ICRISAT research in the country
ICRISAT works closely with Senegalese agricultural research and development institutions, in particular with the Institut Sénégalais de Recherche Agricole (ISRA) and the Centre régional pour l’amélioration de l’adaptation à la sécheresse (CERAAS), to improve the resilience and food and nutritional security of dryland farming families. The following initiatives are of particular interest:
Groundnut has been the main agricultural commodity exported for years, concentrated in the so-called Peanut Basin. Global competition and the need for compliance with international standards, as well as unsustainable farming practices have weakened the status of groundnut farmers; yet this legume crop remains key for the food security and livelihoods of many Senegalese families. For years, ICRISAT has been engaged in developing and disseminating improved varieties to enhance low yields. One promising solution has been the incorporation of resistance traits of foliar disease from wild groundnut relatives into popular local varieties such as Fleur 11 [ref: Pandey and al; Tropical Legumes II. Foliar diseases – rust, rosette, early leaf spot (ELS) and late leaf spot (LLS) – cause important yield losses every year.
Millets, in particular pearl millet and sorghum are very important staple cereals in Senegal. Over 1 million ha, more than 10% of agricultural land, were planted to millets in 2010. These cereals are quite resilient to the dry conditions and low phosphorus sandy soils of the Sahel but there is a great genetic variation. Pearl millet breeders are working on cultivars better adapted to drought, looking, for instance, at shorter duration millets or the tillering ability. Better crop cultivation practices such as integrated Striga management and soil fertility management are helping increase sorghum and millet production.
About a third of pearl millet fields are planted to improved cultivars (IFPRI). Poor access to improved seeds of key dryland cereals and legumes is a major constraint for Senegalese small farmers, explaining the low average yields (less than 800 kg/ha for millets in 2012). Efforts are on to improve the structure of the West Africa seed sector, to build fruitful partnerships and improve seed policies. Research and farmers’ organizations have been trained in certified seed production and variety testing.
Gender inequality is significant in Senegal (ranked 114 out of 146, source OCDE). Early age marriage, skewed inheritance, and limited access to assets and incomes make women particularly vulnerable. Agricultural research tries to understand their constraints and what could be the drivers of change. For instance, a recent study highlighted that women are more vulnerable to climate risks like shorter rainy seasons due to the traditional Senegalese custom that men first plant for themselves right after the first rains in early June, then they plant for their wives about a month later.
Along with annual climate variability, ICRISAT is also investigating the impact of climate change on small farmers. Under the AGMIP program, crop modeling is tested for maize, peanut, pearl millet and sorghum and local climate projections have helped design climate advisory services for farmers in Kaffrine and Nioro regions.
In the coming years, strategic partnerships with Senegalese research institutions will continue to flourish under the CGIAR Research Programs. For instance, CERAAS is the coordinator of sorghum West Africa (Product Line 1) for the CRP Dryland Cereals.
Key documents on Senegal