“I have seeded 50 acres of peanuts and 40 acres of millet three times since the month of May. I was not successful in yielding one single acre,” says Talla Ndiaye, a local farmer from the village of Nguick.
Mr. Ndiaye is not the only farmer wringing his hands in despair as crops continue to wither. Smallholder female farmers Ramata Niass and Faty Penda Niasse have also found themselves and their village in the same critical situation, leading them all to the Tool Baye Seed Cooperative processing unit in Kaolack.
They have made the trek to Kaolack to stock up on new seeds sold for 100 fcfa the kilo instead of the 300 or 500 fcfa price charged at local markets. In attempts to mitigate this difficult situation, the West African Agricultural Productivity Program (WAAPP), sponsored by the World Bank and the government of Senegal, is providing one-time subsidies on the sale of 1,713 tons of maize seeds, 90 tons of millet seeds, and 122 tons of sorghum seeds in order to help ease the financial burden on Senegalese smallholder farmers who have already lost this year’s sowing.
The subsidized seeds for sale are part of a surplus of last year’s seed harvest, produced by local farmers and processed and stored by cooperatives such as Tool Baye, all of whom are sponsored by the WAAPP. As such, the seeds are certified as having been improved through WAAPP funded research and technology, guaranteed to produce higher yields and to be more drought resistant. The seeds also have shorter maturity cycles, allowing farmers to harvest earlier. This will be critical for smallholder farmers who have already lost their crops and will need to start from zero halfway through the rainy season.
“I came here to buy seeds for myself as well as on behalf of my village. The seeds offered through the Tool Baye Cooperative are more affordable and better quality. They will also save me time as I do not have to sort and shell them prior to seeding,” says Ramata Niass, a female farmer.
Ramata Niass’s village, Tiaba Niassen, was one of the 21 qualifying villages that is benefiting from this opportunity. In the effort to limit abuses of these emergency subsidies, the program set qualifying standards for beneficiaries and limits the quantity of seeds sold to an individual or village to ensure that those who are most in need will benefit.
“These are exceptional subsidies for an exceptional situation. The WAAPP will be conducting a follow-up mission to verify that beneficiaries used the seeds to replant their crops, and did not merely resell them for a higher price at their local market,” explains Mour Gueye, the WAAPP program coordinator for Senegal.
Launched in 2007, the West African Agricultural Productivity Program’s main mission is to generate and disseminate improved agricultural technologies to boost productivity in 13 participating countries. In Senegal alone, the program is in its second phase and after only 20 months, WAAPP-2A has benefitted over 193,000 people, 19% of which are women. It has already exceeded its December 2014 target of 150,000 beneficiaries.
The program has also developed two new technologies bringing the total number of new technologies to 16. These new varieties have been adopted by 119,800 producers in Senegal, and planted across approximately 700 acres. In addition, through WAAPP funding, a branch of Senegal’s National Center for Research specialized in dry cereals has facilitated 20 research projects and will be releasing eight new varieties: five cowpea varieties, two peanut varieties, and 1 sorghum variety. Likewise, through the competitive grant scheme executed by the Fonds national de recherche agricole et agro-alimentaire (FNRAA) or the National agricultural and agri-food research fund, WAAPP has funded 29 projects, 5 of which are for multiplying certified seeds, 6 for adaptive research, and 18 for the large diffusion of improved agricultural technologies.
According to Aifa Fatimata Ndoye Niane, a World Bank agricultural economist based in Senegal, this particular emergency WAAPP program, which subsidizes almost 2,000 tons of certified maize, millet, and sorghum seeds, “provides great support for producers who have already lost their first-third planting due to rainfall deficit and gives agricultural cooperatives an opportunity to sell their remaining certified seed stock in order to pay their producers and reimburse their bank credit.”
“If regular rainfall resumes and lasts until October, farmers can expect a positive impact on yield and production,” says Mrs. Niane optimistically. With new high quality seeds in hand, Senegalese farmers share her optimism and are now just waiting for the skies to open and the rain to fall, setting the planting cycle back on track, this time for good.