«Challenges are what makes life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful» (Joshua Marine)
The Young Horticulturists of Saint-Louis had great hopes for their onion harvest, only to realize that they still have much to learn. Despite all the hard work and putting into practice everything they had been taught, the variety of onion chosen suffered from the sustained heat. In addition, as the size of the cultivated area increased significantly, the pressure hoses did not provide sufficient flow to water the whole field. As the onions needed a lot of water in the beginning, this water deficiency negatively impacted the final production. The harvest consisted of only eight bags, which was a severe blow for our young entrepreneurs.
An Experienced Advisor
«A lot of work had to be done to keep the young people motivated as well as reassure their families, but with Khadim Diouf, the young agronomist working for the Gaston Berger University now confirmed as main technical advisor, all seemed reassured. With proven expertise in cultivating on a large scale on the same type of soil, he was the best candidate to guide the young people through a complete revision of their cultivation methods and calendar. » (Ousmane Ndiaye, Project Manager)
The first proposal Khadim made was to change their irrigation system into « furrow irrigation». While this required finding a grader to level certain parts of the ground, a tractor to plough the whole plot, as well as someone to train them on how to make ridges, this system could propel the production by providing better irrigation with reduced physical effort. Oumar, a specialist in handmade ridges, showed the young people how to dig irrigation canals for a quick and abundant irrigation of the cultivated areas.
"If we had knowledge of such an irrigation technique before planting the onions, we would not have had those water constraints that we experienced" observed Youssoupha Basse (the current president of the cooperative). To which Khadim replied with this old wolof adage: «Good days give you happiness and bad days give you experience ».
The second proposal Khadim made was to plant 4000 seeds of a big variety of watermelon and 25000 seeds of a hybrid cabbage, two short-cycle vegetables (3 months) and both very profitable. While the irrigation system was being overhauled, the cabbage seeds were sown in a seed bed under the strict supervision of Khadim. The seedlings are growing well. Meanwhile, the area intended for growing the cabbage is being irrigated frequently. With the price of cabbage at its highest point from now until December, this crop should allow for a considerable profit.
The Road Ahead
Khadim has now set up a cultural monitoring plan with the young people, which they must respect scrupulously in order to achieve the results they want. It is clear at this stage of the project that the young beneficiaries have gained a lot of experience as they were confronted with a reality that was totally different from what they had experienced during their training. What is also clear is that without the support of our project manager Ousmane and technical advisor Khadim more than one might have given up. But as they overcame their challenges, they know they have made major steps forward and will soon truly reap what they have sown.
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