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From Gas to Solar to Onions

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Potou011514-26-EditBack in 2008 El Hadji Seck recalls long hard days of harvesting only groundnuts, a crop that grows well in the sandy soils and semi-arid conditions of Potou. The following year an irrigation system of solar panels, water tanks and pipes were built by the Millennium Villages Project for the 4 cooperative farmer’s groups here. Soon after El Hadji who is a hired hand was growing onions (below), cassava, melons, tomatoes, carrots, potatoes and fish in a pond. “I don’t know how many families take advantage of this system, but I have counted more than 80 women who are part of this program,” he said. “It is a very good system, we are able to grow higher value crops, profits are shared and we are responsible for maintenance. Even last year we had a problem with the pumps and we paid for it ourselves.” 

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The district of Leona where Potou is located is the onion basket of Senegal producing roughly 25 percent of all the onions in the country. Closer to the sea in Gabar, a village part of the Potou cluster, Kalidou Dia, is a bit of an expert farmer. Through a new USAID grant, the project is hoping to make solar energy more accessible for Potou’s farmers like Kalidou. For years he has been using a drip irrigation system (left) taught to him by the MVP to grow an assortment of crops. Today he’s watering carrots and turnips with a gas-powered pump (below). “I’ve seen the solar panels and I think it can be very helpful. The water is not too deep on this side, maybe it can save me money and time for my business.”

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