Ihe repeated climatic shocks, Covid-19, the war in Ukraine and, more recently, the expiration of the Black Sea grain export agreement between Russia and Ukraine on July 17 have brought the issue of food security in developing countries back to the fore.
The most exposed populations live away from urban centres, in the countryside, where the majority of families have become net food buyers. To reduce malnutrition, and more generally severe poverty, one of the surest ways is to give priority to the development of very small agricultural holdings.
In Senegal, one inhabitant out of two lives outside the cities and agriculture employs a quarter of the workforce. Three quarters of farms have less than five hectares. From the arid North where pastoralism dominates to the South favorable to tropical crops, the agricultural landscape presents a mosaic of systems and know-how which are as many potentials to be mobilized.
Support for market gardening
Three types of action in favor of agricultural micro-enterprises allow such mobilization.
The first concerns the intensification of practices on farms to produce more and better per hectare. This is the purpose of the market gardening support projects conducted for a decade in the central region of Senegal, still commonly referred to as the “groundnut basin”. But, contrary to the patterns of the past relying on the monoculture of peanuts, the key to ensuring the development of micro-enterprises is the diversification of crops and the limitation of chemical inputs, in other words agroecology.
Just over 70% of the producers supported in this type of project change their practices in a decade. On small plots, family farms commonly cultivate nine products (chili, onion, pepper, tomato, etc.) and up to fourteen products for the most efficient ones. This diversification has led to a tripling of yields per hectare between 2016 and 2022.
To sustain this dynamic, agroecology offers a range of means aimed at regenerating the natural environment. The hedging of production sites, with the planting of trees and shrubs (acacia, cashew, moringa, albizia, etc.), makes it possible to fight effectively against erosion and soil depletion. It also contributes to the reduction of irrigation needs to protect water resources and facilitates the massive reduction of chemical inputs.
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