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The fruits of our labor in Senegal

March 4, 2015

By Nancy Lee


MCC Deputy CEO Nancy Lee visits the Irrigation and Water Resource Management Project on Senegal's northern border. The $170 million project is part of MCC's $540 million compact with Senegal.

If you want to understand the impact of an ambitious investment program involving the construction of about 370 kilometers of roads, two major bridges, and a complex irrigation system, you need to get out there, see it for yourself and talk to people on the ground.  That’s what led me to Senegal, where MCC is in the final year of implementing a $540 million compact that is expected to benefit more than 1.5 million people.

After a visit to the Casamance region, where President Macky Sall, Ambassador James P. Zumwalt and I inaugurated the Kolda Bridge, the local MCC team and I drove to Senegal’s northern border and visited the compact’s Irrigation and Water Resource Management (IWRM) Project, where MCC is investing $170 million to help the Senegalese people achieve food security and greater export potential.

It’s hard to understand the importance of the IWRM Project until you’ve spent a few nights in Senegal and realized how fundamental rice is to the Senegalese diet. But the country currently imports more than half of its rice, despite rich soils in both the north and the south.

The IWRM Project, when completed later this year, is expected to increase production on approximately 87,000 acres of land in the northern Delta, Senegal’s rice heartland, much of which would otherwise have been abandoned because of rising land salinization. By increasing both the quantity and the quality of irrigation water in Senegal, the IWRM Project is expected to allow farmers not only to improve their primary annual harvest of rice, but also to grow year-round with a second and potentially even a third vegetable harvest for consumption and sale in markets in Senegal and beyond. This investment supports Senegal’s long-term development strategy. Senegal recently launched an ambitious Plan Senegal Emergeant which aims to increase rice self-sufficiency by 2017.

I visited several small farming communities like Boundoum, where farmer producer groups told me how eagerly they were awaiting the completion of this important investment. Standing in the Sahel under the hot noonday sun, it was easy to understand how access to good supplies of irrigation water mean the difference between success and failure for families and for whole communities.

It’s not all about infrastructure and agricultural productivity. As part of the environmental and social management plans that accompany the MCC-funded irrigation investments, MCC local staff and our Senegalese partners listened to the people of Boundoum and responded to their clear need for complementary social services critical to quality of life. As a direct result of MCC’s comprehensive approach to economic investment, I found myself standing in a new birthing center that is expected to deliver 20 babies per month in that community.

The Senegal Compact, in short, embodies the best of what these partnerships can offer – from highly complex, ambitious, and transformational infrastructure investments to simple community services that profoundly affect the individual lives of mothers and their families.