But over the last six months, ground pockmarked with anthills that lay hard and idle during the nine-month dry season has blossomed through irrigation into a small but thriving commercial farm, thanks to an aid project financed by Spain.
Trained and assisted by Spanish agriculture experts, 100 peasant farmers and their families have become international exporters of melons to supermarkets in Spain and Britain in a commercial arrangement with a private Spanish farm company.
"Now there's money in the village," said Amy Diouf, her baby son strapped to her back, as she stood in fields crossed with plastic irrigation tubes that drip-feed moisture to crops planted at Djilakh farm, which is southeast of Dakar, the capital.
International aid experts meeting this week in Accra, Ghana, will debate how best the billions of dollars of foreign aid pledged to help the developing world should be handled to have a direct impact on the poor, like African peasant farmers.
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