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USAID Frontlines January/February 2013: Surplus in Senegal, Even Without the Rains

by Portal Web Editor last modified Jun 23, 2013 08:40 PM
Contributors: Zack Taylor
In the drought-prone Sahel, USAID trains extension agents to share conservation farming techniques with village cultivators, allowing them to thrive where hardship is the norm.

Original Source

MATAM, Senegal—Hamidou Ly looked up at the sky and shook his head. For weeks, the year’s anticipated rain hadn’t arrived. Finally, one day he felt a drop, then several more, and raised his arms to the heavens. The rainy season had come, albeit late and ultimately infrequent, but Ly wasn’t worried.

At harvest time, he and his fellow “lead farmers” in this remote village in Senegal’s extreme north region of Matam had a surprise for their fellow cultivators: an increase in production despite the substandard precipitation.

“Only a little rain came this year, but we’ll still have enough food!” Ly exclaimed, expressing hope despite the grim outlook for cereal harvests debated across Matam at the outset of the growing season.

Ly is one of a small group of farmers in the district who piloted conservation farming techniques in their sorghum fields this year. Conservation farming involves minimally disturbing the soil, which is essential to maintaining minerals, stopping erosion and preventing water loss. Tilling, once thought to increase soil fertility, is now understood to have the opposite effect, while also increasing erosion. By tilling less soil, the farmer saves time and labor while retaining more organic matter by disturbing less top soil.


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