Import – export business: LEAF travels well

LEAF Marque Technical Manager, Anthony Goggin, recently travelled to Senegal as part of the FRICH project. Here he tells us all about his trip.

There’s no doubt that LEAF principles travel very well indeed. I saw this first hand in sunny Senegal in North West Africa recently, a country which is fast becoming a very important exporter of quality fresh produce to Europe.

After an overnight stay in Senegal’s capital, Dakar, it was a 4 hour drive up to St Louis the next morning. Known as the ‘Venice of Africa’ for being built on a collection of islands, St Louis has markets brimming with fruits such as melons.

Just inland, in the flat land south of the River Senegal, is the 100 hectare farm managed by Soldive, a French-based company that grows melons in Europe, the Caribbean and Africa.

I met with the Soldive’s Technical Manager, Lionel Payen and his Senegalese colleague and Production Manager, Mohammed Gaye. Together they manage planting the crop in the field, weeks of precise fertigation and careful agronomy through to harvesting and pack-house operations ready for shipping to Europe in just eight days. I was able to see first hand the care they take at each stage of production and their commitment to the highest standards. The melon business provides much needed employment and the canal that brings water from the Senegal river to the melon fields also brings water to the community which means they can now grow their own crops nearby. I saw plots bursting with chilli peppers, tomatoes, onions and peanuts.

These West African farmers, just like those I met in Kenya last year, were very interested to know more about the principles of Integrated Farm Management (IFM) and to hear about it in action in the UK and other parts of the world. I was able to show the African IFM films that have been developed through the FRICH project we are involved in.

As in the UK, there’s nothing like a farm walk to really get discussions going. I took the Soldive team to visit a Senegalese farm in the same area that has already adopted LEAF’s Integrated Farm Management and had their farm certified to the LEAF Marque Standard. The farm is named SCL, part owned by UK’s Barfoots of Botley, and we had a good few hours walking through their crops of sweetcorn, asparagus and sweet potato. We heard from Celine Frouin, Head of Agronomy at SCL, about why and how she farms the LEAF way.

You can hear more about LEAF’s work in Africa in our series of podcasts, produced for the project, here.

LEAF, in partnership with Waitrose, Green Shoots Productions, British & Brazilian, Blue Skies, Sunripe and Wealmoor have been working with sub-Saharan African farmers now for nearly 3 years. The FRICH project’s overall objective is, “Improving the prosperity and sustainability of small farmers through the adoption of Integrated Farm Management (IFM) to the LEAF Marque Standard.”

More about this FRICH project and others can be found on the DfiD website.

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