Integrated Functional Literacy and Technical Training for Farmers, Senegal

  • Date published:
    4 February 2021

Programme Key Information

Programme Title Integrated Functional Literacy and Technical Training for Farmers
Implementing Organization Société de Développement et des Fibres Textiles [Textile Fibres and Development Company] (SODEFITEX)
Language of Instruction Pulaar, Mandinka and Wolof
Date of Inception 2003
Programme Partners Bamtaare Services, a SODEFITEX subsidiary in charge of literacy provision in national languages; the National Federation of Cotton Producers (FNPC), a member of the National Council for Rural Dialogue and Cooperation (CNCR); and the country’s Ministry of Basic Education and National Languages, Department of Professional and Technical Training, and school inspectorates
Funding SODEFITEX (self-funding)
Annual Programme Costs CFA franc 72,000,000 (USD 127,069)
Annual Programme Cost per Learner CFA franc 250,000 (USD 441) (From 2016–2019)

Country Context and Background

The development of the Senegalese education sector is guided by its educational strategic plan, the https://www.globalpartnership.org/fr/content/programme-damelioration-de-la-qualite-de-lequite-et-de-la-transparence-2018-2030-senegal (Programme for the Improvement of Quality, Equity and Transparency in Education and Training) (PAQUET–EF, 2018–2030). To achieve the goals of this plan, the government has been making tremendous efforts to expand and improve its education system. The PAQUET–EF has eight priority areas 1 , including universal basic education, vocational and technical training, and improvement of the quality of teaching and learning.

Figure 1. Literacy levels for the Senegalese population aged 15 years and over.
Source: UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS)

Figure 1 shows a positive upward trend in the levels of literacy for the Senegalese population aged 15 years and over, at an average annual rate of 13.28%. However, in order to understand the current priorities in education for this sub-sector, it is important to understand the reasons for the steep drop in the literacy rate from 2011 to 2013, following which the 2013–2025 Education Sector Plan was developed. The objectives in enrolments per year were never achieved for several reasons (République du Sénégal, 2013). The first was the phasing out of key partners and consequent reduction in financing. Secondly, funding was never adequate to mobilize resources for the non-formal sub-sector nor was it adequate for the needs of the sub-sector. In fact, compared with the original enrolment target of 7,144 adult learners, only 91 learners were registered in 2011. Thirdly, there were no explicit indicators to measure the quality of the basic education programmes for youth and adults. The lack of a recognition and validation system, weak implementation of the education policy, and poor coordination mechanisms in governance seem to have further worsened the situation. This analysis led to the formulation of key strategies in PAQUET-EF (2013) for this sub-sector: diversifying and optimizing high-quality educational offers, training and capacity-building for educators and, finally, the integration of basic skills and life skills for citizenship education and lifelong learning. There was also a renewed focus on better funding strategies and governance (République du Sénégal, 2013).

Steady progress has been made since 2013, as illustrated in Figure 1, in particular owing to higher completion rates for primary schools, which are reported to have increased from 34.7% in 2012 to 39.5% in 2015. With regard to general secondary education, the overall attendance rate for 2015 was 43.06%. Also of note is the percentage of qualified school leavers who went on to higher education, which increased from 98% in 2013 to 100% in 2015. These numbers suggest a reduction in the stock 2 of over-age children lacking basic literacy skills, and therefore a fall in the number of potential beneficiaries of youth and adult literacy programmes.

Nonetheless, there are still shortfalls within the system that continue to be of concern. For instance, school attainment remains unsatisfactory at all levels (PAQUET–EF, 2018), particularly with regard to internal efficiency – that is the achievement of learning targets and pass rates for basic secondary school exams. Furthermore, by 2017, the number of youth and adults aged 15 and over who could not read and write at the basic level was much higher for women than for men (see Figure 1). Mingat et al. (2013) contend that, while the proportion of youth and adult populations lacking basic literacy skills may appear to have decreased in recent years, population growth in Senegal means that their number has increased.

