Senegal has a population of around 12 million people and is one of the most stable democracies in Africa. Its economy, following structural reforms and liberalization, has been growing steadily in recent years. Although the country is credited for having the best infrastructure systems in West Africa, this statement is only true for the North and Central parts of the country.
The most recent public data indicates a 48 percent unemployment rate (est.2007). Politically, conditions are favorable for achieving economic growth, however, 54 percent of the population currently lives below the poverty line. According to Senegalese, the top two signs of poverty are difficulty obtaining food and lack of work, so the government plans to implement economic and social policies to improve its socio-economic performance. Specifically, the government prepared a Poverty Reduction Strategy to cut poverty in half by 2015. Recognizing that the agriculture sector can be a primary source of poverty-reduction, the Head of State collaborated with the Ministry of Agriculture to launch the Grand Agricultural Offensive for Food and Abundance (GOANA) in 2008. This is an emergency strategy aiming to create the enabling environments in agriculture production for food sufficiency and security. In this respect, Government officials are very receptive and open to the introduction of new initiatives and presence of development entities.
Achieving agricultural advancements, however, is challenging due to the large disconnect between the North and the South with The Gambia crossing in between. Most development and commercial investments have been made in the West-Central and Northern regions, making them much stronger trade centers than the Southern Casamance regions. Indeed, even though the Casamance is known as the “breadbasket” of Senegal for its production potential, it still lags far behind for several reasons, not the least of which includes weak infrastructure and inefficient roads. Poor road conditions prevent sellers from efficiently reaching buyers, creating inconsistencies in supplies and inputs for all stakeholders in the value chain.
Roads consistently flood, rendering them impassable.
In addition, the infrastructure that is meant to support economic activities is actually hindering them. Urban mobility problems persist, generating additional costs for transportation, weakening economic potential.
The main crops produced in Senegal include peanuts, cotton, gum Arabic, fruit and vegetables. However, farmers in the area have little technical knowledge or resources for improving production quality and expanding their farms. As they continue to use eudimentary practices, they continue to produce low quality yields using and remain small in scale, unable to meet the high demands of consumers, businesses and regulatory standards. As a result, 70 percent of Senegal’s population still relies on importing food supplies, namely rice, wheat and dairy products. Even private Senegalese companies prefer to import materials for their commercial production needs rather than sourcing them locally.
All of these insecurities compromise the quality of outputs, which automatically reduces Senegal’s capacity for commercial competitiveness in export markets.
With its background expertise in construction and infrastructure, Shelter for Life hopes to begin working in Senegal to improve farm-to-market “feeder” roads and drainage systems in both the Casamance region of the South, and the Delta region in the north. Revitalizing these systems is vital to achieving agribusiness stability and would achieve the following:
– Improve market linkages;
– Increase access to markets to assist commodity sales, transportation & expansion of farms;
– Reduce susceptibility of flooding;
– Reduce transit time;
– Reduce salinization of surrounding lands from road water runoff;
– Revitalization of mangroves and ecosystems periphery to feeder roads;
– Increased agricultural productivity;
Feeder roads will help connect farmers to broader commercial and trading networks throughout Senegal and neighboring countries.