Research Articles How Youth and Women Are Key to Senegal’s Farming Future

How Youth And Women Are Key To Senegal’s Farming Future - Alliance Bioversity International - CIAT

New research from the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT shows both challenges and great opportunities for women and young people in agriculture in southern Senegal.

By: Andrew Wight

The agricultural sector is one of the pillars of this central African country’s economy, with an estimated contribution of 15% to Senegal's GDP in 2018. Furthermore, 60% of the population in rural areas continues to depend directly on farming for their livelihoods, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). 

In Evaluating rural household well-being and empowerment among women and young farmers in Senegal, published in the international journal Data in Brief, researchers conducted a survey of over 1500 smallholder farming households from the Sedhiou and Tambacounda regions in southern Senegal, with 70 percent of respondents being women over 35 and 30% being people between the ages of 18-34. 

“The idea of our review was to empower women and young people,” says lead author Cyrus Muriithi, a researcher and data analyst at the Alliance. 

The researchers say that the data gathered in the survey highlights a significant knowledge gap about women and young people's farming practices in the prevailing climate change conditions (droughts due to increasing temperatures). 

How Youth And Women Are Key To Senegal’s Farming Future - Alliance Bioversity International - CIAT - Image 2

Credit: Issa Ouedraogo

Empowering Women and Young Farmers 

Rural women represent almost 70% of Senegal's workforce and produce 80% of the country's national food supply, while more than 60% of Senegal’s population is under the age of 25, highlighting the importance of supporting their farming needs. Muriithi explains that despite this demographic representation, both women and youth are excluded from day-to-day decision-making processes on farms. 

“There is a lot of discrimination in terms of who controls the resources, which favors men over women, especially in the more lucrative parts of the supply chain; e.g., women are often expected to both do the housework and work on the farm,” says Muriithi, adding that although children are still expected to participate in farm labor, few young people see agriculture as an appealing occupation.  

“Most women don't have access to a mobile phone, it’s the husband who has the access,” says Issa Ouedraogo, a Senior Scientist and Country Representative for Senegal at the Alliance, “You can have innovation, but if you don't have access to land, it's hard to implement.”  

Muriithi points out that as the majority of people in these areas depend on local agriculture for 90% of their diet, improving agricultural skills can benefit both communities economically.  

“One way to achieve this is through training and access to efficient markets where farmers and traders have information and are already incorporated in the price mechanism,” he says, “For example, when farmers receive good prices for their crops, young individuals can earn more money compared to if they sought employment in urban areas, thus making agriculture appealing for youth.” 

Ouedraogo explains that because traditional sources of agricultural information - such as the migration of birds or insects, the flourishing of specific plant species, and other signs - are being disrupted by climate change, innovation is urgently needed.  

“The older men own the land and the equipment, and now, even though the young people have access to innovative techniques and information, it's hard to convince the elders to make the change,” Ouedraogo says, “However, young people are already exposed to innovation, and they can train older people.”  

How Youth And Women Are Key To Senegal’s Farming Future - Alliance Bioversity International - CIAT - Image 1

Credit: Issa Ouedraogo

Climate-smart Agriculture 

The researchers say one of the key uses of the survey is to understand the impact of the adoption of Climate-smart Agriculture (CSA) practices - a set of agricultural processes and technologies which aim to boost productivity, enhance resilience and reduce GHG emissions.  

Ouedraogo explains that the most useful part of these practices is climate information services, which is the provision of data and knowledge to inform agricultural decision making. 

“In all developed countries, farmers are exposed to a wide range of climate information that they can access from their smartphones, but this isn’t the case in rural Senegal,” he says, adding that today, thanks to new initiatives, farmers in Senegal now have access to weather and climate information to make better timely decisions.  

“Before, farmers had to sow their millet seeds and hope that in the coming week, a big rain would fall; however, now a farmer can receive a text message with the predicted date of the onset of the rainy season, reducing wasted seed,” Ouedraogo says, adding that climate information can also help determine when and how to use fertilizers, pesticides and other inputs. 


The researchers hope that the data gathered during the survey will help research and development partners formulate policies and development strategies aimed at smallholder farming households, with a focus on women and youth empowerment. 

Ouedraogo says that work is already underway with youth and women to implement new initiatives, and scale ones that already exist. 

“There are calls to upscale small-scale irrigation initiatives, and it’s the same for nutrition initiatives to change ways of thinking in terms of cooking, and improve the nutritional value of the food,” he says. 

The researchers say that the baseline survey data can also inform the development of tailored and adaptive agricultural interventions for smallholder farming households, particularly programs targeting women and youth. 

The Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT has been working in Senegal since 2011 and opened its official country office in Dakar in 2022, with the goal of deepening its activities in the country. Discover more about the Alliance's work and impact in Senegal here.

read the paper here