Senegal, a pioneer of the agroecological transition in Sub-Saharan Africa?

A post from David Bugmann

Between February 7 and March 12, 2022, the “Dynamic for an Agroecological Transition in Senegal” (DyTAES) carried out a caravan through 14 regions of the country to exchange with rural stakeholders and draft a new political document. Copyright: Raphaël Belmin

Agroecology is deemed beneficial for both food security and food systems’ resilience to climate change in Sub-Sahara Africa. However, a systemic transition towards agroecology is far from straightforward, as the case of Senegal reveals. What are the current challenges of the country’s agroecological movement and how can they be addressed? A national expert shares his insights.

The food security challenge in Sub-Saharan Africa

In 2020, 21% of the population of Sub-Saharan Africa were suffering from undernourishment.[1] The challenge of sufficient food provision will be accentuated by more frequent droughts, soil degradation and demographic growth.[2] In this context, agroecology is considered a suitable approach to increase food security and resilience to climate change in the region.[3][4] Senegal is one of the few Sub-Saharan African countries with a considerable agroecological movement and thus plays a leading role for the agroecological transition in the region.[5] How can this movement further boost the agroecological transition at the national level and turn Senegal into a role model for the region?

Agroecology for farmers empowerment?

Mamadou Abdoulaye Sow is passionate about making the voices of Senegalese farming communities heard in the design of political programs to improve their living conditions (source: David Bugmann, 2022).

Mamadou Abdoulaye Sow is a project manager at ENDA Pronat, an active member organisation of the “Dynamic for an Agroecological Transition in Senegal” (DyTAES) which is an influential national advocacy coalition founded in 2019 with more than 50 member organizations.[4][5] He highlights the importance of fostering the participation of farmers’ organisations in the coalition to increase its legitimacy and impact. Research has shown that in the past, farmers’ organisations played only a peripheral role in the movement as they have less financial and cultural capital than NGOs.[5] This limited the positive social impact of agroecology on farmers as they had to meet an uncoordinated set of new quality standards, did not gain better access to land, water, and productive assets, and could not participate equally in knowledge production processes.[6] However, DyTAES members are often reluctant to address more systemic, contentious concerns such as neoliberal agrarian policies and water rights issues since they fear to lose funding from international donors.[4]

The importance of Alternative Food Networks

According to Mamadou Abdoulaye, another pivotal challenge lies in establishing sales channels for agroecological products that yield higher prices than conventional produce.[4] The predominant approach entails third-party certification according to internationally set criteria, but this is often too costly for small-scale farmers and has shown limited effects in Sub-Saharan Africa.[4][7] One alternative approach consists in creating niche markets for environmentally aware consumers: ENDA Pronat for instance is accompanying producers of four farmers’ organisations to implement the local certification system ASD (Healthy and Sustainable Agriculture), which delivers to three marketplaces in Dakar and targets expatriates and middle- and upper-income nationals.[4] Such Participatory Guarantee Schemes (PGS) reduce certification costs for farmers since they involve consumers’ and farmers’ associations and NGOs rather than third-party auditors.[8] The National Federation for Organic Agriculture (FENAB) has taken PGS one step further by founding BioSenegal, a formally recognised label based on the criteria of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM). However, FENAB still focuses mainly on third-party certifications to increase the exported volumes of agroecological products and thereby reach larger consumer markets.[8]

Quo vadis, DyTAES?

These two challenges reveal that Senegal’s agroecological movement still has a long way to go. Transforming the national food system is complex since crucial drivers such as consumer preferences, corporate structures and power relations in the international cooperation landscape are not conducive to an agroecological transition which empowers farmers. A new approach would be certification accelerator programmes by international donors which support farmers’ certification and thereby enable them to become financially self-sustaining in the mid-term. Furthermore, it would be valuable to investigate which political and organisational measures could strengthen Participatory Guarantee Schemes to enhance their uptake among farmers and consumers.

The author: I would like to thank Mamadou Abdoulaye Sow very much for giving me an insightful interview on the work of ENDA Pronat and the DyTAES at the Forum “Origin, Diversity, and Territories 2022” in Saignelégier, Switzerland, in October 2022.

This blog post was written as part of the module “Agroecology and Food Systems” in fall 2022 of the Master programme Environment and Natural Resources at the ZHAW Institute of Natural Resource Sciences.


  1. World Bank (2022). Prevalence of undernourishment (% of population) – Sub-Saharan Africa. Available at: (accessed 10/28/2022)
  2. Bottazzi, P., Boillat, S., Marfurt, F., & Seck, S. M. (2021). Climate change adaptation through agroecology in Senegal. In: Natarajan, N., Parsons, L. Climate Change in the Global Workplace: Labour, Adaptation and Resistance. Routledge, New York.
  3. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) 2019. Agroecology Knowledge Hub. (accessed 10/28/2022)
  4. Bottazzi, P., & Boillat, S. (2021). Agroecological Farmer Movements and Advocacy Coalitions in Sub-Saharan Africa: Between De-Politicization and Re-Politicization. In The Palgrave Handbook of Environmental Labour Studies (pp. 415-440). Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.
  5. Boillat, S., Belmin, R., & Bottazzi, P. (2022). The agroecological transition in Senegal: transnational links and uneven empowerment. Agriculture and human values, 39(1), 281-300.
  6. Bottazzi, P., Boillat, S., Marfurt, F., & Seck, S. M. (2020). Channels of labour control in organic farming: Toward a just agroecological transition for Sub-Saharan Africa. Land, 9(6), 205.
  7. Oya, C., Florian S., and D. Skalidou (2018). The Effectiveness of Agricultural Certification in Developing Countries: A Systematic Review. World Development 112: 282–312.
  8. Bottazzi, P., & Boillat, S. (2021b). Political agroecology in Senegal: Historicity and repertoires of collective actions of an emerging social movement. Sustainability, 13(11), 6352.

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