By Moustapha Diallo, IFRC

Like many farmers, Bogo Sy, 65, visits her vegetable garden every morning. There, in the garden, vegetables, fruits and medicinal herbs grow. A water pump system installed – just a stone’s throw away from the Senegal river – makes it easy to water the plants.  

It is a relief for Bogo Sy, who lives in Dagana, northern Senegal, and who, just a few years ago, used an old and rudimentary system to irrigate her vegetable garden.

“In the past I had to pump the water every morning and evening, twice a day on foot. By the time I got home, I was so exhausted,” she said.

But to feed Malick Sy, her sick and retired husband, and her grandchildren, Bogo had no choice. Water is crucial. “Sometimes, we had to reduce the number of meals at home due to failed crops following erratic rainfall, but I refused to beg in order to maintain my dignity.”

Today, Bogo’s life has changed for the better, with the arrival of the Senegal River Basin Initiative (IRIS), a regional cross border initiative launched by the IFRC in 2014, to build the resilience of communities living along the Senegal river in Guinea, Mali, Mauritania and Senegal.

Dagana, like many communities along the Senegal river, is exposed to an increased risk of disasters because of human activity and climate change: floods, ecosystem degradation, food insecurity and waterborne diseases, among others.

In the event rains are inadequate in Dagana, farmers can take advantage of the proximity of the river to water their crops. However, vulnerable farmers need support to acquire the necessary equipment to get water from the river.

In the course of the project, Bogo Sy received a loan to boost her activities. She bought seeds and fertilizer and contributed to the purchase and installation of a new water pump.

Bogo’s garden is now flourishing. She said: “I use part of the harvest to feed my family; sell the other part at the market, and the rest is used for subsequent farming.”

Like Bogo Sy, many other farmers in Dagana who received loans from the IRIS project have seen their gardens flourish. They are selling produce at the market, generating income for their families.

Bogo Sy has now repaid her loan. The money will be lent again to another member of the community. “It is a kind of rotating fund,” said Tidiane Sane, the national focal point for the IRIS project, at the Senegalese Red Cross. “This will allow us to build community solidarity and a network of resilient people.”

Starting with just eight cooperatives, including six women’s groups, the ‘revolving fund’ has now funded more than 160 individuals and group initiatives.