Ending Youth Unemployment in Africa
There is an issue of youth unemployment in Africa. Young people make up 60% of all unemployed people in Sub-Saharan Africa. It is also one of the continents with a changing age demographic from older to younger individuals. An added disconnect is that of those who are working, 82% of them are still in vulnerable employment situations. In addition, wages may not even be enough to survive. If Senegal can get some of the 50,000 talibes, mostly young boys who beg on the streets, then Senegal can continue being a leading economically driven country.

Aspyre Africa

Aspyre Africa is an organization that works in Senegal, specifically Saint-Louis, with young men and women to end youth unemployment in Africa. It is attempting to develop a robust, sustainable and replicable model of services and quality vocational training. As a result, it should be able to secure the futures of countless economically disadvantaged young people in Africa.

Aspyre originally emerged in 2014. It focuses on talibes who are boys on the street with very limited job opportunities due to a lack of formal training.

Aspyre Africa’s Actions

The organization has successfully trained 18 talibes between the ages of 15 to 25 in horticulture. After the initial training, Aspyre Africa continues to support the youth until they have a stable income through various agricultural pursuits. Aspyre is stepping up its assistance in the community by providing a social worker and a career advisor for vulnerable students and alumni at a government-run vocational training center. Also, additional money from the organization is going towards essential equipment and helping talibes set up their own businesses.

Sustainable Livelihoods Project

With the original cohort of 18 talibes having passed their 10-month vocational training at the center, Aspyre Africa began a new venture of constructing a chicken coop. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation provides funding for a project to provide chickens in Sub-Saharan Africa as an agricultural venture to be successful. Chickens can result in a $300 yearly income increase. Chickens are valuable to Sub-Saharan communities because they produce eggs that are an essential key to getting nutrients and protein.

Youth Entrepreneurs Project

The work in Senegal is the perfect example of the saying that it takes a village to raise a child. In this instance, raising loosely means supporting. Aspyre Africa has been able to support 18 talibes by partnering with other organizations in order to secure funding, build the center and chicken coop and train the youth. Through these partnerships, Aspyre has seen how sometimes it can be prohibitive to its ultimate goal of uplifting youth.

Starting out, Aspyre helped provide the training for agriculture and horticulture as well as funding for necessary equipment to end youth unemployment in Africa. After the first cohort of trainees, it saw that other organizations either provided training or financial support for participants to start a business. In the past two years, it has transitioned into implementing a program to provide support from the start of training to the start of an individual’s small business. By regularly following up and tailoring training to youth’s interests and skills, along with 2 hectares of land on loan for 2 years to start their business, Aspyre Africa has ensured that each participant can be successful with continued participation.

– Cassiday Moriarity
Photo: Flickr

Youth Unemployment in Senegal
Like many developing countries in Africa, Senegal’s economy is growing. In fact, in 2018, the country’s GDP increased by 6.766%. However, economic growth has not translated into more jobs for the younger generation, thus resulting in high youth unemployment. Young people either end up unemployed or in the informal job sector where wages are low. To solve the problem of youth unemployment in Senegal, the Senegalese government and NGOs are creating new policies and programs.

Youth and the Formal Job Sector

In 2019, Senegal’s population was over 16 million with 40% of the population younger than 15. More than 300,000 Senegalese youth enter the workforce each year. The formal sector in Senegal makes up between three to four percent of Senegal’s job market. As a result, college graduates struggle to find jobs relating to their field of study. When looking for formal jobs, graduates face many difficulties, including a lack of connections and a failure to meet the job qualifications. Youths also lack the knowledge of where to look for formal jobs.

Furthermore, according to employers, the education system does not meet the needs of the workforce because graduates do not have work experience (internships). The internships that youths do manage to get are often unpaid. This results in more difficulties for young people to sustain themselves while working. CNV International works with unions to make sure that interns are not being taken advantage of. Although the youth unemployment rate for ages between 15-24 has decreased from 13.2% in 2010 to 8.2% in 2019, Senegal still faces a problem of unemployment among youth.

