Posts Tagged ‘Senegal’


From Waste to Food to Fuel: Rice Production and Green Charcoal in Senegal

Pin It

By Andrew Alesbury

Inadequate management of human waste is a dire problem in much of the developing world. Swelling urban populations can make matters worse by exposing increasingly dense populations to illnesses carried by human waste. Some, however, are making good use of the surplus sewage. Rather than allow the urine and fecal matter to lie fallow, some have taken to utilizing it for agricultural purposes in lieu of synthetic or inorganic fertilizers. This practice not only makes fertilizer more readily available to farmers who might not have easy access to it in conventional forms, it is also significantly less expensive than using inorganic and synthetic fertilizers, which are often imported. Furthermore, the use of human fertilizer can sometimes be a crop-saving tactic when water is in short supply.

Leftover rice husks and straw can be used to produce green charcoal. (Photo Credit:

It is with these benefits in mind that groups like AgriDjalo, a small limited liability company focused on rice cultivation, are looking to start projects in Senegal that use urban biomass (primarily human waste) to fertilize rice fields. With over 40 percent of Senegal’s almost 13 million inhabitants living in urban areas, there is an abundant supply of human fertilizer.

AgriDjalo’s project could have the added benefit of decreasing reliance on rice imports. In 2012 alone, Senegal imported 820,000 metric tons of rice, accounting for over 6 percent of its total imports and presenting a considerable strain on the nation’s trade balance. As the second largest rice importer in Sub-Saharan Africa and one of the top ten worldwide, Senegal has much to gain, both in terms of income generation and decreased import dependency, from an increase in domestic rice production.



False Yam: A Famine Prevention Trifecta

Pin It

By Matt Styslinger

False yam (Icacina oliviformis) is a savannah shrub indigenous to West and Central Africa. The wild plant simultaneously produces three types of food: a fruit that is enjoyed as a snack, a seed that is utilized as a staple, and a tuberous root that is eaten as emergency food when other crops have failed and communities are threatened with famine.

The “false yam” shrub produces an edible fruit, seed, and root, and is especially important for famine prevention.(Photo credit: West African plants - A Photo Guide)

The bright red fruits of the false yam shrub are particularly sweet with a plum-like flavor, and a favorite of children. They are 2-3 centimeters in diameter and are covered with short hairs on the outside with a thin white pulp on the inside. They are generally eaten fresh, but are sometimes dried. Not much is known about the nutritional quality of the fruit pulp itself. Each wild shrub yields large numbers of fruits. The fruit ripens at the end of the dry season when other food-producing wild plants have generally run out of produce. This makes it an especially important food store for the hungry who otherwise have very little food options during this time.

Inside each fruit is a single seed. Dried seeds are incredibly hard, which helps protect them from rodents. And they store very well, making them an important back up staple. The seeds are soaked in water and then ground into a flour high in carbohydrates and containing 8 percent protein. The flour has a nutty flavor and can be a substitute for cassava flour.



No stretch for local food in Hartford Courant

Pin It

The Hartford Courant recently published Nourishing the Planet’s opinion editorial that focused on the benefits of local food.

Small markets, like this one in Tanzania, are an important part of the transition to a locally-based food system. (Photo Credit: Bernard Pollack)

Purchasing local food has many advantages– buying locally farmed food is an important way to strengthen the local economy. From women in Senegal growing traditional produce and farmers in Kenya using local seeds to Community Supported Agriculture in Connecticut, this piece highlights how the local food movement is growing.

To purchase State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet please click HERE. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.



Sweet detar: Food, Fragrance, Fodder, and More

Pin It

By Kim Kido

From food to fragrance, virtually no part of the sweet detar tree (Detarium microcarpum) goes unused. A study of the Mare aux Hippopotames Biosphere Reserve in western Burkina Faso identified the tree as one of six multi-use species “most appreciated by people” and thus “most important”. Two varieties of the species exist. The tall, forest variety produces bitter fruit while the shorter savannah variety produces a sweet, green fruit that is particularly popular in West Africa. The brown pods of sweet-sour fruit have the shape and size of apricots but a shell and pulp akin to its relative the tamarind.

Illustration of detar fruit and flower published in 1891. (Photo credit: Paul Hermann Wilhelm Taubert via Wikipedia Commons)

Usually eaten fresh by children, the fruit is sometimes sun-dried then sold in markets. The fruit is boiled with jackalberry and black plum and concentrated to make fruit leathers in northern Nigeria, while in Sierra Leone, it’s made into a drink. Detar is higher in vitamin C than guava, and has a very good shelf life. It can be returned to its fresh state if it dries out by soaking it in sugar water, and the liquid by-product makes a fruity drink.

