Climate-Smart Agriculture in Senegal

The World Bank, in collaboration with USAID, the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), and CIAT, has continued its series on climate-smart agriculture (CSA) with a new country profile for Senegal. The profile takes an in-depth look at Senegal’s current agricultural and climate conditions and highlights several efforts that the Senegalese government is making to integrate climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies into its broader agricultural and economic development policy.

Agriculture and livestock production are linchpins of Senegal’s economy, contributing 17 percent of the country’s GDP and employing 70 percent of its population. Land devoted to agriculture also takes up 46 percent of the country’s total land. The majority of this cultivation is rain-fed; only 5 percent of Senegal’s cultivated land is under irrigation.

The agricultural sector is dominated by smallholder farmers producing millet, sorghum, maize and rice for household use; the country’s main cash crops are groundnuts and cotton. Livestock production contributes 4.2 percent to the agricultural sector’s GDP and takes place largely in the northern River Valley and silvopastoral agro-ecological zones.

Despite the importance of agriculture to Senegal’s economy, however, the sector faces several significant constraints. Poor soil and weather conditions make Senegal’s farmers particularly vulnerable to climate risk, and a lack of proper infrastructure and quality seeds and fertilizer have limited the sector’s development. As a result, the country relies heavily on food imports; for example, rice imports account for 65 percent of the rice consumed nationally each year. This limited agricultural production also contributes to the country’s high levels of food insecurity; 16 percent of the total population is food-insecure. This number varies by region, with as much as 50 percent of households facing chronic food insecurity in some areas.

As Senegal’s population continues to grow, agricultural production will need to increase as well; however, it is key that this agricultural growth occurs in a sustainable, climate-smart way in order to protect farmers and pastoralists from increased climate risk, says the brief. Climate change is already a harsh reality in the country, with rainfall declining by an average of 30 percent between 1950 and 2000 and mean temperatures increasing by 1.6oC on average and by as much as 3oC in some areas since 1950. Climate models predict that temperatures will continue to increase in the country over the next several decades and that the country will experience both higher rainfall events and overall fewer rainfall events, meaning periods of both intense flooding and prolonged dryness.

Crop models show mixed results from this climate change, pointing to both challenges and opportunities. Under the climate change scenario described above, groundnut yields could decrease by 5-25 percent; however, maize and rainfed rice yields could increase by 5-25 percent in areas where they are currently grown. In addition, crops like cowpeas and cassava represent an important adaptation opportunity for farmers in some areas, as these crops are more resistant to drought and high temperatures and can be successfully cultivated in poor soils. These results point to the need for additional research and investment into more heat- and drought-tolerant crop varieties and into adequate provision of quality seeds to rural smallholders.

According to the brief, Senegal has made progress on establishing CSA practices through government, development, and NGO programs. For example, the Senegalese Institute for Agricultural Research (ISRA) has started working with seed distributors to facilitate wider distribution of climate-resistant seeds to farmers. Climate index insurance programs covering groundnuts, maize, millet, and rice have also been developed and underwritten by the National Agricultural Insurance Company of Senegal; these programs can help protect farmers and pastoralists from losses stemming from drought and variable precipitation. To increase smallholder access to these programs, the government of Senegal provides a 50 percent subsidy on agricultural insurance.

Increasing smallholders’ access to climate information also plays a key role in the country’s CSA strategies. For example, the National Science-Policy Dialogue Platform provides a system for the regular exchange of climate change-related issues for agriculture and food security. The platform is composed of a network of scientists, policymakers, farmers’ organizations, private sector actors, and other key stakeholders.

A range of development programs across the country are also helping increase farmers’ awareness and take-up of CSA practices. The USAID Feed the Future Naatal Mbay project works with farmers in the rice, maize, and millet value chains to increase their access to climate-resistant seeds, climate insurance, markets, and climate information. The program also trains farmers to better utilize this increased access, improving households’ adaptive capacity to the effects of climate change.

While such programs represent important initial steps in establishing CSA throughout the country, the brief points out that many government policies take a short- to medium-term view of the problem rather than focusing on long-term development of the agricultural sector and its implications for climate change. In addition, many policies lack specific actions and dedicated resources to implement CSA practices and increase take-up. It is hoped that the National Adaptation Plan, expected to be released later in 2016, will help overcome these challenges by taking a longer term, multi-sectoral view to planning for climate change.

The World Bank’s CSA series examines how various countries around the world are finding a balance between agricultural productivity, climate change adaptation, and climate change mitigation.

By: Sara Gustafson, IFPRI

Photo credit:Flickr: Elizabeth Williams, FFP Senegal