Youth and the Informal Job Sector

When it becomes difficult to find employment, many Senegalese youth turn to the informal sector or start their own businesses. The informal sector is made up of businesses that are not registered and therefore do not pay taxes. For obtaining an informal job, social and personal relations play a more important role than a contractual agreement. Furthermore, informal jobs often tend not to provide employees with any form of social security or insurance, and are also fairly low-paying. Many informal jobs generate income that is less than Senegal’s minimum wage, according to Investisseurs & Partenaires.

Consequences of Youth Unemployment

The problem with youth unemployment is that it often leads to poverty, crime and even migration to other countries. In Senegal, many have left their villages to migrate to Europe. However, the path to Europe is dangerous and many die attempting to reach or cross the Mediterranean. To respond to the crisis of youth unemployment, the Senegalese government and NGOs have created programs to help young people find jobs.

Efforts to Reduce Youth Unemployment

In 2017, the Education Development Center and MasterCard Foundation started a 5-year long project to help teach students in both middle and high school. The project aims to teach students how to get a job as well as how to start a business. The program, known as APTE, helps provide internships, job placement, mentoring and coaching. Currently, the program works in 50 vocational education and training (TVET) schools and 200 middle schools (lower secondary), and has reached over 11,000 youths in the country.

To help youth entrepreneurs, the government created La Délégation Générale à l’Entreprenariat Rapide, a fund for entrepreneurs. The fund focuses on small financing, incubation funding, equity financing and low-interest loans. In the first wave of funding alone, the program received 140,000 applications. The fund has given money to multiple industries, including food, agriculture and digital/ICT.

With the help of the World Bank, the Senegalese government also created the Skills for Jobs and Competitiveness project to help reduce youth unemployment in Senegal. The project aims to train Senegalese youth in tourism, horticulture and poultry farming. Additionally, the Programme de Formation Ecole-Enterprise (School-Company Training Program) hopes to impact 10,000 young people by teaching them crucial job skills. The government is also working with companies through an apprenticeship program to train students while they are in school.

 

Although the youth unemployment rate in Senegal has decreased, it still remains a relevant issue. Programs by NGOs and the government are essential to providing job opportunities for young people in Senegal. These efforts also serve to reduce poverty and encourage youth to remain in Senegal rather than attempt the dangerous journey to Europe. If this focus on tackling youth unemployment continues, a new future for Senegal’s youth may be peeking through the horizon.

– Joshua Meribole 
Photo: Flickr

Desertification is a process that destroys fertile land. This can be caused by drought, overpopulation, over-farming, deforestation and climate change. The effects of desertification are seen in many parts of the world, but is predominantly in India, Australia, Asia and Africa. More than six million acres of land in India are turned into a desert-like state annually. The U.N. estimates about 30 million acres of land across the globe are impacted by desertification every year.

The most vulnerable region is a 3,000-mile stretch of land that includes ten countries in the Sahel region of Africa. The Sahel is the area between the Saharan Desert and the Sudanian Savannah. This region is under constant stress due to frequent droughts and soil erosion. A dense forest can become a field of dust in a matter of years, making mass migrations inevitable. Africans frequently migrate south in search of fertile land.

Desertification in Senegal and Beyond

Desertification affects about 46 percent of Africa. Yet, the process of reversing its effects is slow going, usually taking a decade to see major improvements. Agriculture in Africa tends to result in low productivity, as most of the land is characterized as a semi-desert. Clearing the land of trees also reduces the structure of the soil. Coupled with wind erosion, the topsoil blows away and leaves a desert-like land. The issue is seen in many parts of the world, but it is most prevalent in Africa.

The country that is arguably the most damaged by desertification is Senegal. Migrations in Senegal are common, as wind erosion, deforestation and climate change wreaks havoc on farms and livestock. In 2015, Khalidou Badara, a cattle herder in Senegal, said, “There are almost no more trees, and the grass does not grow anymore, and so each year, we have to go further and further away to find grazing for our cattle.” Those most affected by desertification in Senegal move to Gabon, a country in West Africa, or even to Europe or South America. More than half of Senegalese work in agriculture, and desertification forces those with meager profits to move elsewhere to escape poverty.

