Claudia Digruber , Diego Freudenthaler

Agroecology in Senegal: A system analysis by horizont3000 provides insight

Sustainable Livelihoods
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horizont3000 in West Africa

horizont3000 has been supporting its West African partners in Senegal with project financing for many years. Particularly against the backdrop of climate change, horizont3000 and its partners in Senegal are focusing on rural development, food security and the promotion of resilient and sustainable agriculture. In the rural areas where horizont3000's partners are active, food security is still not guaranteed for a large part of the population. The partners' program activities increasingly focus on agroecological cultivation methods that take into account and harmonize the economic, ecological and social aspects of the producers as well as the regional and local conditions.

"Where can horizont3000 take action to support the development of a sustainable agricultural system in Senegal even more efficiently and effectively?"

In March 2022, horizont3000 also sent an Advisor to the West Africa region for the first time in the person of Claudia Digruber. The aim of the Advisor's assignment is to identify the potential for increased networking between the project partners in the region in order to be able to use the knowledge management experience gained by horizont3000 over 20 years of cooperation for a wide range of interest groups. Claudia Digruber lives in the capital of Burkina Faso, Ouagadougou, during her assignment and works from there in close contact with the team in the Senegal regional office and in project coordination and knowledge management in Vienna.

One of the tasks for the Advisor in recent months has been to identify the challenges and potentials of agroecology in Senegal as part of a comprehensive system analysis. Based on the data obtained, the main question to be answered was: "Where can horizont3000 start in the program and in the projects in order to support the development of a sustainable agricultural system in Senegal even more efficiently and effectively?" Building on the analysis, horizont3000 is also planning to develop further partnerships and a South-South exchange between existing and new partners in West Africa.

Photo: Claudia Digruber together with Insa Bousso and Adame Boukar Diouf. They work for the forest committee of the village of Touba Mouride in western Senegal and guided Claudia through a renaturalised forest area as part of the project visits and interviews for the system analysis.

The methodology: Inclusive system development approach

The Advisor carried out the systems analysis of agroecology in Senegal based on the systemic market development approach. This concept, which originated in the private sector and became known as "M4P - Making markets work for the poor", is now also widely used in development cooperation. horizont3000 has decided to call this approach "Inclusive systems development (ISD)" in its own work, as this relates better to its own environment and that of its partner organizations.

Systemic approaches address the underlying causes that are responsible for poor performance for disadvantaged, marginalised groups in systems. They seek to understand and map the causes and contexts for this underperformance in order to subsequently create sustainable change with far-reaching effects for the marginalised and disadvantaged groups.

Based on this framework, including the Springfield Centre's "Operational Guide to the M4P Approach", Claudia Digruber identified the main actors for the system analysis, their relationships with each other and the current challenges in agroecology in Senegal. She then developed recommendations for action for these actors (including horizont3000 and its partners) to further advance the transition of Senegalese agriculture to agroecology.

As part of her work, the Advisor conducted a total of 18 face-to-face and online interviews with representatives of Senegalese agroecology and analysed a large number of national and international documents. At the horizont3000 sharing event in Dakar in November 2022, which focused on agroecology and was attended by numerous representatives of agroecology from Senegal, Burkina Faso and Togo, Claudia Digruber was able to get those present "on board" for the systems analysis.

In the detailed report on the systems analysis, the Advisor presented both the relevance of agroecology for Senegal and the challenges and recommendations for stakeholders in the sector.

Photo: The woman in the photo is called Yatta Gueye, and she works in the women's group of Touba Mouride (in western Senegal). They grow fruit and vegetables on their plot of land using agroecological methods. This women's group implements one of the projects of our Senegalese project partner, Caritas Kaolack.

The relevance of agroecology for Senegal

The 2020 IPES report cited in the systems analysis sees agroecology as a convincing answer to West Africa's current challenges in the form of steadily rising temperatures, strong climate fluctuations, its great dependence on rain-fed agriculture and limited adaptability to climate change. Agroecological methods promote the resilience of food systems through crop and species diversity and natural synergies throughout the agroecosystem. Agroecology is labour-intensive, does not require major land restructuring or scaling, and relies on traditional forms of knowledge exchange between farmers and generations, making it ideally suited to the structure and economic realities of West African agriculture.

