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Cooperation helps nomads fight desertification in Mauritania

Page history last edited by Rosemary 9 years, 2 months ago

Nomads fight desertification by creating a cooperative community in the desert: the Tenadi Agricultural and Poultry Farming Cooperative in Mauritania

The Tenadi oasis in the Wad Naga district of the Trarza region of Mauritania in West Africa, at the gateway to the Sahara desert, was, for centuries, a prosperous centre for grazing and herding livestock from south and south-east Mauritania en route to Tiris in the north of the country. The years of persistent drought since 1973, however, wiped out 90 per cent of livestock and threatened to destroy the nomadic way of life.

Facing the prospect of rural exodus with all its adverse consequences, 200 families of nomads chose to join forces and settle at Tenadi in 1975, dramatically changing their way of life. They developed new productive activities as part of their new role in their traditional desert environment by tapping into underground water supplies and using simple agricultural techniques.

Since 1976, the Tenadi Agricultural and Poultry Farming Cooperative (Cooperative agricole et avicole de Tenadi) has pursued a campaign to combat desertification and to promote small and medium-scale agriculture, poultry farming, health training and other ventures. They sank two boreholes with immersed pumps, reforested an area of 80 hectares around the boreholes to prevent movement of the dunes, and established a Prosopis nursery for planting windbreaks and creating a date palm oasis where market gardening can take place under the palm trees. The French Embassy provided the cooperative’s first agricultural specialist who taught them about market gardening and planting tree nurseries to combat sand encroachment.

The impact of the Tenadi cooperative can be seen not just in reintroducing income-generating activities in a hostile environment, but also in restoring human dignity in the face of total poverty. A recent prize “has made it possible for the world to hear the voice of at least one of those without a voice,” said a cooperative member.

The cooperative is the joint winner of the 2006 Sasakawa Prize, awarded by the UN Environment Program, which this year focused on “Deserts and desertification”.  A new version of the UNEP Sasakawa Prize, which has been awarded for more than 20 years, was inaugurated in 2005 to nurture environmental innovation, research, initiatives and ideas on an annually changing theme. The prize encourages sustainable and replicable efforts and recognizes innovation, groundbreaking research, and extraordinary grassroots initiatives from around the world.

The $200,000 prize money will help the cooperative step up its campaign to prevent desertification and protect the environment; increase water extraction (sinking new boreholes and creating reservoirs); extend the amount of farmland which is suitable for cultivation and increase the number of families in the cooperative; improve access to the oasis site; and share its experience.

This story was compiled from information contained in the acceptance speech made by Tenadi cooperative president Sidi El Moctar Ould Waled at the prize ceremony in New York City on October 30, 2006, and from information on the UNEP site.

Cooperative agricole et avicole de Tenadi, B.P. 154, Nouakchott, Mauritanie


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