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Hands-on Agronomy Education Nurtures Senegalese Farming Future
The Ohio State University/Université Gaston Berger
The people of Northern Senegal are poised to begin growing more of their own food,
reducing reliance on imports, thus creating a more sustainable future based on selfreliance.
An irrigation project by the World Bank created 1,400 hectares of newly
irrigated land to be farmed by 243 farmers on small two- to five-hectares plots.
However, the availability of irrigated land solves only part of the problem. New farmers
need a lot of technical and practical assistance to make sustainable agriculture a reality in
Northern Senegal. A higher education partnership funded by the U.S. Agency for
International Development through Higher Education for Development is providing the
necessary training to farmers for long-lasting results.
The partners, the Ohio State University (OSU) and Université Gaston Berger (UGB), are
creating new degree programs in agro-ecology and crop production. Their activities
include implementing a pilot extension and outreach program with the farmers working
the newly irrigated land, troubleshooting problems, and conducting farm research on site.
An immediate problem the farmers face is the amount of time it takes to plant up to five
hectares plots of land, which are much larger than typical Senegalese farms. A farmer is
able to transplant 15 plants per minute and about 9,880 tomato plants are needed for one
hectare. “I have concern about being able to transplant the plants when they are ready
before the rains come,” said Aliou Fall, a farmer.
Brad Bergefurd, OSU extension specialist, immediately understood the challenge and
recommended the farmer use a mechanical transplanter. The inexpensive device can plant
50 plants per minute, dramatically reducing the amount of time needed to fill a field.
With a solution available, education was the next step. The partners purchased a
transplanter and held a demonstration and training on December 2012 at the UGB
student farm. Recognizing the tremendous impact this technology can have on the future
of Senegal, representatives from the media, farmers associations and UGB, as well as
politicians, 113 local farmers and 144 students were in attendance.
The learning opportunity created by the partnership left an impression on the attendees.
“Not only is it fast, but the rows are perfectly straight, I hope to someday use a
transplanter in my fields,” said El Hardj Dia, a farmer.
Local farming organizations are planning to purchase additional transplanters, and
eventually establish a local transplanter dealer in the Saint-Louis region. Mateugue Diack,
partnership director and faculty member at UGB, considers the wider impact of the
training and opportunity for sustainability. “This simple machine has the potential to
transform farming not only in Senegal, but across West Africa, enabling Africa to rely less
on imports, and increase our ability to export Senegalese produce to Europe,” he said.
“This simple machine has the
potential to transform
farming not only in Senegal,
but across West Africa.”
– Mateugue Diack, partnership
director and Université Gaston Berger
Photo by Richard Dick, The Ohio State University
The Ohio State University Extension
Specialist Brad Bergefurd teaches two UGB
students where to place the seedlings to be
transplanted as hundred more watch the