The report on the systems analysis in Senegal demonstrates the high relevance of agroecology for Senegal based on the following facts:


  • is coherent with numerous sustainable development goals and helps countries to meet their commitments to the 2030 Agenda,
  • is ideally suited to the needs of small, family farms,
  • provides holistic, effective responses to today's global challenges, including climate change,
  • is perfectly capable of feeding the world,
  • contributes to the food sovereignty of states,
  • makes a significant contribution to the social cohesion of the population,
  • contributes to sustainable economic growth,
  • is a low-cost form of agriculture,
  • improves the quality of agricultural products and the health of the population,
  • contributes to the sustainable management of water resources and the restoration of soils and biodiversity,
  • creates jobs and
  • contributes significantly to the empowerment of women.

Diverse challenges for agroecology

The system analysis identified numerous challenges in the transition to agroecology in Senegal, which currently lead to the disadvantage of various groups in the system - especially producers in small family farms, women and consumers. Here are some examples of these challenges:

A general shortcoming is the outdated image of agroecology in Senegal. Agricultural methods that require a high level of chemical inputs such as artificial fertilizers and pesticides are generally regarded as modern, especially by young people. Many young people are not looking for a future in small-scale family farming with a high workload and low earnings, but are migrating to the city. Another disadvantage for agroecology is the overpowering lobbying in favour of conventional agriculture, which is also supported by current national and international subsidy systems.

Furthermore, there is a lack of coherent policies in the country: while the government advocates agroecology through PSE Vert (current policy framework aimed at leading Senegal to recovery by 2035) and has signed the TIRPAA (Traité international sur les ressources phytogénétiques pour l'alimentation et l'agriculture), it has still not anchored farmer-owned seeds in national legislation.

"More awareness-raising measures and a recognised, verified certificate for the products are needed to increase consumer awareness and knowledge of agroecologically produced products."

In the field of agroecological research, there is a lack of funding, cooperation between researchers and the "field" and dissemination of the data obtained. In addition, even more intensive coordination and a stronger alliance of all agroecology stakeholders in Senegal would be necessary in order to advocate with a unified and strong voice vis-à-vis the government. An impressive milestone has already been achieved here with the national DyTAES platform and its local DyTAEL offshoots, but even stronger unification of the agroecological forces in the country and in the West African region is needed.

In the area of production, the high workload for producers due to agroecological methods, the insufficient number of raw materials such as compost and animal manure and the insufficient application of agroecology in the country's large crops are among the obstacles to a comprehensive transition.

Smallholder structures often lack clearly defined markets and sales strategies as well as year-round availability of the products. More awareness-raising measures and a recognized, verified certificate for the products are needed to increase consumer awareness and knowledge of agroecologically produced products.

Recommendations for the future

Among the numerous recommendations for the future of agroecology in Senegal that the Advisor summarised in its systems analysis report, the following are worth highlighting:

Increased and joint lobbying by all stakeholders for the concerns of agroecology in Senegal and in the region are necessary to anchor the agroecological framework as a comprehensive new paradigm for food systems nationally and regionally. The transition from conventional to agroecological agriculture cannot happen overnight. It requires perseverance and long-term commitment on the part of all stakeholders, including farmers and funders.

The projects must be implemented by the Senegalese state through coherent and adequately funded policies and strategies. Above all, smallholder structures in the country, and primarily women and young people, should be the focus of support for the transition to agroecology.

Participatory and interdisciplinary research and training in the field of agroecology must be the driving forces in this endeavour and must also be provided with appropriate resources by the state.

"It requires perseverance and long-term commitment on the part of all stakeholders, including farmers and funders."

Farmers need additional logistical and financial support to reduce their workload and easier access to fertile soil for agricultural production. They need increased access to knowledge about agroecological methods, including efficient water management and the production of organic fertilizers and pesticides.

For the marketing of products, it would be economically expedient for producers to join forces in various forms of cooperation such as cooperatives. Year-round availability of high-quality agroecological products could be achieved through appropriate storage facilities and processing methods.

Suitable marketing and sales strategies should be used to raise awareness of the benefits of the products among a wider range of customers in the country and region and motivate them to buy them.

Basically, the system analysis makes the following clear: Much has already been achieved in Senegal in the direction of agroecology. On the other hand, there is still a lot to do for the numerous actors in the country and in West Africa. It would be great if the systems analysis report could provide the driving forces such as horizont3000 and their partners with helpful suggestions and guidelines for the further transition to sustainable agriculture and ultimately to food sovereignty.

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