The Great Green Wall

One ambitious initiative created to reduce desertification in Africa is the Great Green Wall. Once completed, the Great Green Wall will be the largest living structure on the planet, spanning more than 4,500 miles across the entire Sahel. The idea is that planting trees can combat desertification, create jobs, improve food security and bring migrated populations back home. The initiative began in 2007 and has already planted 12 million trees in Senegal. The wall prevents the Saharan Desert from encroaching on land most affected by desertification in Africa, while simultaneously reducing soil erosion. More than 37 million acres of degraded land in Ethiopia was restored as a result of this initiative.

There are similar results in Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Niger. Only 15 percent of the project is complete, and the Great Green Wall is creating a lasting impact. The Great Green Wall’s goals for 2030 include restoring 247 million acres of destroyed land and creating 10 million jobs in rural areas.

Will Desertification Halt or Slow?

As climate change continues to place a burden on poor farmers in the Sahel region, scientists and initiatives, like the Great Green Wall, continue to restore the region to its original structure. The Great Green Wall is growing every month. Its ambitious goals for 2030 express that their work will not slow in Africa. The greatest impact of these solutions lies in preventing further desertification in Africa so that those in poverty can depend on fertile land for food and sufficient income to escape poverty.

Lucas Schmidt

Photo: Flickr

Facts About Life Expectancy in Senegal

The Republic of Senegal is a country on the West African coast bordered by Mauritania, Mali, Gambia and Guinea-Bissau. Around 46.7 percent of Senegal’s 15.85 million residents live in poverty. Today, life expectancy at birth in Senegal is 67.45 years, representing a significant improvement from 39.24 years in 1970 and 59.7 years in 2000. Many factors contribute to a country’s life expectancy rate including the quality and access to health care, employment, income, education, clean water, hygiene, nutrition, lifestyle and crime rates. Keep reading to learn more about the top eight facts about life expectancy in Senegal.

8 Facts About Life Expectancy in Senegal

  1. Despite decades of political stability and economic growth, Senegal is ranked 164th out of 189 countries in terms of human development. Poverty, while decreasing, remains high with 54.4 percent of the population experiencing multidimensional poverty. The World Bank funds programs in Senegal to reduce poverty and increase human development. This work includes the Stormwater Management and Climate Change Adaptation project which delivered piped water access for 206,000 people and improved sanitation services for 82,000 others. Additionally, the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Program helps cultivate 14 climate-smart crops in the area.
  2. Senegal’s unemployment rate has substantially decreased from 10.54 percent in 2010 to 6.46 percent in 2018. This is a positive trend; however, 63.2 percent of workers remain in poverty at $3.10 per day showing that employment does not always guarantee financial stability. To help the most vulnerable 300,000 households, Senegal has established a national social safety net program to help the extremely poor afford education, food, medical assistance and more.
  3. The maternal mortality rate continues to decrease each year in Senegal. In 2015, there were 315 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births compared to 540 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1990. Maternal health has improved thanks to the efforts of many NGOs as well as the national government. Of note, USAID has spearheaded community health programs and launched 1,652 community surveillance committees that provide personalized follow-up care to pregnant women and newborns. In 2015, trained community health workers provided vital care to 18,336 babies and conducted postnatal visits for 54,530 mothers.
  4. From 2007 to 2017, neonatal disorder deaths decreased by 20.7 percent. This is great progress, however, neonatal disorder deaths are still the number one cause of death for children under the age of 5 in Senegal. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides technical and financial support to establish community-based newborn care, including Kangaroo Mother Care programs. This low-cost and low-tech intervention has reduced the risk of death for preterm and low-birth-weight babies by 40 percent and illness by 60 percent. With financial help from UNICEF, 116 health workers have been trained in 22 health centers and seven hospitals. The long-term goal is to have Kangaroo Care introduced to 1,000 health centers across Senegal.
  5. Senegal has been lauded as an African leader in the fight against malnutrition. Notably, from 2000 to 2016, undernutrition declined by 56 percent. Improvements in the health sector, making crops more nutrition-sensitive and helping increase crop yields have been major contributors to recent nutrition success. 
  6. Despite progress, hunger is still a major issue in northern Senegal. Successive droughts have left over a quarter of a million people food insecure. In the district of Podor, rains have decreased by 66 percent from 2016 to 2017. Action Against Hunger is working to keep cattle, which is the main sustenance source for thousands of shepherds, from dying in the drought by funding new drinking troughs. This will benefit 800 families in Podor. Action Against Hunger also covers monthly basic food expenses for 2,150 vulnerable households to prevent further increases in acute malnutrition.
  7. There is a high risk of waterborne diseases in Senegal. Diarrheal diseases are the third leading cause of death. The Senegalese Ministry of Health has recently adopted the WHO diarrhea treatment policy of zinc supplementation and improved oral rehydration therapy. This is a life-saving policy that is taking effect around the country.
  8. Around 41 percent of children aged 6-11 in Senegal are not in school. The largest percentages of out-of-school children are the poorest quintile and rural areas. To increase school enrollment, the government and USAID are making efforts to increase access to school facilities in rural areas and support poorer families with cash transfers through the social safety net. USAID is working to ensure that all Senegalese children, especially girls and those in vulnerable situations, receive 10 years of quality education. The agency has built schools, supported teacher training, increased supplies of books and access to the internet and increased opportunities for out-of-school young people. Since 2007, 46 middle schools and 30 water points have been built and equipped.

