Paving the Way: Sustainable Agriculture in Senegal

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DAKAR — Programs implemented by non-government organizations (NGOs) and intragovernmental organizations, like the United Nations and the World Bank, significantly support the nation of Senegal in leading the way toward sustainable agriculture in Africa.

Even as Senegal and surrounding countries continue to recover from a devastating drought in the late 1960s, the region faces new challenges ushered in with climate change. In south Senegal, rainfall is still somewhat dependable, but the north has become more vulnerable to hardship in the last 25 years through coastal erosion from rising sea levels, decreases in rainfall and erratic rainy seasons.

Here is a look at three programs that have aided in restoration or introduction of sustainable agriculture in Senegal.

The Rodale Institute and Regenerative Agriculture

Between the Ferlo and Gambia rivers lies a region with unique soil composition called the Peanut Basin. The Basin is best suited for growing peanuts and millet, which have been exported from the area since the late 1800s and are a primary source of jobs and revenue. The region even produced through the 1960s drought, though not as abundantly, and by then, soil degradation had begun to take its toll.

Since 1987, The Rodale Institute (TRI) has trained more than 10,000 farmers, technicians and extension agents for projects to help decrease degradation and increase production of the Peanut Basin and surrounding areas.  The training included handling urbanization, where farm plots become increasingly smaller and crop rotation becomes exponentially more valuable. TRI also focused on the need for gender equality to maximize success.  In the early 2000s, TRI projects increased the number of women working in agriculture from 45 percent to 70 percent.

TRI helped not only with crop rotation but loan rotation, as well. During one project, a system of rotating loans was established for purchasing livestock, equipment and subsistence seeds. Upon the project’s completion, all loans were repaid and women’s groups had taken over management of its own loan process.

These and other TRI initiatives remain in place today, and this work launched decades before continues toward sustainable agriculture in Senegal.

FAO of the United Nations and the IPPM Programme

As Senegal’s population grows and farming seasons become increasingly erratic, citizens have become more dependent on food imports – a factor that contributes to poverty in Senegal. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations develops strategies to help citizens rely less on expensive food imports and more on agricultural productivity and competition through the Integrated Production and Pest Management (IPPM) Programme.

IPPM activities include reducing pesticide risks, increasing capacity to adapting to climate change and helping farmers market the quality produce they grow.

FAO has also developed the farmer field school (FFS) approach, in which a group of 20 to 25 farmers meets once a week to compare traditional and modern farming practices over a growing season.  Each session includes presentations of farmers’ findings from experiments and observation, followed by discussion and planning for both the short- and long-term.

The World Bank and Agribusiness In Senegal

In 2013, the World Bank financed the Sustainable and Inclusive Agribusiness Development Project, set for completion in 2019. The project aims to transform commercial agriculture into sustainable agriculture in Senegal through objectives like boosting sustainable land management and engaging local communities in agribusiness and land, water and forest programs.

The project focuses geographically on the Ngalam Valley and Lac de Guiers, areas that possess fertile soils, access to water and are attractive to private sector development with large land parcels.  World Bank Vice President for Africa Makhtar Diop believes the investment will indeed transform agriculture in Senegal and across Africa, noting that a vibrant farm economy packs a poverty-fighting punch.

The project will follow the guidelines of The Principles of Responsible Agro-Investments developed by the World Bank and other agencies, and will align with the World Bank’s new Sahel Initiative.

With the passion and proper funding of each project, program and initiative, sustainable agriculture in Senegal grows more attainable each season.

– Jaymie Greenway
Photo: Flickr

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About Author

Jaymie Greenway

Jaymie lives in Rolla, MO. Her academic interests include biology, geology, and communication/technical communication. Jaymie is a business owner, pop culture junkie, amateur event organizer and lover of Motown who pines for weeks-long road trips with her family.

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