Voices from Senegal: interviews with young farmers

What do young people really think about farming? Under the FAC Young People and Agrifood Theme, Dr Mohamadou Sall of Cheikh Anta Diop University (Dakar, Senegal) interviewed young farmers who are working under the REVA Plan. The REVA Plan was established in 2006 in response to a growing crisis of illegal migration. It aims to create modern farms that will incite people, and most specifically young people, to work on the land.

The quotations below were extracted from those interviews. They give a flavour of the different experiences and aspirations of the interviewees.

“Farming is hard like everything else. It is hard to farm, but then even begging requires effort. I still think that to succeed in agriculture takes hard work and sacrifice.” (20-year-old man, Tivaouane Peul Farm)

“I think that agriculture does not interest the young people of the village. They do not consider farming as a profession because the government does not pay attention to farmers. However, the REVA plan has somehow helped to make agriculture attractive.” (18 year-old man, Tivaouane Peul Farm)

“If farming is to be seen as a profession resources will have to be made available. I am ready right now to build my future in farming but it all depends on the means, which at the moment are lacking here. I think that you have to believe in it to succeed. For example, some of the women who came here had not learned the trade, but they are now doing well. I plan to build my future because I want to be independent and I think I can do it through agriculture.” (28-year-old man, Khombole farm)

“Agriculture is the only thing I know. For me, it is a job because that is all I can do in my life. I see my future and that of my children in this area. I think it would be very difficult for an inhabitant of Dakar to come here and farm — he would not succeed because there is so much to learn. Certainly, we have some the experience but there are also many more things to learn from the farming community. We have no great difficulties except the availability of the tractor at ploughing time can be a problem.” (35-year-old woman, Ngoméne farm)

“You can actually build a future with agriculture if the production is good. Land is available – it has been bequeathed to us by our parents. Our parents were also to build their lives with farming, why not us? I would rather farm than be a driver. All the young people went to Dakar but they have come back because of the REVA plan. There are even other young people who come recently to join in, but they could not. This is just to say that many things have changed in the village, the young who did nothing before are now working on the farm.” (35-year-old woman, Ngoméne farm)

“I am willing to continue with the REVA plan, because if I leave it, I will no longer be able to farm during the dry season. With the REVA plan, we now have the opportunity to grow in both periods.” (35-year-old man, Ngoméne farm)

“I was a sourgha (labourer) on another farm and I earned 35,000 CFA per month. I saved all the money I earned, which enabled me to build a room in my village. Agriculture is a business because even Serigne Touba [a religious leader and founder of the Mouridism brotherhood] used to farm. Last year, I grew millet that we have been eating at home ever since. We can build a future in agriculture; it gives the means to survive.” (32-year-old man, Khombole farm)

“After the tomato campaign, we each received 300,000 CFA. As you know we men cannot meet all the expenses of the household so we are also obliged to contribute to the daily expenses, for example buying food and clothes for children and other basic things. Sometimes, you only have a little money left, so others who do not have rooms take the opportunity to gradually make the bricks to build one. My husband had already built up our room, so I bought a donkey and a cart for transportation. I lived very far from the farm and it was really hard to walk. At least with the cart, transportation is easier. Last year we were not able to do much with what we had received. We have been in the REVA plan for two years. If I compare the REVA Plan with the “Saye” project, I would say that I earn more with REVA – now we have enough revenue to meet our needs and also to save, whereas before, what we gained by day was inadequate.” (35-year-old woman, Ngoméne farm)

“I’m really pleased with the REVA plan, because I earn my living and I can now meet my needs. In the beginning I only used to come occasionally and help – I pocketed 75,000 CFA at the end of a campaign! I thought it was very hard to farm but I saw young women who earned a lot of money. After, I told myself that I could do that too, because I’m stronger and braver than the girls. I am growing cowpea in this part of the farm. Sometimes I look at these cowpeas and I think — I have done this on my own. It makes me proud.” (28-year-old man, Khombole farm)

“I earned 53,000 CFA during the three-month dry season tomato campaign. As for this year’s okra campaign, I also earned 20,000 CFA in three months. The campaign did not work well because of high costs and insect damage. With what I earned, I bought merchandise to stock my shop at the market where I sell cosmetics and shoes. I go and stay there until midday before coming to the farm. That’s how I manage my time. So, it’s thanks to the project that I managed to fund my trading  activity. I also contribute to family expenses.” (18-year-old man, Khombole farm)

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