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February 2002

Organic Agriculture in Senegal

Announcement of publication

Senegal is a country in the Sahel of 219.253 kmē, with a population nearing 9,240,000 inhabitants (1999). The agricultural sector is comprised of 6,990,000 inhabitants (1999), almost 75% of the population. The annual growth rate is 2.6% (1998). Agriculture plays a predominant role in the socioeconomic life of Senegal. The rural population active in agriculture represents 73.7% of the total Senegalese population active in the agricultural sector (2000). From 1990-95, agriculture contributed 20.8% to the gross domestic product (GDP): 10.6% for agriculture, 7.6% for animal breeding, 2.1% for fishing and 0.5% for forestry.

Agriculture faces a number of ecological constraints, which vary from region to region. Some of these constraints include: salinity, acidity, erosion, wind erosion of the soil, unavailability of land for grazing, overgrazing, deforestation (resulting from population growth and from the destruction of land cover), desertification and the risk of a loss of equilibrium between freshwater and salt water. These problems, many of which are the result of poor agricultural management, are compounded by the precarious nature of the climate (weak and irregular rains) and threatened by agricultural exploitation. Furthermore, land degradation and a general threat to natural resources pose additional problems.

At the social level, the policies of "assistance" shape the behavior of the Senegalese farmer to the point of diminishing his sense of initiative. As an example, the Senegalese farmer works an average of three hours per day. Three years of visits to the fields during the winter season show that most of the field work is done by women and children. The Senegalese farmer would not be able to live off of his harvest for more than three months out of twelve.

Structural adjustment policy reforms would imply that certain functions be transferred from the state to the farmers. However, the elimination of subsidies and of agricultural credit, the liberalisation of markets for agricultural products, and the devaluation of the CFA franc may not be the right approach for Senegalese farmers not yet prepared for these changes. Instead, the state should encourage a gradual strengthening of the role of farmers associations in rural areas in the areas of veterinary services, natural resource management and the adoption of alternative approaches to production.

(Only available in French)

Click here to go to the full publication in French

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