Extension Education Nurtures Senegalese Farming Future
By: Brad Bergefurd, MS, Horticulture Specialist and Extension Educator
Developing West Africa’s food-production capabilities in an environmentally sustainable manner is important to ensure the continent’s future food security, economic development and political stability. With sixty percent of people in Africa depending on agriculture, the people of Northern Senegal are poised to begin growing more of their own food, reducing reliance on imports, and creating a more sustainable future based on self-reliance. 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-hectare 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. Brad Bergefurd received funding from a $1.1 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Higher Education for Development (HED) and is providing training to Senegalese farmers.
Purpose: The objective of the project is to implement state-of-the-art agricultural education and extension programs at the Université Gaston Berger (UGB), focused on enhancing sustainable agriculture in the fragile Sahelien agroecosystems of Africa. A main objective of this project is to establish the land grant model at UGB, incorporating extension and research into the traditional teaching role of the university. This project is an innovative way to export the land grant model to Sub-Saharan Africa and to support sustainable agriculture. Impact: The partners, the Ohio State University (OSU) and Université Gaston Berger (UGB), are creating pilot extension and outreach program with the Senegalese 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. These plots of land 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. Bergefurd immediately understood the challenges farmers were facing and recommended they adopt mechanical transplanting technology. 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 shipped it to Senegal. Field demonstration and trainings were held in 2014 at the UGB student farm as well as on village farms. 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. Local farming organizations are planning to purchase additional transplanters, and working to establish a local transplanter dealer in the Saint-Louis region.