By Aor Ikyaabo, Communication Specialist
Across the globe, agricultural production is struggling to keep up with increasing food demand. Crop yields continue to dwindle as a result of agriculture’s extreme vulnerability to climate change. These effects are felt on farmlands as extreme weather conditions hamper yield. In Senegal, La Banque Agricole (LBA), an agricultural-lending bank, is improving food security while combatting this pervasive issue, through supporting the development of climate-friendly agricultural technologies.
Through its project, Woomal Mbay, LBA is reaching smallholder farmers in remote areas of Senegal with solar-powered pumping and irrigation systems to improve their agricultural productivity and reduce the impact of their activities on the climate.
The USAID-funded West Africa Trade and Investment Hub awarded a $1million co-investment grant to La Banque Afrique to improve agricultural productivity and reduce the environmental footprint of Senegalese smallholders by increasing their access to solar water pumping and irrigation technologies. To effectively implement this project, LBA formed a partnership with its technical partner, Nadji.Bi, a company specializing in the research, development, and industrial manufacturing of impact solar solutions for domestic and agricultural use.
With additional private investments of $5.5 million, LBA and Nadji.Bi will provide access to financing for at least 504 smallholder farmers in the Niayes area and Senegal River Valley, allowing them to invest in solar irrigation systems, including digital applications to manage pumping, irrigation, and agricultural production. The project will increase the value of exports from Senegal and local trade sales, with an expected sales value of at least $7.7 million.
Following the recent successful launch of the Woomal Mbay project, LBA strategically opened a new branch in M’boro, in the northern part of Senegal, to have a more centralized presence and help boost the sales of its climate-smart irrigation systems to small vegetable producers who typically farm on one hectare of land, while also offering other services central to LBA’s overall mandate. LBA and Nadji.Bi have also completed the installation of two solar irrigation systems financed through a bank loan of $7,600 to two smallholder producers. Work is currently progressing on the installation of additional solar irrigation systems that are equally financed through a bank loan of $11,390 to three smallholder farmers, each farming on one hectare of land.
Ouleye Ka is a fifty-year-old farmer who grows vegetables (cabbage, carrot, and onions) and is one of the beneficiaries of the project. She mentions how the solar pump has improved profit by decreasing her operating costs.
“The pump has significantly reduced costs for me. Before, I spent close to 600,000 francs (approximately $862) per year, not counting the transport cost and regular travel time to purchase diesel, with repairs on the pumping machine alone costing 200,000 francs (approximately $296),” Ouleye shared. “Now I am saving a lot from sales and the solar pump makes it easier to supply water to the whole plot of land correctly.”Ouleye Ka, Farmer
To increase the volume of activities once the rainy season is over, LBA and Nadji.Bi have ordered 94 solar pumps (valued at $189,854), key components of the irrigation systems, that are currently being shipped from the United States. Also, two vehicles (valued at $44,482) have been purchased to facilitate the transportation of the technical and commercial teams that visit existing and potential clients. In the coming months, the alliance partners will focus on completing 14 solar irrigation system installations by December 2022, evaluating 14 loan applications, and extending $63,352 in loans for the installation of solar irrigation systems.
These efforts will continue to be vital in reducing these farmers’ impact on the environment while significantly increasing their profit and thus, improving their livelihoods.