The country of Senegal on the west coast of Africa covers an area of almost 197,000 km² and has an estimated population of 15.4 million people (2016), with 23 percent of the population concentrated around Dakar and 40 percent in other urban areas. In 2016, agriculture represented 18 percent of GDP (Gross Domestic Product), employing 52 percent of the total labour force. About 80 percent of people in rural areas work in this sector. In 2013, commercial farming represented 10 percent of the land under production. Ninety percent of agricultural land is worked by small-scale, family-based farms engaged in subsistence agriculture. Farming systems are mostly rain-fed. Senegal’s dominant commodities are ground nuts (grown as a cash crop), rice, meat and millet, followed by fruits (such as watermelons and mangoes) and vegetables (tomatoes and onions). Despite this, the country imports about 70 percent of the rice it requires for domestic consumption. The government of Senegal has established several priorities with the purpose of moving from being a net food importer to becoming self-sufficient in rice production.
Challenges for agriculture in Senegal
To achieve self-sufficiency in rice production, smallholder farmers in Senegal require improved access to irrigation, training and investment in agricultural research and development activities. However, mechanization for soil preparation, harvesting and post-harvesting is hard to come by and climate change poses a present and future threat. The main stakeholders of agricultural development in both the public and private sectors are supporting initiatives to improve the lives and livelihoods of the rural population.
New initiatives like the Programme d’Accélération de la Cadence de l’Agriculture Sénégalaise (PRACAS) are working in a challenging worldwide context to reach the objective set up by the government. Through PRACAS, the state wants to build a competitive, diversified and sustainable agricultural market to be able to trade its commodities internationally while providing stable revenues for rural communities. The objective was to reach self-sufficiency in rice by 2016 with a production of 350,000 metric tons, to bridge the deficit gap of 150,000 tons. Nevertheless, in 2018 this goal has not yet been reached, despite the efforts of the state and various partners through subsidies of equipment, materials and agricultural inputs. A pressing issue is the extent to which ecological problems and the exploitation and mismanagement of natural resources hamper progress towards a reduction in import dependence. The annual rainfall in Senegal is declining, forests are shrinking and the land is vulnerable to poor soils and desertification. Careful management of the environment is therefore essential to the success of the PRACAS plan.
Work of Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture in Senegal
The Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (SFSA) has been active in the Senegal River Valley since 2014. Rice production is a major focus of activities. Both the CEMA and Farmers’ Hub models (highlighted below) are helping to increase employment opportunities among young men and women in rural communities.
Since 2015, the SFSA has been providing access to mechanization for rice farmers through their Center for Mechanized Services (CEMA).
By the end of 2017, a total of three CEMAs had been established in Senegal.
Thanks to a new partnership, the aim by 2020 is to increase the number of CEMAs to twelve.
In 2017, SFSA piloted three Farmers’ Hubs (FHs) in Senegal. The FH provide concentrated commercial units, enabling farmers to aggregate produce and benefit from fairer prices for agricultural inputs and outputs, such as tomatoes, onions and chili seedlings.