To overcome the aforementioned challenges, 17 partner organizations have endorsed the updated programme PAQUET-EF, which aims to ensure quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all. In this plan, the Government of Senegal has established education and training as a priority sector for human capital development, the second pillar of Senegal’s national development programme, Plan for an Emerging Senegal (PES). This has a direct positive implication on increasing the employment opportunities of youth and adults. The unemployment rate in Senegal has seen a sharp increase, and stood at 19% in the first quarter of 2019. 3

Implementing organization

The agricultural sector is the largest employer of the Senegalese working age population. Even so, food-deficit and nutrition insecurity is still a prevalent problem in many parts of the country (WFP, 2018). Addressing this issue, it is important to support farmers in increasing their agricultural productivity by equipping them with enhanced knowledge and skills in sustainable farming and marketing. In this context, literacy as a foundational skill will greatly facilitate the process of training farmers in improving their knowledge and skills. There is a pressing need for integrated educational programmes that simultaneously meet adult learners’ literacy needs as well as providing entrepreneurial, agricultural-technical and other skills.

Against this backdrop, SODEFITEX initiated its Integrated Functional Literacy and Technical Training Programme (IFLTTP), which provides farmers with basic literacy and technical skills in order to improve agricultural productivity and enhance the quality of life.

Programme Overview

In 1982, SODEFITEX 4 started a functional literacy programme in response to particularly low school enrolment rates in rural areas of eastern Senegal and Casamance, in the south, through BAAMTAARE Service SA, a wholly-owned subsidiary of SODEFITEX. The programme involves a variety of stakeholders through innovative and participatory approaches, including the state, producer organizations, development projects and/ or programmes, private individuals and other institutions. The work of BAMTAARE Service SA is part of the plans for strengthening rural development services in support of the new rural economy. The organization launched IFLTTP, its first literacy classes in national languages in support of farmers, designed for the professionalization of farmers’ associations in 2003.

The services provided by IFLTTP include literacy training, technical training, support for new rural professions, rural development, development of cereal and oilseed crops, management advice to rural farms, and production of certified seeds among others. BAAMTAARE service has three main areas of work: capacity-building, agro-industrial support through consultancy, and research and development.

Capacity-building: Implementing new models of production requires farmers to be better trained to ensure high-quality produce and improved productivity on their farms, and make a good return on their agricultural loans and other investments. This area of work addresses the improvement of skills through functional literacy, rural communication, the structuring and professionalization of the various rural actors and capacity-building of leaders. BAAMTAARE Service SA comprises a coordinator, supervisors and literacy facilitators who draw on their 40 years of experience in the field to produce a number of good-quality instructional and learning resources.

Agro-industrial support through consultancy: The core objective of this area of work is to provide technical advice and support on structuring and running family farms as well as production techniques. The company provides agricultural advisory services, input and equipment to thousands of family-run farms to ensure their optimal productivity.

Research and development:The main activities under this category include piloting all project studies and writing BAAMTAARE service offers. Additionally, other activities such as executing thematic studies like sector studies, socio-economic surveys and action plans are also included here.

As of 2019, BAAMTAARE Services’ IFLTTP was operational in the regions of Kolda, Tambacounda, Kédougou, Sédhiou, Kaffrine, Kaolack and Fatick in southern Senegal. More than 100 learners enrol in the literacy programmes each year.

Programme goals and aims

The goal of IFLTTP is to foster sustainable social and economic development in rural agricultural communities of Senegal. More specifically, its aims are to:

  • enhance farmers’ basic writing, reading and numeracy skills in their mother tongue and national languages such as Pulaar, Wolof and Mandinka through functional literacy courses;
  • provide farmers with technical skills, modern knowledge and tools to maximize their agricultural productivity through vocational training courses;
  • create a literate environment to apply and practise newly acquired skills;
  • increase the contribution made by family-run agricultural holdings to the emergence of food sovereignty in Senegal;
  • support professionalization of relevant stakeholders and their associations through recognized training courses and formal certificates.

Target group

The programme is designed for people aged 15 and over, in particular young people who have dropped out of school or who have never been enrolled in the formal education system. It is aimed at members of family-run agricultural holdings (usually engaged in polyculture farming or animal husbandry), professional agricultural organizations and other farming bodies working in the area covered by SODEFITEX. The programme also supports people living in remote locations or villages that need technical assistance.

