Extract of a study by the The Feed the Future Developing Local Extension Capacity (DLEC) project led by Digital Green, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Care International and GFRAS.
Senegal is among the most stable and promising countries in the West Africa region (USAID, 2017). The government’s growing investment in agriculture demonstrates its commitment to improving productivity of the sector. However, the country’s poor infrastructure, chronic underinvestment, and constraining policies continue to challenge the agriculture sector, even though progress is being made in all these areas (Domgho et al., 2017; USAID, 2017).
Senegal is very poor and near the bottom of most development indicators and indices. For example, Senegal ranked 163 out of 188 on the UNDP Human Development Index in 2016, a decline from 157th in 2011 (UNDP, 2016). Over half (54 percent) of its population was below the poverty line in 2014, giving it a rank of 145 over 162 nations surveyed (Index Mundi, 2014). The literacy rate was 43 percent and life expectancy was 67 years. Nutritional indicators are particularly low with 19 percent of children under five years being stunted (a sign of chronic undernutrition) and only seven percent of children between the ages of six and 23 months receiving a minimum acceptable diet in 2013 (ANSD and MEASURE DHS, 2013)
Senegal has great potential to increase agriculture-led economic growth. The country has abundant land, motivated agricultural entrepreneurs, and access to international markets through a major port. Senegal’s transportation, irrigation, communications and financial infrastructure are steadily improving, due to reasonably good governance, government and private investment, and considerable donor support. The Government of Senegal, civil society and the private sector have all demonstrated a commitment to invest in agriculture and food security and to reduce policy and regulatory constraints that limit investment. The government’s investment plan, in line with their 2010 CAADP compact agreement, focuses heavily on increasing the production of rice, maize and millet, three food staples with important market potential (USAID, 2017).
As of 2014, 84 percent of Senegalese adults owned cell phones but only 15 percent owned smart phones. Among phone owners, 70 percent sent text messages, 30 percent used their phones to accept or make payments and 19 percent used them to access social networks. Ownership and use rates are likely lower for rural households than for urban ones. On ease of doing business, Senegal ranks slightly above average among African countries at 21st out of 48 surveyed.
As in many other African countries, women lag behind men in most socioeconomic categories and have less access to productive assets than men. For example, while men’s literacy rate was 53 percent in 2013, the women’s rate was only 34 percent (United Nations Statistics Division, 2017). Whereas 56 percent of men owned mobile phones, only 27 percent of women did so (Poulsen, 2015). Women do not yet have equal rights with men and many are struggling under the burden of significantly greater domestic responsibilities and lack of access to land, labor, capital and information. Moreover, Senegalese customary law among most ethnic groups does not allow women to inherit property, except through a man acting as an intermediary (Rubin, 2010).