Covid-19: The agro-pastoral system for economic recovery
The Covid-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on the world with loss of life and the collapse of development policies and programmes.
This situation will have more long-term negative impacts in Sub-Saharan Africa and in the rural world in particular.
Senegal is not spared. The Senegalese government’s about-face on measures to relax the state of emergency is eyewitness evidence, following waves of demonstrations by the population. This situation shows the fragility of our economic system and the strong dependence of the Senegalese people on the state to meet their socio-economic needs. After this pandemic, the Senegalese rural environment is likely to experience a rural exodus, or even a temptation to irregular migration, which has never been seen in this country.
With the large number of young people in Senegal, it seems to me that it would be very useful to advocate a policy focused on training, innovation, entrepreneurship and the empowerment of young people for a consequent agro-pastoral development. This strategy will enable the rural world to establish a fairly solid economic link with the reduction of dependence on the State. To achieve this noble mission, a structural transformation of the pastoral and agricultural system must be imposed with new approaches such as these: For the pastoral system, it will be necessary to
1_Initiate fodder production for pastoralists, as in some countries in Latin America and the Netherlands;
2_Communicate on adaptation strategies in the face of climate change and possible crises;
3_Emphasise modern livestock farming and the more attractive artisanal sector;
4_Progressive renewal of old livestock with sale and reinvestment in other sectors;
5_Install mutual insurance companies or specific banks for pastoralists. Thus, in case of emergency, they will be able to have recourse to a bank loan with low interest rates;
6_Processing and/or valorisation of livestock products, i.e. leather or other products;
7_To set up conservation and milk production units with the approach of rain to avoid wasting or rotting this milk which could be a source of income and a real vector of local development.
We cannot talk about the end of pastoral mobility or sedentarisation, but a more logical approach that would encourage pastoralists to put in place genuine transformations that would enable them to be more resilient in the face of crises and climate change. And any disaster that affects farmers will be felt directly by farmers.
The agricultural system does not remain unscathed by crises. Senegal, with its galloping demography, must, as it emerges from this crisis, rely more on agriculture and perhaps even make it the basis of its economic growth. The policy of sustainable development and the fight against the fragility of the food system must be a priority for Senegal, especially at the level of local authorities. In this case, it requires
1_A policy of training young people in agriculture;
2_Promote a modern agro-ecological approach that is adapted to the environment concerned;
3_Develop agri-business with the use of drones for better monitoring and production;
4-Awareness-raising in certain areas (Ferlo and Fouta) on the practice of crop rotation and fallowing, and on techniques for fertilising arable land;
5-A very meticulous policy of water control that will favour the advent of fruit tree crops. The example of Loumbol, in the Ferlo, could be illustrative with the banana field, but alas! This fruit cultivation must be accompanied by education of the population and involve the decentralised services of the State, notably the water and forestry services, because the results are far from being achieved. In addition to this, we need to use crop varieties with a cycle, as the wintering period lasts only three months. Intensive agriculture, although harmful, can provide good yields if farmers manage to control scientific knowledge and certain techniques such as the practice of burning, the use of compost, and agriculture on burnt land, weeding and hoeing, etc. These cultivation practices generate sufficient production with a commercial surplus.
Water control also allows market gardening in various areas with drip and gravity irrigation systems. This situation enriches the consumption dishes and allows women to have cash incomes with reduced expenses. The government needs to review its policy in this area, as Prodac and other agricultural farms have not achieved the desired results. An inclusive and participatory approach of the layers concerned could be a plausible solution.
In view of everything, it seems to me relevant to propose innovative solutions based on digital technologies to accelerate knowledge management, to reflect on the engineering of territories and the construction of relationships of trust to activate change over time. This will make it possible to connect consumers and producers, and this is the importance of e-commerce. We need to give confidence to farmers and breeders, to stimulate their entrepreneurial skills, capable of anticipating. We need to think locally but with a broader vision to achieve coherence and rural balance. This approach will ensure the connection of rural resources to investments.
Today’s world has become digital and, as a result, the rural environment must be introduced to training in new technologies, particularly in digitalisation, the digital economy and training leading to qualifications, which will give access to the employment pool. In the same vein, improved traditional poultry farming is a means of combating unemployment and increasing rural incomes. Poultry farmers can be trained in the manufacture of home-made poultry feed (AVFM) to reduce the need to buy feed.
The biodiversity of certain environments, particularly that of Ranérou Ferlo with the Katané park, rich in rare animal species, would be a better way to develop ecotourism. In addition, women should be supported in the processing and labelling of local products and specific loumas. All these proposals can lead to a solid value chain that would result in a competitive local economy and a reduction in the rural exodus and irregular emigration.
The former President of the Republic, Abdoulaye Wade, used to say, and I quote, « Tell me what kind of youth you have, I’ll tell you what kind of country you’ll have ». I say rather, « Tell me what resources you have, I will tell you what economy you should have ».
A contribution by Bocar Harouna DIALLO , Geographer and researcher, specialised in Management and Development of Rural Areas and in Migration and Development.