Specifically, contractual agreements are established between SODEFITEX and the family-run farms that benefit both parties. Through the IFLTTP programme, SODEFITEX provides farmers with literacy skills in combination with technical training and advice on managing the farm and increasing productivity. The family-run farms in turn supply high-quality cotton and grain at prices that are negotiated before crops are sown, and that SODEFITEX commits to purchase, with some exceptions with regard to grain production.

Programme structure and content

The programme includes two phases of training programmes: functional literacy courses, and technical skills training courses.

Phase 1: The functional literacy courses

The functional literacy courses cover basic reading, writing and numeracy in the learners’ mother tongue (Pulaar, Mandinka or Wolof). It includes 10 weeks (around 400 hours) of literacy instruction at a rate of five days a week and eight hours per day (usually from January to March). This phase enables learners to master reading and writing fluently, and to take notes, learn basic arithmetic (the four elementary mathematical operations, percentages, the ‘rule of three’ 5 , simple problem-solving) and simplified bookkeeping. The topics developed during the learning sessions are inspired both by learners’ main areas of activities, e.g. farming activities, and by the kind of practical knowledge that will be of use to them in their everyday lives, such as civic awareness, preventive measures regarding the use of pesticides, and hygiene.

Literacy classes are usually hosted by the village centre that acts as a focal point for surrounding villages speaking the same national languages (around 10 to 20 villages). Since 2014, on-site accommodation has been provided for learners during the literacy courses. Along with the classroom-based literacy courses, further learning activities identified by each basic community organization and family-run agricultural holding are carried out by using materials developed by trainers and learners themselves. These learning activities revolve around topics such as cash registering, data recording, keeping a campaign balance sheet, financial-flow management, business planning, reporting, meeting, organizing and structuring OPs 6 , drafting minutes of a meeting, credit management, and so on.

Phase 2: The technical training courses

A test to assess learning outcomes is taken after the completion of the literacy phase, which is immediately followed by the second phase, residential technical training courses. This phase lasts four weeks (between 120 and 150 hours) and caters for neo-literates who have successfully completed the first phase of the programme. It is supported by SODEFITEX’s expertise and bodies such as the National Institute of Soil Science (Institut national de pédologie) and the national agricultural loans bank (Caisse nationale de crédit agricole).

The technical and vocational training courses include components focusing on knowledge of the organizational and functional aspects of agricultural production, multiple crop farming and crop management, and rainfall data collection and analysis. Technical skills and knowledge acquired by learners during this phase allow them to assess the economic and financial profitability of their activities, and adopt sustainable production practices centred on protecting the environment and implementing toxicovigilance measures.

Approaches and Methodologies

The instruction in literacy skills places a strong emphasis on skills development. Among other instructional methods, integrative pedagogy is applied throughout the teaching and learning process. The integrative learning approach encourages teachers and learners to make connections between curricula and learning content so as to find an interdisciplinary understanding and solution to problems at hand (Huber et al., 2005). Connections between the learning of writing, reading, and numeracy skills and learners’ work and life are intentionally created so that learners find the learning more meaningful and engaging.

Figure 2 provides an example of a teaching process based on the experiential learning approach. The five sequences covered in a session illustrate this approach: in the first step, learners identify topics/ problems that need to be solved, based on an analysis of their situation; in the second step, learners reflect and review on what has been done and experienced by reading relevant materials and sharing their knowledge and ideas; in the third step, learners explore possible solutions to their problems; in the fourth step, learners plan concrete actions by applying skills and knowledge (note-taking, solving mathematical problems, plotting charts, using existing resources used in the market, etc.) acquired in this or previous sessions; in the fifth step, learners carry out a self-assessment or evaluation of the skills acquired during the training session. The process reflects the principles of Experiential Learning Theory, which recognizes the great potential benefit of learners’ experiences to their learning. Planning and teaching of literacy skills is greatly influenced by the experiential learning cycle, which includes concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization and active experimentation (UOL, 2020).

Figure 2. A visual representation of the teaching process based on an experiential learning approach. Source: Compiled by the authors using information obtained from SODEFITEX.