These eight facts about life expectancy in Senegal have shown that the combined efforts of nonprofits and the Government of Senegal are making real progress on many fronts that contribute to life expectancy. These efforts must continue and intensify to reduce poverty and increase life expectancy in Senegal.

– Camryn Lemke
Photo: Flickr

charitable soccer player
People know soccer players for their athletic ability and worldwide fame, but more often than not many soccer players use their platforms as an opportunity to help those in need. Three charitable soccer players that worked toward improving the quality of life in developing countries include Mohammed (Mo) Salah, Sadio Mane and Marta Viera da Silva (Marta).

Mohammed Salah’s Work in Egypt

A Nagrig, Egypt native, Mohammed Salah currently plays for Liverpool in England’s Premier Football League. In 2018, the Premier League awarded him the Golden Boot. He was also the top scorer for Egypt in the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Mo Salah serves as an inspiration to young soccer players all over the world as a charitable soccer player, but the impact he had on his home country is resounding. An article in The Conversation addressed Salah’s reciprocal relationship with the youth of Egypt. Mo Salah inspires the youth despite political tension and a growing trend of Egyptian youth feeling disenfranchised.

In Egypt, 7.3 million people do not have access to safe drinking water. The inability to access clean water can lead to dehydration, causing illnesses such as diarrhea. In Egypt, almost 4,000 children under the age of 5 die from diarrhea every year. In 2018, alongside his father, Mo Salah launched a project near his hometown of Nagrig to develop a sewage system. This system will provide clean water to people living in this village. Mo Salah provided nearly half a million dollars for this project, and this is not the only time he gave back to his country. In the past, Mo Salah donated to the Long Live Egypt Fund, in order to fund the construction of a school, hospital and ambulance in Nagrig.

Sadio Mane’s Work in Senegal

Another charitable soccer player and teammate of Mohammed Salah on the Liverpool team is Sadio Mané. Born and raised in Senegal, Mané grew to become an incredibly successful soccer player. In 2019, The Premier League awarded Mané the Golden Boot. The Confederation of African Football also awarded the Senegalese National team, which Mané captains, the team of the year in 2016, 2017 and 2019. Mané’s relationship with Senegal goes far beyond soccer, and throughout his career, he continuously gave back to his home country through various kinds of donations.

As a developing nation, Senegal struggles to offer advanced health care and schooling to all of its citizens. Currently, 39 percent of Senegal’s population lives in poverty. Furthermore, preventable diseases like malaria are the prominent causes of death, and one in five children are underweight. Conditions remain poor when looking at education as well. Forty percent of Senegalese children work to help their families instead of going to school, and the literacy rate for Senegal is at 49.7 percent. These statistics are even more severe for those living in rural areas.

Charitable soccer players like Mané play their part it giving back and improving living conditions in their country. In 2018, Mané donated money to fund the building of a hospital in Banbali, Senegal, one of the many rural villages in the country. He also recently visited Banbali to view the completion of the construction of the school he donated 200,000 euros. In an official presentation of the school, Mané’s uncle, Sana Toure, read a speech on Mané’s behalf, stating, “Education is very important. This is what will enable you to have a good career.” Other charitable works on behalf of Mané include donating one hundred soccer jerseys to orphans in Malawi, providing 50,000 Francs a month to families in Banbali and funding the building of a Mosque and soccer stadium in Banbali as well. Mané also recently cleaned the bathroom of a mosque he regularly attends in Liverpool, England.

