISEP, DUT, Licence, Master, Engineers and Doctorate in all the fields that this transformation implies.
It will have to give rise to the creation of an ecosystem of companies manufacturing equipment, maintenance, services, processing, conservation, etc.
Oil and gas offer an extraordinary opportunity for Senegal to make this qualifying leap by using oil and gas as a lever to build sustainable economic sectors that will live on after oil and gas exploitation.
Oil and gas will provide resources for investment in the agriculture, livestock and aquaculture sector.
Oil and gas will lead to a decrease in the price of electricity for industry and households, and a decrease in the cost of gas bottles for households, which will lead within a reasonable period of time to a halt in logging and the beginning of the reconstitution of our forests, to the great benefit of breeders and the environment.
The cost per cubic meter of water will also drop, allowing universal access to drinking water and lower production costs for farmers.
Oil and gas must urgently push us to build petrochemical factories for the local production of fertilizers such as urea, water pipes of all kinds and cloths for greenhouses, etc. These materials must see their prices drop and favor the equipment of the peasants who will be able to work all year round. These materials should be made available at lower prices, thus enabling farmers to work all year round. They will no longer need to go to the big cities to look for work during the dry season.
Senegal will be able, like Morocco, the Canary Islands and Kenya, not only to satisfy its needs for quality agricultural and pastoral products but also to ensure high value-added exports such as certain citrus fruits and flowers.
The availability of water, of a raised technical platform, of a human capital of quality and of investment must make our agriculture, our breeding and our aquaculture major sectors of our economy and of the well-being of the Senegalese.
It is now, before the oil and gas comes in, that strategies must be developed.
NB: this is a beginning of reflection, I invite you to bring your contributions.
Mary Teuw Niane