Farmers in the central part of the Senegal Valley face many threats to their livelihoods. Several droughts have weakened the Sahelian ecosystem and this, combined with overexploitation of natural resources, has reduced the natural productivity of the region. The construction of a dam on the Senegal River placed further pressure on traditional farming methods, leading to changes in farming practices and a widespread uptake of irrigated farming, which required the use of external inputs such as fertilisers and pesticides.
Pronat is a branch of the international NGO ENDA. It has been working with farmers in the Guédé area for more than twenty years, sensitising them to the problems of climate change, desertification and modern input-intensive farming methods and encouraging them to adopt agroecological farming methods. To popularise these approaches Pronat introduced Peasant Farming Schools (Champs École Paysan- CEP), an approach that has proved highly effective in other parts of the world, particularly Asia. This is an informal system of education where a limited number of voluntary farmers (up to about twenty) meet on a small piece of land for discussions, research, experimentation, capacity building and learning new techniques. The schools give farmers an opportunity to test new methods and techniques before applying them on their farms. The farms are also working farms (‘farms of application’), which generate an income by selling the produce they grow, and are thus self supporting. When the initial project funding ran out, the farmers decided to continue with running the schools themselves. They saw that the schools and the peasants’ associations that had sprung up around them gave them a structure for working and learning together
The farmers began to form their own Integrated Farmer Schools (IFS) where they could continue their experiments with ways of combating desertification, adapting to visible climatic changes and improving productivity through agroecological farming. Together they have continued to learn about seed selection and propagation, pest control and water harvesting and management, fine-tuning the techniques that they learnt before and adapting them to the local situation. Working collectively they are also able to address larger issues that affect the farming community: problems which range from maintaining communal resources (e. water pumps or wells) to working out viable strategies for commercialising their products, to posing a united front against land developments that harm their interests. By using agroecological techniques such as composting, companion planting, and natural pest control these farms have been able to substantially reduce their input costs. On modernising farms these costs represent some two thirds of revenue generated – but on the application farms these costs are less than 20%.
A local federation of peasants associations (Ngatamaare Tooro) has been created to enable these IFSs to continue to expand. The federation provides a valuable point of contact with the outside world (for example for finding the expertise that farmers want tap into). In addition a network of twelve eco-schools has been created, wherein children are involved in kitchen gardening, learning ecological farming techniques and growing food which can be used for school meals with any surplus being sold. The organisation is looking for ways to tap into the bountiful supplies of natural energy, particularly solar and wind, a currently unused resource. ENDA Pronat continues to work with Ngatamaare Tooro, helping it grow in confidence and capacity.
ENDA -TM / Programme « Protection naturelles (Pronat) »
5 4 , r u e Ca r n o t – B.P. 3370 – Dakar – Sénégal
Tel. : (221) 889 34 39/ 889 34 38
Fax : 842 86 81
E-mail : email@example.com
Brochure: Agriculture saine et durable: Les champs écoles intégrés de Guédé (Sénégal)
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