Boiling the fragrant seed breaks down the seedcoat to expose a kernel rich in essential amino acids and fatty acids, which is pounded into ofo flour in Nigeria and used to thicken egusi soup. Alternatively, cooking oil is extracted from the kernels by crushing them, with the by-products of this process used as an animal feed. When the seeds are not eaten, they are strung together to make fragrant necklaces.

The fragrance of other parts of the tree is useful as well. If the bark is damaged, a sticky, fragrant gum is secreted that is used to deter mosquitoes. Heated roots produce a sweet scent that is used as a perfume by women in Sudan, and as a mosquito repellent in Chad.

Resistant to moisture, weathering, and pests, the dense, hard wood is workable and thus highly desirable for carpentry and joinery when making houses, boats, and fences. The wood is also sought for firewood and charcoal since it lights quickly, even in the presence of moisture.

The bark, leaves, and roots help to treat a variety of ailments throughout West and Central Africa. Boiled powdered bark is used as a painkiller, fresh bark or leaves are used to dress wounds to prevent infections. In Mali, the bark is used to treat measles and hypertension while the leaves or roots are used to treat meningitis and cramps in people and diarrhea in cattle. The fruit pulp is used in Burkina Faso to treat skin infections, whereas in Niger and Togo the fruit is used to treat dizziness. In Senegal, the leaves mixed with those of other trees and milk is used to treat snakebites, while in Benin the leaves are boiled to treat fainting and convulsions.

The tree itself is heat and drought tolerant and capable of thriving on infertile sites. With its many uses, the tree would be a good candidate for reforestation of degraded lands.

Its usefulness, hardiness, nutritive value, and ability to be propagated by budding also make the tree a good candidate for domestication, according to a study of wild African fruits in 2008 by the U.S. National Research Council.

Kim Kido is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet project.

To purchase your own copy of State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet, please click HERE. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.


Innovation of the Week: Improving Grains to Reduce Hunger

Pin It

By Mara Schechter

Eight hundred million people depend on sorghum and millet as their main food source. One way to help reduce hunger and poverty is to increase production of these high quality grains.


INTSORMIL is a research organization that develops new technologies to increase the productivity of sorghum, millet, finger millet, tef and fonio. (Photo credit: FAO)

That’s is the mission of the Sorghum, Millet and Other Grains Collaborative Research Support Program (INSTORMIL), which is one of nine United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-supported CRSP programs. Established in 1979, the International Sorghum and Millet Program was renamed—although it kept the well-known acronym—and moved to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2006.

INTSORMIL is a research organization that develops new technologies to increase the productivity of sorghum, millet, finger millet, tef and fonio. Through “international collaborative research,” or partnering with scientists in host countries, and educating graduate students and scientists, INTSORMIL aims to strengthen incomes, nutrition and food security.

The program has various projects in the United States and 17 other countries, which include breeding grains that are more resilient to pests and drought, researching and disseminating information about water and soil management and conservation, and expanding markets for grains. “Water in semiarid areas often comes in very intense rainfall and runs off rapidly…so water retention techniques are critical,” explains John Sanders, an agricultural economist at Purdue University who has a research contract with INTSORMIL. (more…)


What works: Increasing Food Sovereignty

Pin It

By Supriya Kumar

In 1996, members of La Via Campesina, an organization that defends the values and basic interests of agricultural workers, coined the term “food sovereignty” to bring attention to the growing distance between farmers and the food they grow. Small farmers often suffer from unfair agricultural policies and the idea behind food sovereignty is to provide them with more opportunities to participate in the decision making process.

Fast forward almost fifteen years later, and small farmers still have limited bargaining power, even though they represent 80 percent of farmers in the developing world.


FANRPAN has helped women farmers access markets through its WARM project. (Photo credit: Julie Carney)

One organization that helps connect farmers with policy makers is the Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) which currently operates in thirteen African countries. FANRPAN enables discussions between farmers, researchers and policy makers throughout Africa and has also helped women farmers access markets through its Women Accessing Realigned Markets (WARM) project

In some cases, farmers themselves get organized to regain sovereignty over the food they grow. In Senegal, farmers groups from around the country formed an association in the 1970s to oppose state owned cooperatives. The group, the Senegalese Federation of NGOs (FONGs) now represents thousands of farmers, fishermen and pastoralists. FONG advocates for improved access and better rights to land, better market infrastructure, and other policies that directly help small farmers. (more…)


The World Social Forum: Creating a Democratic World without Borders

Pin It

By Supriya Kumar

The World Social Forum (WSF) is taking place this week in Dakar, Senegal, bringing together 75,000 people from 132 countries to advocate for social change. In light of sky rocketing food prices, high unemployment, and growing concerns about climate change worldwide, the Forum is meant to provide a platform for discussions about sustainable solutions to these global challenges—as well as to provide a counter-event to the World Economic Forum, which took place in Davos, Switzerland two weeks ago.