Marta Vieira da Silva’s Partnership with the UN

Another charitable soccer player, Marta Vieira da Silva, is possibly one of the best female soccer players of all time. At the age of only 15 years old, she represented Brazil in the Women’s World Cup. She was in every single Women’s World Cup since. Throughout her career, FIFA awarded her player of the year five times, and she received the Golden Boot and Golden Ball for her 2007 performance in the Women’s World Cup. Marta’s outstanding skills are the reason she is not only one of the best female soccer players, but also one of the best soccer players of all time. In 2018, Marta became the U.N. Women Goodwill Ambassador for women and girls in sport. Upon being appointed, Marta said “I know, from my life experience, that sport is a fantastic tool for empowerment…Through sport, women and girls can challenge socio-cultural norms and gender stereotypes and increase their self-esteem, develop life skills and leadership.” Marta worked with the U.N. since 2010 as part of the U.N. Development Programme, encouraging sports in schools.

At the end of her last game in the 2019 Women’s World Cup, Marta gave a speech encouraging women to take leadership roles in sports. In the post-game interview, Marta said, “Women’s football depends on you to survive. So think about that. Value it more. Cry in the beginning so you can smile in the end.” This message aims to inspire young women to stay involved in sports. In the sports world, women often receive less pay than men, and women and girls in developing nations often do not receive the same opportunities as those in developed nations. Women and girls in developing nations may face discrimination and ridicule because of social norms and religious beliefs. In Turkey, for example, women’s soccer leagues face a lack of funding and participation as well as harassment during games.

In the developing world, sports are often one of the key ways that communities stay together. According to South Africa UNICEF, schools reported an 80 percent decline in violence in schools participating in a sport for development program. Marta is a charitable soccer player, who as a U.N. ambassador aims to open doors for women and girls in sports, which will not only benefit them but their community and country as well.

Desiree Nestor
Photo: Flickr

Breast Cancer in Senegal
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide—it affects 2.1 million women each year. According to the World Health Organization, breast cancer caused 15 percent of cancer-related deaths among women in 2018. While developed countries have higher rates of breast cancer, the disease is on the rise globally. Here are six facts about breast cancer in Senegal.

6 Facts About Breast Cancer in Senegal

  1. Breast Cancer Cases: The prevalence of breast cancer in Senegal is on the rise. A study by the Global Cancer Observatory in 2018 shows that the incidences of breast cancer reached 1,758 cases per year. This is in comparison to 869 cases in 2012. The disease ranks second in terms of new cases. In terms of mortality rate, it falls only behind cervical cancer.
  2. Chemotherapy Training: There is only one medical oncology specialist in Senegal. Therefore, general practitioners, as well as oncology surgeons, carry out chemotherapy. The government is working to improve on this by trying to ensure 50 percent of doctors undergo chemotherapy training by attending seminars as well as doing practical internships. The government also offers fellowships for people to fully specialize in medical oncology.
  3. Cancer Treatment: There is only one center dedicated to cancer in Senegal—the Joliot Curie Institute which is the cancer department of the Le Dantec Hospital. Most breast cancer patients receive treatment at the Hospital Center University Aristide Le Dantec which sees 350 new patients every year. Others attend the Principal Hospital, which is the second-largest university hospital in Dakar, or to smaller private centers and public hospitals. There is low accessibility for those in rural areas as these facilities congregate in Dakar and other major cities.
  4. Challenges: A challenge that people face when it comes to the treatment of breast cancer in Senegal includes late consultation, with most patients only finding out they have breast cancer when it is in the advanced stages. People might also face a lack of human resources and adequate equipment. Additionally, both the public and health care providers require further education on available treatments.
  5. Funding for Free Chemotherapy: The government of Senegal announced that it have set aside an estimated $1.6 billion to provide free chemotherapy in public hospitals for those with breast and cervical cancer starting in October 2019. By doing this, it is following in the footsteps of other African countries such as Rwanda, Namibia and Seychelles. While this is a positive step in the right direction to see the mortality rate drop, a challenge remains as women often require both radiotherapy and chemotherapy to control the spread of breast cancer.
  6. Benefits of Free Chemotherapy: The introduction of free chemotherapy treatment for patients of breast cancer in Senegal will surely help reduce the mortality rate as the high cost of treatment refrained patients. The expenses of breast cancer treatment were wholly the responsibility of the patients. While a few covered the expenses themselves, the families foot most expenses for a vast majority of patients. The high cost of treatment and debt faced that patients and their families faced meant that they typically did not attend follow-up treatment after the initial sessions.

