BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES
The Kedougou region of Senegal is increasingly more vulnerable to climate change. Natural disasters such as prolonged droughts, erratic rainfall, floods, and soil erosion have a significant impact on the region’s food security, such that 70% of the population rations to survive (Jane Goodall Institute (JGI)). As a result of Senegal’s increasing vulnerability to climate shocks, adapting to efficient agricultural and forest management practices has become critical.
Within the Kedougou region, 50% of active farmers are women. Fornio, a type of heritage drought-resistant grain, is a crop that is exclusively grown, harvested, transformed, and marketed by women in the region. Women are also the primary collectors of firewood for use as fuel. Due to their active roles in production in Senegal, women are particularly adversely affected by climate shocks in the region. Thus, developing a gender-sensitive response to climate change is key to addressing its effects as well as ensuring women’s greater decision-making roles (JGI).
Building Community Resilience to Climate Change in Senegal was launched in February 2020 to improve rural communities’ resilience to climate change, especially women’s, in the Kedougou region of Senegal.
This project works to:
- increase the use of climate-smart agricultural techniques,
- increase women’s role in decision-making for sustainable livelihoods, and;
- encourage the adoption of forest protection practices by local government and community partners in ecologically vulnerable areas.
This project recognizes the intersection of climate change and gender, factors that are not mutually exclusive.
The project is implemented by the Building Community Resilience to Climate Change in Senegal (BCR) team who:
- Provide training to 360 farmers from 21 villages on improved planting techniques, considering gender integration,
- Provide farmers with fonio seeds and agricultural inputs, including soil nutrient field test kits,
- Train women-led cooperatives on the creation and marketing of biomass briquettes (an alternative fuel made from green biomass that produces low net total greenhouse gas emissions and reduces the need to cut down forests while potentially providing additional revenue) and the use of grain/cereal husking machines.
- Train community members on forest product harvesting and bushfire prevention,
- Seed 28,000 indigenous plants, and;
- Promote agroforestry and the use of an indigenous tree species to enhance forest carbon sinks.
The BCR team follows up with the program participants and conducts interviews to assess the effectiveness and implementation at different junctures. At the beginning of the project, a baseline survey was conducted to gather information on the use of drought-resistant crops and climate-smart agricultural techniques. Approximately 50% of respondents reported that they used drought-resistant crops and none reported that they used climate-smart agricultural practices.
Engagement with women’s groups and communities is key to this project, as it allows for the BCR team to identify women beneficiaries, catalyze fonio production, and ensure women are the primary producers of fonio. Training on improved agricultural techniques, marketing, sowing methods, purchasing, hygiene practices, storage techniques, transforming and packaging fonio, communication, and negotiation and sales strategies is provided by Réseau des Femmes pour le Développement (REFDEV) .
Given that the four-year project is ongoing and is in its second year of implementation, and that some elements of the project will only be implemented in year three, preliminary results include:
Social: Through consultation processes of the program, women representatives to participate in the improved agricultural techniques training were identified. These women were provided training on improved planting techniques, minimizing post-harvest loss, and improving storage techniques. Feedback from women participants has been positive, with participants reporting feelings of empowerment and improved ability to embrace networking opportunities, capacity building, and increased independence.
Environmental: Enhancing carbon sinks is a goal of this project. Tools and knowledge on climate-smart agricultural practices were shared through training and at least 147 of the women who participated in the training reported applying improved agricultural techniques. In addition, 1,037 community members (men and women) were trained on sustainable harvesting of forest products and bush fire prevention. Training was provided on ecosystem management in protected reserves for firebreak management and fire prevention. In year one and two of the program, progress has been made on strengthening relationships with communes and villages. Activities related to biomass briquettes was delayed and will begin in year three.
Economic: In addition to training on improved farming techniques, women farmers were provided fonio seeds and other agricultural inputs to facilitate income-generating activities and food security. Women were provided with the required tools to increase their efficiency, such as the provisions of tarps and basins. While still too early to measure the outcome, it is expected that these actions will contribute to improved food security for targeted households. Preliminary data shows a greater percentage of farmers are reporting produce of more than 200kg per year, increasing the likelihood that the target for increased productivity and food security set at the beginning of the project will be surpassed.
SUCCESSES AND LESSONS LEARNED
- Through the training, women had opportunities to meet and connect with other women. Women were provided with skills and a certificate of participation, resulting in an increased sense of pride and accomplishment.
- An important lesson from the project so far is the importance of engaging with women’s partners to support their participation in similar activities, as many of the activities pull women away from the home.
- The project initially intended to target both men and women with fonio production support, however, after engaging with communities, it was obvious fonio is exclusively grown, harvested, transformed, and marketed by women in the region. Thus, the project team shifted to focus on support of women farmers.
- The team agreed that conservation agreements should be signed with authorities who have the most influence. Therefore, the target of signing community conservation agreements with each community and commune mayor was updated to have these agreements signed with regional and departmental Inspection des Eaux et Forêts (E&F) instead.