The Slow Climb to Sustainable Agriculture in Mauritania

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SEATTLE — Mauritania, officially the Islamic Republic of Mauritania is located in Northwest Africa. The country is plentiful in profitable natural resources such as iron, oil, gold and copper. However, Mauritanian citizens are constantly battling poverty.

Mauritania suffers from an unstable and fluctuating economy. As of 2016, the unemployment rate in the nation was 11.66 percent. In 2014, approximately 31 percent of the population lived below the poverty line. Sustainable agriculture in Mauritania is necessary to bring stability and strength to the troubled economy.

Unstable and Underdeveloped Agriculture

Over 50 percent of Mauritania’s population earns a living through agriculture and livestock. Mauritanian farmers produce dates, millet and sorghum and herders raise cattle and sheep. Mauritania is also considered one of the richest fishing grounds in the world, with fishing bringing in the second largest foreign revenue for the country.

Despite the country’s large agricultural resources, farming and livestock only make up 25 percent of Mauritania’s GDP. Currently, Mauritania’s crop production only covers 35 percent of the country’s needs. This means that Mauritania suffers from a lack of food security which increases the country’s poverty.

The lack of sustainable agriculture in Mauritania adds to the African nation’s lack of food security. Agriculture in Mauritania is also hampered by unfavorable weather conditions. Furthermore, the government lists sustainable agriculture in Mauritania low on its developmental priority list.

Creating Food Security

For over a decade many Mauritanian and international organizations have introduced projects to Mauritania specifically in the hopes of increasing food security. In 2012, the Promotion des pôles de Production Maraîchère pour un Approvisionnement Durable des Marchés Locaux was approved. The program was introduced by the Mauritanian government and the Groupe de Recherche et de Réalisation pour le Déveleoppement Rural in France, with the goal of increasing food security by introducing new infrastructure and irrigation to Mauritania.

The World Bank has been working to create sustainable agriculture in Mauritania since 1999, specifically through the Nutrition, Food Security and Social Mobilization Project. The project lasted until 2005. Other organizations that have funded or introduced initiatives include the Association of Cooperation Operations Research and Development and the United Nations Children’s Fund.

Creating Proper Irrigation Systems

Due to the lack of proper irrigation in Mauritania, farmers have to rely on rainfall to water their crops. Unfortunately, Mauritania is prone to frequent droughts and floods, making healthy, sustainable crops virtually impossible.

In 1999, the World Bank, with the Nutrition, Food Security and Social Mobilization Project, introduced the Integrated Development Project for Irrigated Agriculture in Mauritania. The project lasted until 2010 and its goal was to create sustainable development for irrigation throughout Mauritania.

The International Federation of Red Cross also instigated a case study of irrigation for food security in Mauritania in 2011. This study talks about the small-scale irrigation systems that have been put in place, mainly along the Senegal River. It also mentions the environmental sustainability, production training and positive socioeconomic results from the aid provided by the Red Cross.

Though Mauritania still has a long way to go before its government and economy are considered prosperous, these projects have helped lay the groundwork for the economy’s resurgence. The people now have to tools they need to create sustainable agriculture in Mauritania.

– Courtney Wallace
Photo: Flickr

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