DAKAR, Senegal- Located largely in the Sahel region of Africa, Senegal has faced many of the same challenges that hinder growth and stability for fellow nations in the area such as localized flooding, pest infestations and irregular rainfall. From persistent poverty to ongoing conflict stemming all the way back to 1982, Senegal has endured its fair share of adversities. The consequences of such setbacks have resulted in an unstable economic market and high food insecurity. In 2013, Senegal was ranked 154 out of 186 countries in the Human Development Index and sees nearly 2.2 million people living with food insecurity.
While such stories out of Africa are nothing new, good news is finally beginning to rear its progressive head. With combined efforts from the World Food Programme (WFP) and Oxfam America, the R4 Rural Resilience Initiative was launched in an effort to protect agriculture and help build resistance against climate variability. An extension of a prior project that involved the building of dykes and compost pits in villages to make fertilizer and water more readily available, this new Rural Resistance Initiative will build on the prior programs success.
Through a four staged approach, this initiative will aim to strengthen food and income security for poor farmers by managing risks through four main approaches:
1. Community Risk Reduction- This approach is set to improve natural resource management, which help encourage sustainability.
2. Prudent Risk-Taking- By increasing access to microcredit services, farmers are given freedom to take practical risks to help grow their farms and markets.
3. Risk Transfer- By providing insurance coverage, farmers displace the financial risk onto the backs of insurance companies.
4. Risk Reserves- Increasing savings for poor farmers will enable them to build and save funding for future endeavors.
In addition to these new approaches, the R4 initiative will also involve a component called the Saving for Change (SFC) initiative. This program involves a group of farmers who each contribute portions of their income (10-20 US cents) every week to a piggy bank of sorts so that other farmers can take out loans. These loans are eventually paid back to the coalition with interest, consequently helping farmers build savings. Abdou, a baker in a village called Kouthiacoto spoke positively about the effects of the program.
“Thanks to our SFC group in the village, I got a loan and increased my daily use of flour to 5 kg. I earn more now and I plan to use my profits to boost my production more and meet other needs. Before the SFC group was created, we did not think about saving money but now it has become routine and it helps us a lot.”
The World Bank is also helping Senegal by approving a Governance and Growth Support Credit (GGSC) which will deliver education, health and energy services, and boost economic growth through reforms to the business environment. One of the World Bank’s primary focuses will be to focus on strengthening the Government’s accountability systems and the efficiency of many basic service institutions. The credit will be in the amount of $30 million and will be financed through the World Bank’s International Development Association. As Senegal moves forward into a new year, there are many hopeful signs coming out of the region.
– Jeffrey Scott Haley
Sources: World Food Programme, World Food Programme All Africa
Photo: Daily Maverick