Senegal is taking important steps to ensure that it improves the outcome and survival rates of those breast cancer affects. Beyond providing free treatment, there is an urgent need to ensure that the disease receives an early diagnosis. By providing education, free treatment and increasing the number of trained practitioners, the deaths that breast cancer causes in Senegal will hopefully decrease.

– Sophia Wanyonyi
Photo: Pixabay

health care system in Senegal
The health care system in Senegal is focusing its reforms on expanding the range of health services offered. For example, increasing access to traditionally underserved populations and introducing social protection measures.

Health Care Sections and Structure

Both private and public health sectors exist in Senegal. Employees receive coverage from the IPM (Institut de Prévoyance Maladie) Health Fund, a public health care system in Senegal. In fact, employers have the responsibility of providing health care to employees.

However, employees must contribute to the workplace for at least two months before receiving coverage. Some services of these health care systems in Senegal include partial coverage of pharmaceutical and hospital costs, primary care, vaccinations and emergency treatment.

The public health care system in Senegal includes a Social Security department, but the responsibility of health care and employment are not inclusive. Therefore, if an individual is not employed but wants to receive public healthcare services, they have the option to use Welfare services, which covers primary care. On the other hand, private health services are also available for those unemployed, not receiving health care services.

Addressing Access to Health Care Services

While the health care system in Senegal is improving, there is still a lack of effort to address health disparities within the population. As a result, only 32 percent of rural households have access to regular health care.

Many organizations are working to provide aid ensuring wider access to health care in Senegal. For example, Health Systems Strengthening, a program stemming from USAID, is working to establish a performance-based financing project in six regions in Senegal. Additionally, it is working to provide services to three-quarters of the population.

The Role of International Aid

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is also providing health care services in Senegal. Their initial focus is on providing medical services for HIV/AIDS through the HIV sentinel surveillance program. Widening their goals for the health  care system in Senegal is due to the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative of 2006 and the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief of 2010.

Work in Senegal

In 2015, the Global Health Security Agenda, in partnership with the CDC was able to establish an office in Senegal. Through this, there has been additional development of networks and partnerships. For example, the CDC is now working with the World Health Organization and the Ministry of Health and Social Action.

Furthermore, IntraHealth is an organization working in Senegal for over a decade. Their goal is to help increase services for family planning and education about Malaria. So far, training has been provided for more than 1,000 workers. These workers specialize in family planning services. On a broader scale, 15,000 home visits throughout Senegal have. been conducted; Ultimately, to raise awareness about Malaria.

Overall, groups, such as USAID and the CDC are working with the government to address the health care system in Senegal. In partnership, there are increasing quantities of awareness and involvement.

– Claire Bryan
Photo: Flickr

Deforestation in Senegal
For the vast majority of people in the United States, it would be difficult to imagine a life without electricity. However, for many nations in the developing world, the primary source of energy – be it for cooking, keeping the house warm or industrial fuel – is charcoal, and the process of harvesting wood and making charcoal has created a livelihood for thousands of people around the globe.

Unfortunately for Senegal and other countries that rely heavily on charcoal production, it is also terrible for the environment. According to a statement by the United Nations Environmental Program, Africa as a whole is losing more than nine million acres of forest per year, putting the continent at nearly double the world’s average deforestation rate.

Deforestation in Senegal and the world can open the door for a host of other environmental problems. Forests are essential for maintaining local water cycles; deforested areas often see a decrease in rainfall, and experts say that the increase in droughts in East Africa in recent years are the result of heavy deforestation rates. In addition, tree roots play a role in maintaining soil by holding it in place; without tree cover, rain or wind can wash rich soil away and turn arable land barren.