The technical training phase employs a competency-based approach that places the acquisition and application of demonstrated skills and knowledge at the heart of the educational process (Johnstone and Soares, 2014). Specifically, through the IFLTTP programme, expected competencies or skills of learners are identified through an assessment of institutional and organizational capacity in the context of farmers’ associations and family-run agricultural holdings. The vocational training curriculum, then, is developed and re-written to fill in learners’ knowledge and skills gaps so that they will become competent in increasing the quality of their agricultural products and bringing improvements in practice to their agricultural communities.
The advantage of competency-based education (CBE) here is clear: it reorients the educational process toward demonstrated mastery and the application of knowledge and skills in the real world, thereby building a bridge between academics and employers and resulting in a better understanding of the knowledge and skills that students will need to succeed in work and in life.

Curriculum and teaching materials

Phase 1 literacy courses use the National Basic Education Curriculum (Curriculum de l’Éducation de Base or CEB) developed by the national Ministry of Basic Education for general adult literacy education. This curriculum covers literacy learning in national languages and has been used as a key curriculum for adult literacy programmes since the introduction of the Ten-Year Basic Education Development Plan set out by the Ministry of Education.

Supplementary materials for literacy training are developed by the literacy and rural communications team at BAMTAARE Services. The team develops the following documents for training purposes: literacy manuals (reading, arithmetic); guides for instructors and supervisors; training standards; and training modules. They also produce further training documents, as well as tools and resources for collecting data, managing a class, creating pictograms, preparing fact sheets, and so on. Learning materials and tools are adapted to suit the context and needs of the target groups, and drafted in Pulaar, Mandinka, and Wolof as illustrated in Figure 3, which shows a selection of sample learning materials.

Programme Content and Teaching Materials

The literacy process utilized two types of materials:

Figure 3, 4, 5, 6. Samples of training materials. Source: SODEFITEX

The Phase 2 technical training courses use curricula developed by SODEFITEX with the technical support of the National Directorate of Vocational Training. For this purpose, the existing curriculum for vocational education was rewritten by applying a competency-based approach, as discussed in the previous section on instructional and teaching approaches. This is in line with the new reform pertaining to the strategic focus of the professional and technical training sub-sector. The rewriting of the standard curriculum for vocational education will be guided by these expected skills for different types of technical training. Tables 1 and 2 give examples of skills that are expected to be covered by technical training courses for plant production teams and crop managers.

Table 1: Skills matrix for plant production teams.

1 Carry out the tasks and roles of plant production teams.
2 Clarify the organization and operation of production chains at the national level.
3 Manage agricultural loans granted to farmers.
4 Apply concepts relating to crop fertilization and organic compost.
5 Apply crop management practices for cotton farming.
6 Apply crop management practices for corn, rice and peanut farming.
7 Identify agricultural statistics.
8 Maintain and repair phytosanitary and agricultural equipment.
9 Communicate in a professional context.

Source: Compiled by the authors using information obtained from SODEFITEX.

Table 2: Skills matrix for crop managers.

1 Carry out the tasks and roles of crop managers .
2 Apply concepts relating to crop fertilization and organic compost.
3 Apply crop management practices for cotton farming.
4 Apply crop management practices for corn, rice and peanut farming.
5 Plan farming activities.
6 Set up agricultural holding accounts for farmers.
7 Maintain and repair phytosanitary and agricultural equipment.
8 Communicate in a professional context.

Source: Compiled by the authors using information obtained from SODEFITEX.

Recruitment and Training of Facilitators

A new approach to training has been adopted, comprising a core functional literacy course immediately followed by a residential course providing specific professional and technical training, to replace two separate and far more costly literacy and professional training sessions.

Dictation excercise during a literacy course in Pulaar. Source: SODEFITEX

Each year, a one-week revision phase takes place to strengthen the skills acquired by the various facilitators and supervisors while simultaneously introducing them to innovative adult education practices so as to equip them to work more effectively on the ground. This period of training also enables them to consolidate their knowledge of new methods and approaches, particularly with regard to literacy-related integrative skills and teaching methods; the integration of learning outcomes; teaching evaluations and remedial measures; adult education worksheets; and specific points of grammar pertaining to languages of instruction.

The programme awards certificates of continuous training to facilitators who complete the training course and at the end of each revision phase. Subsequently, and most importantly of all, steps are taken to ensure that the number of facilitators employed matches the number of literacy classes on offer, which varies from year to year depending on budgetary allocations. Finally, facilitators are posted to communities that may host several classes and are themselves managed by a supervisor.

