Covid-19: Senegal’s rural areas on the edge of the abyss

Rural areas in Senegal are in the throes of the Covid-19 crisis, according to Senegalese agricultural scientists Abdourahmane Faye.“(...) the…

Rural areas in Senegal are in the throes of the Covid-19 crisis, according to Senegalese agricultural scientists Abdourahmane Faye.“(…) the rural world, which literally breathes through its agricultural sector, is affected in the lungs and has itself become a “contact case” that should be very closely monitored by the actors in the sector because, the prospects are not very encouraging. The disaster will be all the greater since the previous crop season was marred by a drastic fall in producer prices, due to overproduction at the global level,” writes Abdourahmane Faye in a column entitled: “Agriculture and the rural world put to the Coronavirus test!”

To support his point, he relies on the announcement of a record slump of 30,000 tonnes of cashew and a shortfall of 50 billion CFA francs for cashew nuts producers in the southern region of Casamance, who have not seen a single Indian buyer since the opening of the cashew marketing season.

“It’s a whole promising industry, which is now in bad a way due to the Covid-19, which will also take its toll on the mango industry, for the same reasons of lack of buyers. The lifeblood of the agricultural economy is thus infected in this region, which already faces serious issues stemming from the effects of climate change, the salinization of land, the decline in fertility and soil productivity, and the lack of farming equipment, etc.” Mr. Faye goes on.

He points out that the strict application of barrier measures to curb the spread of the virus has resulted in the immediate closure of weekly rural markets across the country. Farmers are thus deprived of their commercial outlets at the first level where they carry out their business and sell their livestock and off-season products, to meet their monetary and food needs.

However, he notes, “in more than 80 percent of cases, agricultural households use up their food stocks six months after harvest and depend, for the rest of the year, on these markets to buy food.

To make things even worse, remittances from farmers working in other sectors (urban and fishing) are also affected by the crisis. In some cases these migratory transfers of funds can represent up to 90 percent of family income in rural areas.”

According to him, the restrictions imposed on internal and external transport have disrupted the functioning of the logistics chains (supplies, deliveries) which involve farms.

“The situation says Abdourahmane Faye, is worrying, the determination is strong to stop the spread of the disease, mitigate its impact on agriculture and reduce the looming food risks.”

In any case, Mr. Faye believes that agriculture will have to question its persistent difficulties in meeting its essential missions of feeding the populations, creating decent jobs and incomes for young people, and providing a favorable living environment in rural settings.