Compared to the rest of the continent, Senegal is not doing too badly. An estimate by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the U.N. states that the country is about 42 percent forested land as of 2016. However, deforestation still poses a significant problem, in no small part due to the charcoal industry; more than half of Senegal’s 13 million people are still relying on charcoal for fuel and thousands of people in rural areas of Senegal have built their livelihoods on harvesting wood to make charcoal.

Flooding and the Women of Kaffrine

In Kaffrine, a region of Senegal where many families rely on charcoal, deforestation has taken its toll on the residents. In 2016, the region was scourged by heavy flooding during the summer. Heavy rain had always been common in Kaffrine during the summer months, but 2016 brought a level of flooding not seen for decades. The floods destroyed at least 100 houses and damaged at least 1,500 other homes on a massive scale. In addition, the flood waters swept away crops, resulting in farmers losing their livelihood for the year – a devastating blow in a region where agriculture is the main source of income. Experts claimed that deforestation may have been partially responsible for the flooding and that reforestation might be the key to preventing similar disasters in the coming years.

However, as deforestation in Senegal continues, the women of Kaffrine have been at the head of the movement to salvage what is left. Senegal has long considered the process of making charcoal to be men’s work, but in recent years, women have been taking the initiative to reduce the negative impact of charcoal.

The Female Forestry Association and PROGEDE 2

Part of the job is reducing the harm done through reforestation. The Female Forestry Association, led by Fily Traore, has been leading the way in this undertaking; in 2018 alone, the organization planted more than 500,000 trees in Kaffrine. One of its goals is to revive several types of fruit trees, which have become scarce in the region as forests disappear.

Furthermore, in areas which are dependent on charcoal production for money, women have played a massive role in finding other, more sustainable ways for communities to support themselves. Aside from the work of reforestation, which provides jobs for many women within the Female Forestry Association, women have been instrumental in developing alternative sources of income besides charcoal production. In particular, the village of Medina Degouye has taken huge steps toward developing horticulture; the community’s vegetable gardens not only provide food for the village, but several residents have begun selling excess produce throughout the region and even in the capital city of Dakar.

These advancements have happened partly because of the support of the United Nations’s Second Sustainable and Participatory Energy Management Project (PROGEDE 2) in Senegal. Under PROGEDE 2, women in Kaffrine are empowered to take charge of the local economy, including charcoal production and the management thereof. PROGEDE 2 also offered training in forest management, beekeeping and horticulture for men and women, allowing women to support their families while also finding alternative sources of income.

Aside from the environmental impact of charcoal, the work of PROGEDE 2 and the women of Kaffrine are addressing a much more direct result of overusing forests: if deforestation in Senegal continues, eventually nothing will be left to harvest. In addition, the long-term effects of deforestation could easily ruin life for many people in the rural areas of Kaffrine if left unchecked. However, between the work of the Female Forestry Association and the empowerment of rural women under PROGEDE 2, Senegal may be able to avert this scenario as the area sees a regrowth of its forests. The women of Kaffrine are taking the future into their own hands.

– Keira Charles
Photo: Flickr

disabilities in Senegal

Senegal has the fourth largest economy in the western region of Africa. However, half of Senegal’s population still lives in extreme poverty. Due to the limited disability services provided by Senegal’s government, the barriers that people are encountering under poverty are amplified for Senegalese people who have a disability. Efforts towards improving disability services in Senegal are currently focusing on accessibility within education and economic inclusion.

Improving Educational Opportunities

Children with disabilities often miss out on quality education due to a lack of accessibility services. It is estimated that, in West Africa, one in four children with a disability does not attend school. Many organizations are working to improve the education system in Senegal to make it more accessible for people with disabilities. One organization is Sightsavers Senegal.

There are 700,000 people in Senegal who have a visual impairment, which includes thousands of children. Sightsavers Senegal started a pilot program in order to address the large number of visually impaired students who are excluded from the education system in Dakar. The program began in 2011, and by 2016, 187 students with visual impairments were enrolled in three different schools.

Sightsavers was able to provide scholarships to students along with textbooks that had been translated into braille. Facilities and technology were also adapted in order to accommodate students with a visual impairment. Sightsavers was able to collaborate with Senegal’s Ministry of Education to provide resources and training for students and educators to include more inclusive learning spaces for children with visual impairments.

