Agriculture in Senegal has been in crisis for several decades now. Although the country’s population is growing rapidly, agricultural output is struggling to expand and increase output. Due to the aridity of the soil and the overuse of farmland, 2.3 million people in Senegal currently do not have enough to eat.
To meet their needs, the poorest rural populations follow relatively unsustainable farming practices that threaten the forests and soil fertility. This is how 80,000 hectares of forest is lost each year in order to expand farmland and meet the ever-increasing demand for food.
The coastal region of Niayes is a strategic agricultural region for Senegal, due to its especially fertile land protected by a succession of sand dunes. This part of the country currently accounts for 50% of Senegal’s entire fruit and vegetable production. However, desertification, population density, excessive use of industrial inputs, sand encroachment and certain farming practices threaten the region’s considerable potential, and the horticultural lowlands are slowly losing their last line of defense against sand encroachment. Just beyond the Niayes region, in the groundnut belt, repeated droughts along with intensive and unsustainable farming practices have caused a 30% drop in output.
Launched by SOS Sahel, the project began in 2009 with the aim of planting one million trees in Senegal and continue the environmental program to protect the Niayes ecosystem.
The major environmental challenge in the Niayes region is stabilizing the soil, as wind erosion and sand encroachment severely reduce farming output. By planting trees, the objective is to stabilize the dunes, which protect the farmlands and horticultural lowlands from being overrun with sand.
Also, developing agroforestry will also help to diversify revenues for farmers who will be able to sell the fruit grown in the orchards and produce fuelwood. Planting trees for fuelwood is not only important for the environment, but it also means that women are able to spend less time searching for wood to burn. This enables them to significantly reduce the time they spend preparing meals, and therefore gives them the opportunity to engage in other activities. In addition, the project promotes adopting improved farming practices and better managing water, which is extremely rare in the region.
The integrated management of the project involves all local stakeholders in training, equipment and skill sharing. Beneficiaries of the program include rural organizations that bring together the smallholders, the municipalities that govern the local authorities and represent villagers, and the technical services that support agroforestry in the region.
Senegal is situated in a part of the world under threat from desertification and sand encroachment in the horticultural lowlands. AccorHotels is working to improve food security in the region; protecting farming production areas by planting windbreak trees, diversifying farmers’ revenues by planting fruit trees, and limiting deforestation through the sustainable production of fuelwood. The project also supports local development by providing education to farmers in the region and involving local authorities in monitoring the planting process.