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Senegalese women fight back climate change and food insecurity

In Senegal, almost 47% of the population live in poverty and 17% are food insecure including women farmers who lack the resources and knowledge to adapt their production as they face the consequences of climate change in the region.

 

Working Drop by Drop against Climate Change

In 2018, Crossroads teamed up with Senegalese partner RESOPP (Réseau des Organisations Paysannes et Pastorales du Sénégal), a network of rural agricultural cooperatives in the country to launch Drop by Drop, an initiative to support female cooperative members in two of the country’s most vulnerable communities: Pambal and Cherif Lô. In these regions, the ongoing droughts caused by climate change are seriously affecting Senegalese women’s ability to grow enough food to meet their needs, their families’ and their communities’.

This project was made possible thanks to the financial participation of the Government of Quebec, UNIFOR, the Gay Lea Foundation, The Horne Family Charitable Fund, and generous individual donors. Crossroads launched a program to increase livelihoods and food security for 1500 women farmers. Together they are dramatically increasing access to water, on 10 small garden perimeters exclusively managed by 1,500 female cooperative members.

One year into the projected 28-month project, things are changing for these communities:

  • Six non-functioning wells were drilled to a further depth of 25-meters (to reach water), four existing wells were rehabilitated, and one new well was drilled;
  • All eleven functioning wells have been equipped with solar-powered water pumping systems;
  • Nine water towers have been built to store water;
  • Seven drip irrigation systems have been installed;
  • Three new, drought resistant, nutritionally dense crops (lettuce, chilli and turnip) and four new species of fruit trees have been introduced and were planted;
  • More than 800 of the 1,500 female farmers have been trained to introduce the new crops and operate the equipment;
  • A farmer field school/learning centre has been established between the two communities, with its own well and solar powered water pumping system.

Wells and irrigation systems are now 95% complete with just one well to be completed. Technical training on the irrigation system and solar powered pumps was initiated in December.  The 1,500 female cooperative members have been able to resume farming land they had previously abandoned, increasing their economic power and food security.

 

The consequences of COVID-19 for local communities

However, the economic shutdown from the onset of COVID-19 has hit rural communities very hard. In addition to increased health risks, the shutdown has impacted food production, supply and markets which resulted in the loss of income for women reducing their ability to buy food to feed their families. Seeds from the last season are normally used as collateral against a small loan given to women farmers to purchase seeds for the next production cycle but due to food shortages associated with COVID-19, many women have had to use their seeds for food. To alleviate this, Crossroads and RESOPP are supporting women farmers to buy drought-tolerant seeds such as millet, rice and sorghum. Training activities requiring direct contact had to be discontinued but are now expected to resume in the coming weeks as the Senegalese government loosens COVID-19 related restrictions.

Ultimately, it is anticipated that an additional 22,000 community and family members will benefit from the nutritious and reliable food source, as well as additional sustainable income through year-round market gardening. In the coming months, the project will continue to focus on training women cooperative members in the farmer field school and on developing the skills of the trainers until completion of the project.

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