Senegal: Building Resilience for Rural Communities

Fatou Ba is a 22-year-old mother of four and lives with her family in the small village of Koundiaw Souare, 100 kilometers from the town of Tambacounda in Senegal.

“My husband is a farmer, and when the growing season was not good for the year, he fed our family by selling firewood.”

As in many rural communities in Africa, she and her family live in a fragile, disaster-prone area and depend on agriculture for their livelihood. When the rain comes too early, or too late, the desperate measures they resort to can further degrade their environment, exposing them to greater climate risk.

Now Fatou’s life has changed for the better.  Her village is one of 16 in the Koumpountoum district that qualified for innovative agricultural assistance from WFP and OXFAM America’s R4 Rural Resilience Initiative  project, which supports the Senegal Government’s resilience policy. 

During the last decade the Tambacounda region has been increasingly affected by erratic rains and frequent dry spells, as well as variations in the timing and length of the rainy season. During the last agricultural season, drought, has mainly affected the western districts of Tambacounda, mostly dedicated to peanuts cultivation. 

WFP Insurance Payouts

Because of  these difficult and uncertain climate conditions during the 2014-2015 crop cycle, 300 producers received insurance payouts from WFP, protecting their income, their crops, and their environment.

Aware of the negative impact of deforestation on the local environment, Fatou welcomed the joint initiative which helped her family in the lean season.

Activities To Reduce Disaster Risk

The R4 Initiative motivated Fatou and her family to take part in activities to strengthen their community’s resilience to climate change and disasters. Assets built through R4 risk reduction activities promote resilience by steadily decreasing vulnerability to disaster risks over time.

The focus is on the rehabilitation of low-lying lands for rice cultivation. This includes the removal of silt, the construction of water management infrastructures such as small dams and embankments to capture run-off water and the creation of stone bunds reinforced by vetiver plants to limit erosion in the watershed.

Greater Water Availablitly

Besides the positive effects on rice production, in some clusters, these interventions have proven to increase ground water recharge at village level with positive impacts on water availability from village wells and improved productivity of mango trees. These interventions respond to the top priorities identified by the communities during WFP’s Community-based participatory Planning sessions.

“Last year, my husband and I helped to construct a 730-meter-long dam, which earned us WFP support.  With WFP assistance, we could cope with the lean season by buying rice, oil, soap, and salt from the shop in the village.”

Fatou and her husband also carried out individual projects, like creating a compost pit and planting vetiver to provide natural fertilizer and fight soil erosion.

R4 In Senegal

In 2014 about 2,000 producers in 16 villages enrolled in the Risk Transfer (insurance) component of  the R4 Initiative.  Koundiaw Souare was the only village which experienced the kind of challenges that triggered payouts for its farmers.

The people in the Tamba region were the first beneficiaries of the programme which started in Senegal in 2012. It was followed by a pilot phase in Koussanar in 2013. Ingeborg Maria Breuer, WFP Senegal Country Director, welcomed the enthusiasm of the rural communities for the R4 Initiative.

“In 2015, WFP and Oxfam America have strengthened their partnership to show our technical and financial partners that we can quickly finalize this initiative, triple our targets, and mentor 18,000 participants in the groundnut basin – specifically in the areas of Kaffrine, Kaolack, and Fatick,” said Breuer after the payout process. 

Senegal is the second country after Ethiopia to establish this particular initiative to build the resilience of rural communities.  In 2014, R4  activities in Senegal were expanded to Tambacounda, Koumpentoum, Kolda, and Medina Yero Foulah.

The R4 Rural Resilience Initiative (R4) is a comprehensive risk management approach to help communities be more resilient to climate variability and shocks. Currently active in Senegal and Ethiopia, WFP is also piloting the initiative in Malawi and Zambia with a goal of reaching 100,000 insured farmers by 2017. The Initiative combines four risk management strategies: improved resource management through asset creation (risk reduction), insurance (risk transfer), livelihoods diversification and microcredit (prudent risk taking) and savings (risk reserves).