Senegal

A farmer stands next to solar panels.
In Mboro, Senegal, a farmer stands next to solar panels that power irrigation systems for her produce during seasons with low rainfall.

Mercy Corps has worked in Senegal since 2022, supporting economic development, food security, good governance, and increased access to sustainable, renewable energy.

 

The context

Senegal has a population of more than 18 million people and 60% of the country is under the age of 25. Young people are working to build stable financial and economic futures for their communities. Many Senegalese incomes are dependent on fishing and agriculture. But climate change has negatively affected stock fisheries and agricultural production, which harms economic futures. Senegal relies on imports to meet 70% of their food needs. Due to monsoons, India is limiting international exports of non-basmati white rice, a main staple in Senegal. The war in Ukraine has also increased food costs and lowered access to basic resources and necessities. In 2022, food prices have risen by an average of 15%, compared with 2.9% in 2021. Despite social and economic progress observed this last decade, the regional strain on resources, food security, and economic development makes it more difficult to create long-term opportunities.

In Senegal, 32% of households lack consistent access to reliable and accessible electricity. Most electricity in the country is powered by imported diesel fuel. People have increasingly begun to utilize renewable, solar power for their daily energy needs. Solar energy can run their homes and businesses, and power irrigation systems to support their produce and farmland. Senegal will start oil and gas production exploitation in 2024, with the hope that it will lower costs and dramatically increase financial prospects for the country.

The country established a democracy in 1960 to provide political stability, accountability, and a foundation for the peaceful transfer of power. Each subsequent election demonstrates the solidity of Senegalese democracy. Senegal is building a more equitable society by incorporating women into lawmaking and policy decisions.

Our impact

Mercy Corps partners with local entrepreneurs and businesses, mainly run by women and youth, to support communities as they recover from high unemployment, lack of energy access, lowered economic opportunity, and governance concerns. Through our program activities we are making an impact across these areas:

Plugging into renewable energy sources to increase economic opportunities

Mercy Corps aims to lower costs for agricultural businesses, which employ over 60% of the workforce in Senegal. Through our energy access platform, we have supported market systems that provided sustainable, renewable energy access to over 5,000 entrepreneurs. We facilitated access to over 650,000 people. Since the cost of imports are increasing, it is more important for businesses to grow and sell staples like rice and bananas within the country. When businesses can run on renewable resources, they lower upfront costs, grow more crops, and increase nutrition and food security in their communities.

Mercy Corps’ programming helped 156 women-owned businesses invest in solar energy to increase their incomes. Many of those businesses were smallholder farmers and entrepreneurs who increased their crop yields. A majority of smallholder farmers are women, and these investments provided access and financing to climate-smart solutions like solar irrigation. Due to climate change, increased droughts have led to shorter growing seasons which dramatically lowers the amount of crops farmers can grow, sell, and eat. In regions without consistent or reliable access to electricity, solar energy can power their processing equipment. The farmers increased local food production and reduced their reliance on imported food products. They created more economic opportunities for themselves, and bolstered their resilience to climate change.

Piloting innovative technology projects to build economic futures

Mercy Corps is developing a program to increase climate resilience for farmers, fishers, and other small-scale producers. The two-year program develops and pilots innovative partnerships or engagement models that provide effective, consistent communication of climate and weather patterns. Small-scale producers will use the technology to make more accurate, sustainable decisions to maintain their businesses as they manage the effects of climate variability and change across Senegal.

Mercy Corps is also piloting a project as a member of the Jobtech Alliance to create more jobs. The project uses digital technology to support Senegalese platforms, connect people to economic opportunities, including gig-matching platforms, job matching, and online marketplaces. Participants can gain knowledge and training through research and community building.

Including women in the conversation for good governance

Mercy Corps works with the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy to advocate for investing in projects that increase women’s access to clean, renewable energy. The government is including more women in the discussion and development of Senegal’s energy policies and laws to create holistic, sustainable energy solutions that benefit everyone. Equitable access to resources creates equitable access to opportunities, so women can create and share stable economic futures. Over 2,000 women received assistance from technology and financial service providers to grow their businesses. Since women make up a majority of smallholder farmers, their success impacts the well-being of people in rural areas across the country.

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