Hands-on Agronomy Education Nurtures Senegalese Farming Future

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SUCCESS STORY

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.

7-2013

“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

demonstration.