The World Social Forum is meant to provide a platform for discussions about sustainable solutions to global challenges. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

The WSF stresses improved global South-South relations and increased participation from those most affected by global policies, as a means of improving global democracy. One proposed solution is the establishment of an elected world parliament called United Nation’s Parliamentary Assembly.

“The people of the world want to have a say in the affairs that affect them,” said Manuel Manonelles, director of UBUNTU-World Forum of Civil Society Networks. “As more and more important decisions are taken at the global level, this aspiration cannot stop at national borders. Global democratic representation is needed. The goal is to create a directly elected assembly.”

Another issue addressed at the forum was immigration and the need for a world without borders. Europe, for example, continues to receive a great number of immigrants—both legal and illegal— from Northern Africa.  At panel discussions, many NGOs and several left-wing politicians warned that hard-line policies, such as the threat of deportation or attempts to marginalize foreign workers, are not enough to slow down the population shift. And instead, these policies only serve to make life more difficult for those who do make it across borders.

Former Italian Prime Minister, Massimo D’Alema also reminded participants  that immigrants are essential for the European labor force. “Europe will need more than 30 million immigrants within the next 30 years if the difference between the active and passive [older] population is to remain in balance,” D’Alema said.

D’Alema stated that as long as there is a gap in living standards between industrialized and developing countries, illegal migration would be impossible to control. Immigration itself is not the problem, but instead it is the inequalities between developing and developed countries.

“We need sustainable development which offers the young generation prospects so they don’t have to risk their lives in the search for a more settled future,” D’Alema said.

To read about agriculture at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland two weeks ago, see: Bringing Agriculture to the Negotiating Table at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Supriya Kumar is a research intern for the Nourishing the Planet project.


Innovation of the Week: Participatory Analysis for Community Action

Pin It

It started with a conversation among members of a women’s farming group in Affe Tidiane, a small village in the Kaolack region of central Senegal. “The leader of the women’s group said we should have a meeting and ask everyone what they wanted to do,” says Helen Fallat, a Peace Corps volunteer working in the village from 2006 to 2008. “I thought that sounded simple enough.”

Transplanting eucalyptus trees from the tree nursery to the garden. (Photo credit: Helen Fallat)

But the challenges that the community was facing were anything but simple. Like much of the rest of western Africa, Affe Tidiane is experiencing increasing periods of drought and water scarcity. Dependence on a few staple crops such as millet and peanuts, combined with a lack of access to markets and reduced wholesale prices, pressures the men to leave the village for much of the year to try to earn money in nearby towns and cities. Women are left at home to take care of the children and figure out how to feed everyone. While men are focused on earning an annual income, says Fallat, “the women are thinking about what is going in the bowl for lunch on a daily basis.” (more…)


Le Soleil Features NtP

Pin It

Le Soleil, one of Senegal’s most widely circulated newspapers, just published one of Nourishing the Planet’s weekly innovations on “land grabs”, the increasing prevalence of large-scale land acquisition in sub-Saharan Africa.

To read more about “land grabs” and both sides of the argument on how this will affect local communities you can also see:  Innovations in Access to Land: Land Grab or Agricultural Investment?Is There a “Win-Win” Solution to Land Acquisitions?, Large Scale Land Investments Do Not Benefit Local Communities


In Case You Missed It: The Week in Short

Pin It

Nourishing the Planet has returned to the USA! We are currently in St. Louis, MO gearing up to head to Des Moines, IA for the 2010 World Food Prize Borlaug Dialogue Symposium. We’ll be giving a preview briefing of State of the World 2011 before its January launch and blogging live from the symposium as we meet more innovative projects.

photo credit: Raisa Mirza

In this week’s innovation the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) teams up with the Cameroon Government National Program for Roots and Tuber Development (PNDRT) to develop and introduce new and improved cassava varieties to help farmers fight the battle against pests and diseases.  The Food Technology Institute in Dakar has discovered a surprising new use for black-eyed peas in bread that makes production less expensive and more nutritious.

In our newest episode of NtP TV correspondent Matt Styslinger reports on innovations that are improving food storage in order to reduce food waste and improve food security. Nourishing the Planet also had an op-ed published in Malawi’s The Nation and was interviewed and featured in Senegal’s Walfadjri.  Also check out this interview with Robert Mednick of Toronto non-profit Pencils for Kids and John Craig of New Jersey’s Eliminate Poverty Now who are piloting Farmers of the Future with the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) to educate youth in sustainable agriculture.