Enrolment of Learners

Learners are chosen according to specific criteria, chief among them being their age; their good standing within the local community; the approval of the farmers’ association, village or farm manager; their status as farmers; and the surface area of farmland to be managed according to the trades selected initially. In addition, candidates with previous training (at all levels and in all languages) are given preference. The average number of learners in both the phases is 30 per class per one facilitator

A group of participants enrolled in one of the IFLTTP literacy courses. Source: SODEFITEX

Moreover, agricultural producers, village leaders and farm managers also suggest potential learners for the programme. These learner recommendations must comply with eligibility criteria and candidate profiles for selected trades. There are no registration fees.

Assessment of learning outcomes

A group of learners display the certificates they
received in recognition of completing their training. Source: SODEFITEX

After completing the literacy phase, learners are assessed and receive a mark out of 40 for reading and writing, and a mark out of 20 for arithmetic. An average of 12/20 is needed in order to pass. A formative evaluation is carried out halfway through literacy courses to provide learners with support should they need it. Once learners have successfully completed the literacy phase, they are awarded a certificate of achievement that is recognized by the government.

The programme’s main innovation lies in the fact that SODEFITEX has actively collaborated with Senegal’s Department of Literacy and National Languages to certify its literacy training courses in national languages, based on the acquisition of functional literacy and numeracy skills. Measures to certify technical training in national languages are currently being finalized by departments within the Ministry of Professional Training, Learning and Crafts, so that learners are eligible to apply for public funding

A young literacy course graduate with her certificate of achievement. Source: SODEFITEX

Monitoring and Evaluation

The programme conducts periodic operational analyses to monitor the relevance and technical efficiency of its training programme. In doing so, the training programme meets the changing needs of learners and is adapted to changes in production strategies and innovation plans. In most cases, these analyses result in proposals for new programme guidelines and improvements to existing training provision.

A further practical assessment is carried out after a given period in order to monitor the technical efficiency and social relevance of the grassroots professional training led by SODEFITEX. It draws on the experiences and practices of individuals who have received professional training and aims to propose ways of improving the programme.

The skills gained upon completion of the literacy and technical training phases are validated by means of certificates of achievement, which are highly regarded in southern Senegal and guarantee certificate holders a job as a qualified agent under contract to farmers’ associations, agricultural holdings, NGOs and local development programmes.

Impact and challenges


Once learners have completed their training, around 90% of them are employed by farmers’ associations in their villages. Since the inception of the programme, more than 63,735 people living in rural areas, including 15,032 women, have received literacy training from SODEFITEX. This number includes 40 literacy facilitators and supervisors, 1,647 technical plant production team members, 600 technical livestock production team members, 72 crop managers, 58 farm managers and 18 agricultural advisers chosen from among the best members of the various technical production teams.

With regard to literacy skills, the programme has had a measurable impact, and training statistics indicate that learners’ achievements have remained stable over time. In 2016, for example, learners’ marks according to skill averaged 89.6% for reading and 82% for writing.

Two years later, in 2018, the average mark was 83.55% for reading and 83.5% for writing. Finally, in 2019, the average mark was 89.6% for reading and 90% for writing.
The programme has increased learners’ confidence in their own abilities and talents, and equipped learners with skills for communication, analysis and problem-solving. Moreover, farmers under contractual agreements with SODEFITEX are able to improve their agricultural productivity and increase their incomes. For example, skills and knowledge, such as timely harvesting methods, proper drying and storage practices, and productivity with regard to cotton and crop diversification (rice, corn, peanuts), help learners to control the quality of agricultural production better. Accordingly, they are able to identify the technical and economic constraints hindering their farm productivity and use agricultural planning tools, adopt techniques for combating soil erosion, implement organic fertilization processes, manage loans and data-harvesting tools, practise toxic-vigilance, combat pests in an environmentally friendly way (threshold measures), and harness modern techniques to measure the surface area of their wheat fields using GPS (geo-referencing).

Learner testimonials

‘My name is Ousmane Kambassé Kandé. I’m a literacy facilitator and I live one kilometre away from the Pakour agricultural centre. I took literacy classes during the 1982–1983 campaign. From 1991 to 1995, I was a Pulaar-language literacy facilitator. Since 1996, I’ve been working as a supervisor for the SODEFITEX literacy programme in the Pakour region, where I train production team members and SODEFITEX training programme managers. Literacy is hugely important because learners are ready to use what they’ve learned straight away, especially as they are adults who never attended school or who dropped out very early on.’ Ousmane Kandé, Pulaar-language literacy facilitator and supervisor.

