Ndiob, a small village off the main road in Senegal’s Groundnut Basin region, recently got a new mayor, a man named Omar Ba. As he started his term, Ba set out to implement a new vision for the local farming community—environmentally friendly agriculture practices meant to combat the effects of climate change.
During his research, Ba decided to partner with a local technical project, NCBA CLUSA’s U.S. Department of Agriculture-funded Millet Business Services Project (MBSP), known locally by its French translation, USDA|PSEM.
While most farmers sell their groundnuts, or peanuts, at the market—the Groundnut Basin is a highly commercialized cash-cropping region—millet remains the staple food for the majority of the region’s households.
“It is impossible to make it through a winter season without millet. Most of our land is cultivated with millet,” said Assane Toure, a local farmer who adopted new farming techniques under the encouragement of Mayor Ba.
Partnering with USDA|PSEM, the mayor organized a group of farmers to be trained in conservation agriculture techniques designed to improve their yields and increase soil fertility. Toure began practicing conservation agriculture at the beginning of Senegal’s winter this year.
Millet was a key target for the mayor and farmers in Ndiob. Over the past few years, they had seen the effects of climate change—lower rainfalls and lower yields. They also noticed the decline of trees, a clear sign of an approaching desertification. Coupled with mono-culture and depleting soil fertility, the farmers were only getting 500 kilograms of millet per hectare, not enough to feed their large families. Toure’s family alone has 25 members, he said.
Mayor Ba’s strategic vision was not only about increasing yields, but also about bringing fertility back to the soil longterm. Conservation farming encourages crop rotation and mulching, techniques that bring life back to the soil. The USDA|PSEM project knew that community leaders needed to be the ones to motivate their farmers to buy in, and Ndiob Village created an agriculture strategic vision.
With the technical services from the USDA|PSEM project, Toure saw his yields triple to 1,600 kilograms per hectare. Beyond food security, the next steps would be to increase the economic possibilities at market, supplementing the cash from groundnuts. The improved short cycle seeds also mean the farmers can get more growing time out of their fields.
“During my 66 years as a farmer, I have never seen a variety of millet with such a short generation cycle. The project’s introduction of these short cycle seeds perfectly meets the current climate,” Toure said. The bio-fortified millet, he added, has also been important for his children and grandchildren’s nutrition.
“Thanks to this experience I now practice conservation farming on all my plots, not just millet,” he said.
To see yields and incomes rise in these millet production areas, USDA|PSEM tapped into the power of local leaders and farmers to train each other and partner with the project. Involved from the beginning, this community-led development is seeing success not only in yields, but in spreading to other crops and ownership of agriculture strategies.