Accessing high quality agricultural inputs, like fertilizer and seeds, at the right time and in the right amounts has been one of the biggest challenges for rural Senegalese farmers. Given agriculture is the main driver of the Senegalese economy, being able to solve this problem is key to the success of smallholder farmers.
For the upcoming planting season (spanning 2018 and 2019), farmers in Kaolack, Kaffrine and Fatick regions will be able to access quality inputs and in the right qualities, many for the first time. Empowering producers at all stages of the procurement process, the USDA funded Millet Business Services Project (PSEM in French) is partnering with the Inter-Regional Union of Millet Producers to address one of the major reasons for underperformance in agriculture – input acquisition.
With representation across all levels of the millet value chain, including over 500 millet producer organizations representing over 10,000 farmers across three regions, the Inter-Regional Union is key to producers driving the acquisition process and outlining their needs. Led by the producers, this year’s input distribution was the result of a long process over several stages. Developing a needs assessment, tours of input suppliers to determine quality and partnering with microfinance institutions that could support the Inter-Regional Union members for access to credit. These steps allowed the Union to mobilize the credit needed to purchase large quantities of inputs (over 900 tons of fertilizer, over 500 tons of urea and four tons of seeds) for distribution before the planting season.
Empowering producers in the input procurement process has meant they have the tools for sustainably accessing inputs in coming seasons.
The capacity of the Inter-Regional Union to work with these types of contracts and represent the needs of its members has grown over the two phases of the USDA Millet projects, which NCBA CLUSA is implementing in Senegal. Working with the project since the first phase began in 2009, the second phase has seen an expansion through the conservation farming networks, giving more farmers representation. And the millet produced by the union is able to be marketed at multi-service agro-hubs built by the project, linking producers to markets.
“The project has empowered us to be partners, not just beneficiaries,” said Inter-Regional Union President Seynabou Fall. “In decision-making, we are independent from the project. This was made possible thanks to the capacity building session in good governance and democratic management.”
This capacity has strengthened the resources to serve the producers, including training, lead producer networks and increasing sales value. At the beginning the union sold 380 tons of millet per season, they currently sell over 1,000 tons at higher quality. This is in part due to the increased yields through conservation farming. Training with lead farmers, producer members are seeing average yields more than double on their farms.
As a woman leader, elected to head a majority male organization, Fall also hopes that building the capacity of this organization will encourage other rural women to take leadership roles.
“During this time of year in August, normally women running the households ran in all directions in search of food for their families. Currently, with these improvements and the PSEM project support, they have millet all year round and if necessary can sell or exchange other food products to meet their needs.’