The 'Benefits of the Bush' in Senegal (August 2012)

 

Senegalese women work together to get the fruits of the land as part of USAID/Senegal’s Wula Nafaa program.
Senegalese women work together to get the fruits of the land as part of USAID/Senegal’s Wula Nafaa program.
Madior Fall, USAID/Wula Nafaa Program

In Rural Senegal, two women, Fatou Seck and Fatou Senghor, take a break from their day's work to proudly admire baskets overflowing with vegetables they harvested in their new community garden. However, gardens like this one did not always exist. They were created through USAID/Senegal’s Wula Nafaa program, which runs from 2008 to 2013 and enables Senegalese farmers to take production into their own hands and guard themselves against food shortages. Ms. Seck, a local vegetable grower, said the new garden has boosted her nutrition and enhanced her income. “Now we are able to produce several varieties of vegetables. We eat some and market the surplus locally,” she said.

“Wula Nafaa” means the “benefits of the bush” in the local Bambara language. It is fitting, then, that the program works with the Senegalese government, rural councils,and villagers to better manage their natural resources in order to generate income and prevent food shortages and health crises in Senegal, where one quarter of the population suffers from year-round or seasonally occurring hunger. The wide-ranging program links three pillars: nature (agricultural, marine, and natural resources), wealth (economic livelihoods), and power (governance). Wula Nafaa’s philosophy is that rural residents can boost their incomes and have more control over their destinies by efficiently managing natural resources and taking care of the environment.

Wula Nafaa trains Senegalese farmers to conserve and smartly manage their natural resources, especially water, which is scarce in drought-afflicted Senegal. “The Wula Nafaa Program helps Senegal combat poverty through water resource management,” said Wula Nafaa Chief of Party, Jeffrey Povolny. The introduction of conservation farming, an agricultural technique that uses mulch to conserve soil and water, is one way the program has improved growing conditions and minimized runoff and erosion. One local farmer noted, “With conservation farming, all plants sprout without any delay in growth or development. Instead of seeing signs of crop damage at the beginning of the harvest, the plant is able to reach its full potential, allowing it to produce a higher yield.” In addition, Wula Nafaa helps villagers to safely access the water they conserve for household and agricultural use by building wells with manual and solar pumps.

“Power,” or governance, is another component of Wula Nafaa’s guiding philosophy. Wula Nafaa builds the selfgovernance capabilities of villagers by working with local collectives to foster dialogue on public policy, teaching community members relevant natural resource-related laws and regulations, and helping agricultural producers to reach out to buyers who will pay top dollar for their products. The program has already provided training in these topics and skills such as sustainable land use and non-traditional agricultural activities to over 3,500 farmers. “Engaging the community to manage their own land use is key to the Wula Nafaa Program’s success,” said Mr. Povolny.

These efforts have indeed led to wealth—USAID conducted an estimation and comparison of 2011 agricultural yields of maize, millet, and sorghum grown both with and without conservation farming techniques. The comparison demonstrated substantial yield increases across four regional departments. For example, maize yield increases were 71 percent in Fatick, 49 percent in Kaolack, 26 percent in Tambacounda, and 25 percent in Kédougou. In these four departments, conservation farming techniques resulted in a total production increase of 1,400 tons of maize, 726 tons of millet, and 116 tons of sorghum. These results have proven to thousands of farmers that savvy natural resource management coupled with good governance can indeed bring the “benefits of the bush” to Senegal.

S. Gudnitz

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Last updated: March 22, 2013

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