World Vision International (WVI) restoration and protection project in the Louga region


Efforts to address both economic and ecological conditions of the people living in drought stricken regions of Senegal.


Louga region in Northern Sahelian zone, Senegal

Problem Overview:

Perils of drought in desert regions

Desert regions have historically experienced devastating effects of droughts which decimate livestock populations from dehydration and starvation; threaten long-term food security for both pastoral and nomadic populations from wind erosion, nutrient deficient and saline soils; and destroy livelihoods of farmers who can no longer yield agricultural products and must seek employment in urban areas. The Louga region, a sylvi-agropastoral environment in the North Sahelian zone of Senegal which suffered extensive desertification in the early 1970s, typified this problem


The local population of the Louga region is mainly comprised of farmers and herders from two major ethnic groups, the Wolof and the Peulh, who had yielded abundant food supplies from sandy dryland soils using indigenous agro-forestry techniques for centuries. The severe and prolonged drought of 1973 paralyzed the populations and resulted in loss of livestock, exacerbated soil erosion from winds, and an increased male migration to urban centers for work. Demographic changes, especially at the height of the drought, resulted in 60 per cent of the houses headed by single women.

Annual precipitation in the area had not exceeded an average of 600-800 mm prior to the onset of the drought and remained significantly lower at 200-300 mm just following the drought year. Farmers lost food, fertilizers from animal dung and a significant source of income. The community was forced to convert from traditional Tokeur plots, a protected area by local trees and shrubs, to ones which were monocultured with peanuts and millet. Unfortunately, these crops had extremely low yields and farmers cleared the land of more vegetation to both meet firewood needs and expand fruitless agriculture, leading to accelerated land degradation.

WVI implemented a comprehensive project in 1985 to address both economic and ecological conditions of the people. Using the Participatory Rural Appraisal method, WVI staff held discussions with more than 17 villages, which then served as pilot projects. The adopted approach emphasized the following:

- a grassroots approach, revitalizing and building on existing traditional knowledge;

- respect for the social context of any intervention, group and individual endeavor;

- social mobilization and an increase in individual awareness of sustainability;

- adaptation of innovations to the needs of the population;

- a partnership relationship within the communities;

- eventual withdrawal of outside advisors, as a means to achieve self-sustainability.

To accomplish the goals of the project using the above framework required a close working relationship be established with local ministries and governmental involvement. Since the project was aligned with Senegal’s ‘Plan de Development Economique et Social’ (PDES), the government launched two important development policy documents: Une Nouvelle Politique Agricole (New Agricultural Policy Document), 1993, and the Forestry Action Plan Document, 1994, to endorse WVIs initiatives. The documents advocated:

- sustainable use and management of forestry and other natural resources;

- restoration and conservation of soil fertility, through the promotion of agroforestry and sylvi-agropastoral farming systems;

- training programs on protection and conservation of the environment;

- promotion of participatory approaches with beneficiaries using their own know-how;

- training for improvement of the living conditions of certain groups (e.g. women and youth) through income-generating activities.

Water Provision: By collaborating with local ministries, like the Ministere des eaus et Forets, Direction de l’Hydraulique, a total of 458 boreholes have been drilled since 1987 and supplied with manual or wind-driven pumps. Village water committees, consisting of both women and men, were established to help finance the projects. Extensive monitoring has also ensured sustainable rates of extraction.

Afforestation and Cultivation: With the help of WVI, the community has effectively restored the traditional Tokeur planting system by using Euphorbiaceae to enclose grazing and cropping areas. Euphorbiaceae has effectively protected crops from trampling and wind erosion while providing livestock with fodder to reduce grazing pressure in other areas. In order to replenish the soil with nutrients for more fertile soils, manoic, a basic food crop with low phosphate requirements was first planted, followed by potatoes and cow peas. Once the soil quality had improved, millet and tomatoes were then planted. This sequence of farming reduced the need to clear the area of vegetation for agricultural expansion.

Soil conservation has also been maintained through the introduction of kad trees (Faidherbia albida) and leguminous crops like cow peas as well as the revitalization of traditional methods like the euphorbia fencing. Consequently, populations of several native species re-emerged after 10 years of disappearance, such as kel (grewia bicolor), Baobab ( Adansonia digitata), Ngigis Mborin (Philostigma reticulatum), Mbep (Sterculia setigera), and Ber (Sclerodcarya birrea). Throughout the region, the project has led the establishment of 10 village horticultural nurseries, 5 nurseries for fruit trees, and 133 agro-forestry nurseries.

Cultivation is now possible outside of the Tokeurs and in the fields where many different crops are produced -- mainly cow peas, peanuts, cassava and vegetables (potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants) -- promoting food security and income generation at the village level. The cultivation of cow peas has proved to be particularly successful since it provides a solid ground cover to help reduce soil erosion, and high yields have been produced from a newly introduced, improved variety. Cow pea is also now processed into couscous, providing an additional basic food to supplement the traditional staple: millet-based couscous.

A new credit system: A revolving fund scheme was established in 1993 to promote new income-generating projects. The strategy allowed villagers to borrow money at an interest rate 3 per cent lower than the prevailing bank rate for a period of up to 6 months. The repayments are then used to make more loans to other groups and individuals. The scheme has proved to be a great success with a repayment rate of 100 per cent. Borrowers have now established ‘zero-grazing’ fattening of livestock using forage grown in the Tokeurs, the provision of food-processing equipment for women’s groups and the introduction of more-efficient stoves. In one example, a men’s group with 10 bulls made a profit of 150 000 CFA (US$300) or 15 000 CFA (US$30) per person after just 4 months. This figure includes income generated from the sale of 7.5 tons of manure to gardeners and nursery managers. Successful food processing mechanisms have been led by women’s groups, such as those involved in the development of the manual peanut press produced by local blacksmiths. The processing costs are 0.5 CFA per liter of oil pressed, while one litre of oil can be sold for 335 CFA and more. The average family produces 1000 kg of peanuts per year, and if all the harvest is processed into oil, and the cake and husks are sold or used as animal feed, the net revenue could reach approximately 44 000 CFA.

Education and Training: Since 1990, training and literacy programs have been implemented in 19 education centers, educating 1200 children, 59 per cent of whom can now read and write. Approximately 750 adults have also participated in the project, 75 per cent of whom can now read and write. The educational basis has helped solidify management of milling, which is dominated by women.

Women and development: In 1992, WVI established the Women in Development (WID) office, employing 8 professional women as staff. Launching the project has afforded women and girls the opportunity to become fully involved in the project’s development as well as providing them with managerial skills for income generation, institution-building, leadership, book-keeping and credit. Education in family planning has also been an integral part of the program.

Replication: While this program has been specifically tailored to the region of its application, all or parts of the strategies discussed here can provide the basis to other development projects with a focus of rehabilitation in desert areas. For greatest success of similar projects, involvement of villagers, governmental agencies and NGOs in implementing and managing project development is vital. Careful research must also be done to incorporate new sustainable cropping and water provision methods with indigenous knowledge.


The project has effectively tackled problems of income generation within the ecological constraints of the desert region in this area. By promoting desertification control through effective and sustainable provision of water supplies, soil rejuvenation and conservation within the framework of traditional knowledge, cropping diversification, and the promotion of other income generating activities through training, education and revolving funds, the program has proved its sustainability throughout its development in the different pilot villages.


World Atlas of Desertification Second Edition, UNEP, 1997



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