DAKAR — Agriculture was a big business in Senegal. However, climate change directly impacted food security in the country. Farmers depend entirely on rain for their crops. Climate change and its resulting unpredictable rains, lower rainfalls and storms can destroy crops and lead to falling crop prices. As a result of the industry’s poor performance, many people have relocated from rural to urban areas.
Senegal’s rural population dropped from 70 percent in the 1960s to 57 percent in the 1990’s, and has since remained steady. With these figures, it is no wonder that life in urban areas seems more attractive.
What is food security? The U.N. World Food Programme defines the term as “the availability and access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food at all times.” Markets and granaries may have enough food for everyone, but those people who cannot afford to purchase it or trade for it are food insecure.
This is sometimes true in areas where there is a famine – food may be available, but people may not be able to access it.
Climate change threatens approximately 500 million smallholder farmers worldwide. Ibrahima Hathie, research director at the Initiative Prospective Agricole et Rurale, estimates temperatures in central Senegal will rise from 1.5 to 1.75 degrees by 2050 and rainfall amounts will fall 20 to 30 percent.
The answer to improving food security in Senegal was found in growing leydour, and producing onion and rice seeds. Bocar Dioum, the former head of the Kaymor commune’s health department had this to say, “Faced with the drop in agricultural revenue due to climate change, and the high number of consultations at the health center, we have found an answer in the revival of medicinal plants, specifically, leydour.”
Leydour the Crop
Leydour has many uses including curing stomach aches, fever, jaundice, intestinal worms, skin problems and more. Leydour is a perennial herb that can be harvested every two months. It also brings in more revenue with far less financial investment and manpower than other crops typically grown in Senegal such as millet and groundnuts. Cheikh Ndiaye, a local village chief, said, “A kilo of leydour sells for much more (1,500 CFA francs/$2.6) than all the other crops here.”
Revenue from leydour makes up for the revenue lost as a result of climate change and pays for other needs. The leaves are dried and ground into the powder which is then sold to herbalists for 1,500 CFA francs per kilo. They use the money to buy vegetable seeds and other needs.
The Farmer and the Process
Biaye’s farm produces both onion and rice seed and provides them to farmers. After the crops are harvested the farmers return a number of seeds they were given to the seed bank as well as 25 percent more seed. The extras are held for future planting. Every two years farmers will have enough seeds to become independent of the seed bank’s aid and run their own self sustaining farm.
Food security in Senegal can be a reality for participating farmers. Approximately 350 women from area villages are recipients of the benefits from the farm’s training programs.
The effects of climate change can be seen and felt every day. It impacts food security in Senegal, access to safe water and degradation of ecosystems. The growth of leydour and the production of seeds will help to limit the effects of climate change and the consequences for food security and biodiversity.
– Mary Barringer