21 June 2021
April 29th – EVALUATION OF A RICE AND MANGROVE SALT PROJECT IN GUINEA BISSAU
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The Kinomé team with rice farmers who benefited from the project. On the right are overflow pipes installed through DEDURAM to improve water management in rice fields.

 

It is not well known, but rice is not only native to Asia: it was also domesticated in Africa a long time ago!

 

In early April, Kinomé was in Guinea-Bissau to do the final evaluation of a program to help rice and salt farmers in the mangrove.

 

In this small country wedged between Senegal and Guinea, farmers plow rice fields, build dikes, and dig irrigation canals only by hand, with a shovel-shaped tool called “K’bindé” in Balante language. A colossal task! The women produce salt by boiling salt water over wood fires. This technique, very painful, causes health problems because of the fumes, and participates in the degradation of the forests.

 

 

 

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A drainage canal in the rice fields.

 

The DEDURAM project (for Sustainable Development of Mangrove Agriculture), is implemented by the Guérande Univers-Sel association, which has been working for more than 20 years in West Africa to disseminate innovative techniques, both for solar salt farming (easier work and zero deforestation) and for water management in rice fields (secure harvests and better yields). The project was financed by the European Union and the AFD.

 

The traditional method of salt production: a brine (a salt-saturated solution obtained by filtering water through dry, salty soil) is heated over a wood fire. When the water evaporates, the salt begins to crystallize and can be recovered. This method implies a great consumption of wood, and especially a very painful work: all day long in the smoke and the heat, while the sun is already shining hard !

 

The team was able to visit several villages benefiting from the project, and to meet with the women farmers concerned, who told them of their satisfaction and their confidence in the project, but also of their needs for the future. Finally, the field trip was an opportunity to put one’s feet in the mud, (re)taste cashew wine and learn a lot about the techniques and the local culture.