Center for Mechanized Services with the Pont Gendarme farmers' union
Since 2014, the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (SFSA) has been working to improve rice production in Senegal, aiming for an increase in yield of 20 percent and to give farmers opportunities to grow rice for two seasons instead of just one. To this purpose, SFSA introduced the CEMA model (Center for Mechanized Services) so that the members of the Pont Gendarme Farmers’ Union in the Senegal River Valley can access mechanization services for field preparation and harvesting.
The CEMA model was piloted in Senegal in a partnership between SFSA and a farmer organization called Union Pont Gendarme (UPG) which was founded in 1999 in the Senegal River Valley. The total land area in this region is 320 hectares, of which only 270 hectares are currently being utilized. The principal activity of the members of the UPG is small scale familial rice and vegetable agriculture.
The UPG is composed of 320 members divided into nine sub-unions, called GIE (Groupement d’intérêt économique/economic interest groups) in the village of Pont Gendarme. The union is formally composed of management bodies: the General Assembly, the Board of Directors, and the Executive Board, the members of which are selected in a transparent and fair process. The General Assembly is the sovereign institution of the UPG, the decision-making body for the activities of the UPG.
Thanks to the pumping station set up by the governmental agency, SAED, working in the Senegal River Valley, the UPG also manages the hydraulic planning required to irrigate the fields of union members for a fixed cost of 72,000 F CFA per hectare.
Since its creation, the UPG has formed many partnerships with private and public entities that bring their own knowledge and expertise of the agricultural sector: SAED (governmental extension service in the Senegal River Valley), CNCAS (agricultural financial institution), FPA (association of farmers’ unions), CGER (management center for rural economy), CIFA (farmer training), PAPRIZ (Japanese rice project) and the SFSA.
Since the establishment of the pilot CEMA model in 2015, SFSA has helped with upfront costs to acquire some equipment and machineries to allow the CEMA, as an independent enterprise belonging to the UPG, to provide different services not only for UPG’s members, but also for external smallholders who do not belong to the farmers’ union. Currently the CEMA of the UPG has two harvesters and two tractors equipped with attachments, which allow farmers to do soil preparation like harrowing, plowing, levelling and ridging. On top of this, the CEMA manages the storage house that belongs to the UPG so that members and non-members of the union can store the paddy bags after harvesting for a small fee.
The first pilot tested between 2015 and 2016 in Pont Gendarme provided 4000 services to 1528 farmers: field preparation, harvesting and storage, with a total revenue of USD 200,000.
Since the start, it has been estimated that the amount of smallholders carrying out double rice cultivation could rise from 40 to 88 percent thanks to an improved availability of equipment and machineries and the ability to optimize field preparation in anticipation of the wet season.
The initiative has proven so successful that in 2017 SFSA started to scale up the model with two new CEMAs in Boundoum and Kassack North, which have between them more than 4000 smallholders.