The success of this pilot program provided incentives to the Senegalese government to uphold the program and work towards expansion nationwide. This budget has allowed for the addition of assistive facilities and learning resources in two more regions in Senegal.

Improving Economic Inclusion

Gaining economic independence and success is often difficult for individuals with disabilities. Job training and matching are challenging when services aren’t available to facilitate the movement of people with disabilities into the workforce. Senegal enforces a minimum access quota to provide employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities in both private and public sector jobs. These quotas minimize the number of people out of work due to a disability. The Ministry of Civil Service, Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Technical and Vocational Training are in charge of implementing and enforcing the quota.

In Senegal, Humanity & Inclusion’s “EMPHAS” Project is working to provide training and services to help individuals with disabilities work towards economic security. Their focus has mainly been pointed towards women and young people who have disabilities. Humanity & Inclusion focuses not only on the technical training side of job fields but also advocates for accessible facilities. At least 500 adults and 90 public and private employers have benefited from the implementation of EMPHAS.

In March 2019, the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, under the U.N., assessed the efforts being made towards improving disability services in Senegal. The committee identified areas where more intervention can be made, such as more vocational training and a focus on the implementation of services. Although there is still a portion of the disabled community in Senegal experiencing exclusion, resource allocation and a focus on making facilities more accessible have contributed to improving disability services in Senegal.

Claire Bryan

Photo: Flickr

agriculture in Senegal
The story of sustainable agriculture in Senegal is one of success that should be used as a guide for other countries. Between 1960 and the early 1980s, Senegal used monocropping, a dangerous practice where only one crop is grown year after year, leaching more and more nutrients from the ground. This eventually left the soil void of essential nutrients. When the area was hit by drought in the early 1980s, the land was unable to cope, and the country suffered from food shortages. However, over the last 20 years, Senegal has been using sustainable agriculture to bring back fertility to the soil.

In 1989, the United States government began working with Rodale International to come up with a plan to restore the soil. The plan was to use crop rotation. Every three years, one of four different plants would be sown in the soil. Each plant would only take certain nutrients from the ground and replace others. One of these plants was peanuts, the plant that caused the problem in the first place, and the second was millet. Both are now the main agricultural exports of Senegal. The other two crops in rotation are cowpeas and cassava.

The International Production and Pest Management Program

The United States and international companies are not the only organizations helping improve sustainable agriculture in Senegal. Senegal has been part of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) IPPM program since 2001. The IPPM (Integrated Production and Pest Management Program) is dedicated to responsible pest control practices. The program touches on many points to control pests; however, its most important lesson is the responsible use of pesticides.

Pesticides remain a continuous problem in Senegal and most of the world due to their overuse. Pesticides stay in the water table, contaminating drinking water. They also hurt the soil since the chemicals build up over time and stay on the crops. When consumed pesticides are harmful to humans and animals. This is not to say that they are not sometimes necessary, but the IPPM suggests a less-is-more approach.

Syngenta

Private foundations are also doing their part. Syngenta, a Swiss-based based agricultural firm, has a foundation called the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture. The foundation works with public and private sector partners in order to finance innovations in sustainable agriculture. They also work with the World Bank, USAID and both the Swiss and Australian governments.

Since 2014, Syngenta has been promoting sustainable agriculture in Senegal’s rice production. In 2015, the organization began helping farmers gain access to better-mechanized equipment to facilitate rice cultivation in the Senegal River Valley. The overall approach of the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture is to work with the entire system. The work with NGO’s and governments to help small farmers become more productive has helped to increase the economic benefit of sustainable farming practices. It also helps the farmers better feed themselves and their families.

Improving the Economy Through Sustainable Agriculture

The soil is becoming productive again, and farmers are gaining access to better techniques and equipment. However, the fight is not over. Senegal suffers from an unemployment rate of 47 percent. In 2017, the agricultural industry employed 77 percent of the population in Senegal, an estimated 6.9 million people. However, the agriculture industry only makes up only about 17 percent of the of the country’s GDP. The next step to better economic stability will be to tackle these issues. Hopefully, like its soil, the Senegalese economy will now rejuvenate and grow for all.

– Nicholas Anthony DeMarco
Photo: Flickr