‘It’s important to us to be literate because, as well as being able to read documents in Pulaar, literacy lets us gain the skills we need to do arithmetic. So, the aim of literacy is not just to become a member of a production team. In the past, when I had a book, I used to just look at the photographs, but today I can read and understand what I’m reading, and it’s all thanks to SODEFITEX’s literacy classes. Now I’m able to measure out the exact amount of produce I need to be using per farming lot. When I have a sack of rice, I know that it’s a kilo of rice, which lets me calculate the amount I need, how much I have left over, etc.’ Ibrahima Diao, Pulaar literacy course participant, 2019.

Awards and accolades

  • Recipient of the UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Prize (2019).
  • Validation of new training programme curricula by the Department of Professional and Technical Training within the Ministry of Employment, Technical Training and Crafts (2019).
  • Recipient of financial support from IIEP–UNESCO Dakar, the Africa-based office of UNESCO’s International Institute for Educational Planning; awarded from the support fund for innovation in the field of professional training (2017).
  • Official recognition for the programme by the Commission for Youth, Education, Training, Employment and Work, overseen by the Republic of Senegal’s Economic, Social and Environmental Council (2017).
  • Challenges

    A number of factors still hinder ongoing efforts and significantly limit the programme’s scope and performance. These include a lack of stable and convenient funding for the programme, which receives no financial support from the state, as well as a lack of technical and financial partners since 2009.

    Furthermore, the Ministry for Employment, Professional Training and Learning has yet to take steps to validate programme curricula for technical training in national languages, despite the fact that it would be within its remit to certify this innovative model of integrating literacy and technical training and thereby make it eligible for public funding.


    This programme, which was set up through various public projects, has been in place for 37 years. Since external funding was withdrawn in 2009, it essentially depends on the company’s annual output and resources. Its success can be attributed exclusively to:

    • SODEFITEX manages each year to set aside the resources needed to continue the programme using its own funds;
    • farmers who themselves select the most motivated learners best suited to receiving training and thereby guaranteeing its future.


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    1. To read more about these priority areas, visit https://www.borgenmagazine.com/progress-senegalese-education/https://www.globalpartnership.org/fr/content/programme-damelioration-de-la-qualite-de-lequite-et-de-la-transparence-2018-2030-senegal [Accessed 19 June 2020].

    2. ‘Stock’ refers to over-age children who could not complete school or had to drop out. These children are therefore not enrolled in schools because of their age and are often too old to follow the traditional formal school curriculum. The need for non-formal education for this age group is critical to planning and provision (UNESCO IIEP–Pôle de Dakar, UNICEF, World Bank and GPE, 2014).

    3. See https://tradingeconomics.com/senegal/unemployment-rate [Accessed 24 June 2020].

    4. The organization was established in 1974 as public limited company and was privatized in 2003.

    5. the ‘rule of three’ is a mathematical rule for solving problems based on proportions. For further information, see http://www.mathspadilla.com/2ESO/Unit4-ProportionalityAndPercentages/rules_of_three.html [Accessed 24 June 2020]

    6. Producer organizations (POs) or associations of producer organisations (APOs) help farmers reduce transaction costs and collaborate when processing and marketing their products. For further information, see https://ec.europa.eu/info/food-farming-fisheries/key-policies/common-agricultural-policy/market-measures/agri-food-supply-chain/producer-and-interbranch-organisations_en[Accessed 23 July 2020]


    Abdoulaye Mbaye
    Head of the Training and Innovations Department
    Km 4.5, Bd. du Centenaire de la Commune de Dakar
    BP 3216 Dakar, Senegal
    Tel.: +(221) 76 529 97 43
    Email: ;

    Website: http://www.sodefitex.sn/

For citation please use

Ayyappan, Annapurna, Qiongzhuoma, Chung, Loleka, Bernard, Zholdoshalieva, Rakhat. Last update: 4 February 2021. Integrated Functional Literacy and Technical Training for Farmers, Senegal. UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning. (Accessed on: 7 December 2023, 13:36 CET)

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