The Richard Toll Irrigation Scheme is an irrigation project in Senegal. It is located on the Senegal River, about 300 kilometers (190 mi) east of Dakar.

The project was initiated by the French colonial government in 1949 and was completed in 1965. It is the largest irrigation project in Senegal and irrigates over 100,000 hectares (250,000 acres) of land.

The project is used to irrigate rice, sugarcane, and other crops. It has helped to increase agricultural production in Senegal and has provided jobs for thousands of people.

The project has also been criticized for environmental damage. The water from the Senegal River has been diverted to the project, which has reduced the flow of the river and caused problems for downstream communities.


Extensive Cultivation

The Richard-Toll Irrigation Scheme plays a pivotal role in Senegal’s agriculture by enabling the cultivation of a significant land area totaling 12,800 hectares. This extensive cultivation directly contributes to increased agricultural output, addressing food security concerns, and supporting the livelihoods of numerous farmers.

Flood Control through Dam Construction

The construction of a dam as part of the irrigation scheme is crucial for flood control. Senegal is prone to seasonal flooding, which can devastate crops and infrastructure. The dam helps regulate water flow, preventing excessive flooding during heavy rains. This not only safeguards agricultural lands but also protects communities and their infrastructure from the damaging effects of flooding.

All-Year Crop Production

Senegal’s climate features a distinct wet season and a dry season. The provision of irrigation water through the Richard-Toll scheme ensures consistent water supply for crop cultivation throughout the year, overcoming the limitations of solely relying on rainfall. This all-year access to water significantly boosts crop production and contributes to food security by reducing dependency on seasonal rainfall.

Resettlement and Development

The irrigation scheme has led to the resettlement of people, particularly in the Kaolack area. This not only provides a livelihood for those resettled but also contributes to regional development. New settlements near irrigation facilities can stimulate local economies, improve infrastructure, and lead to social development in previously underserved areas.

Reduced Rice Importation

Before the scheme’s implementation, Senegal faced the challenge of increasing expenditure on rice importation due to insufficient domestic production. The irrigation scheme’s success in diversifying crops and boosting agricultural output, including rice, helps reduce the country’s dependence on imports. This reduction in importation has positive implications for the national economy by conserving foreign exchange and promoting self-sufficiency.

Economic Crop Diversification

The scheme’s impact on diversifying crops is noteworthy. Shifting from a heavy reliance on groundnuts to cultivating a variety of crops such as maize, cassava, and rice enhances the agricultural sector’s resilience. Crop diversification minimizes risks associated with monoculture farming and creates a more balanced and sustainable agricultural landscape.

Job Creation

The Richard-Toll Irrigation Scheme generates significant employment opportunities for Senegalese citizens across various stages of the agricultural cycle. From planting and cultivation to harvesting and marketing, the entire value chain benefits from increased activity. This has a positive impact on rural employment rates and contributes to poverty reduction by providing stable income sources for many families.

1. Income Earning and Improved Standards of Living

The Richard Toll Irrigation Scheme holds immense importance for Senegal as it plays a pivotal role in generating income and subsequently raising the living standards of its citizens. By providing a reliable source of water for agricultural activities, the scheme enables farmers to cultivate crops throughout the year. This increased productivity leads to higher yields and a surplus of agricultural products, which can be sold in local markets and beyond. As farmers earn more from their produce, their financial situation improves, contributing to poverty reduction and an enhanced quality of life for both rural and urban populations.

2. Government Revenue Generation

The irrigation scheme not only benefits individual farmers but also contributes significantly to government revenue. Taxes imposed on tenants, transporters, and other entities involved in the agricultural value chain generate substantial income for the government. This revenue can be reinvested in various development projects, such as infrastructure, education, and healthcare, thereby supporting the overall socio-economic growth of the country.

3. Foreign Exchange Earnings through Agricultural Exports

One of the standout features of the Richard Toll Irrigation Scheme is its contribution to foreign exchange earnings. The cultivation of groundnuts and other crops facilitated by the irrigation system leads to surplus production. Senegal can then export these agricultural products to international markets, earning valuable foreign currency in return. This influx of foreign exchange not only bolsters the country’s reserves but also strengthens its economic stability and capacity for imports.

4. Urbanization and Regional Development

The irrigation scheme’s influence extends beyond agricultural production to regional development and urbanization. As water availability encourages diversified crop cultivation, areas like Thies, Kaolack, Touba, and Ziguinchor experience increased economic activity. This growth spurs urbanization as people from rural areas migrate in search of job opportunities. This shift toward urban centers can lead to the development of infrastructure, services, and a more balanced distribution of economic activities across the country.

5. Promoting International Trade and Relations

Senegal’s agricultural exports, facilitated by the irrigation scheme, foster good international trade relations. The country’s ability to consistently supply quality agricultural products enhances its reputation as a reliable trading partner. Strengthened trade ties with importing countries can lead to broader diplomatic relations, economic partnerships, and increased foreign investment in Senegal’s agro-industrial sector.

6. Agro-Based Industrial Development

The availability of abundant agro raw materials due to successful irrigation farming serves as a catalyst for industrial development. Industries such as food processing, packaging, and agro-based manufacturing can thrive on the steady supply of agricultural inputs. This industrial growth not only adds value to the agricultural products but also creates employment opportunities, driving economic diversification and development.

7. Advancing Agricultural Research and Knowledge

The Richard Toll Irrigation Scheme contributes to the advancement of agricultural research and education. With a consistent water supply, researchers can study various plantation agriculture techniques, irrigation methodologies, and crop patterns. This research, in turn, informs farmers about best practices, optimizing their yields and resource utilization. Such knowledge dissemination enhances agricultural productivity and sustainability, contributing to food security and economic resilience in Senegal.

In summary, the Richard Toll Irrigation Scheme holds multifaceted importance for Senegal, from boosting income and government revenue to fostering international trade, industrial development, and urbanization. It not only supports agriculture but also acts as a catalyst for broader socio-economic development, improving living standards and contributing to the country’s overall growth trajectory.


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