Farming in Northern Senegal
Barfoots has been farming in Senegal since 2006, starting out with a small trial plot of sweetcorn, grown to test climatic suitability, seasons and yield. What began as a humble and low-risk experimentation in sub-Saharan agriculture has now become our greatest supply base investment, with our entire portfolio of specialist crops represented
Barfoots Senegal is otherwise known as SCL and was formed in 2006, “Société de Cultures Légumières (SCL)” was set up as joint venture with Michael Laurent. Having worked in West African agricultural export for over 20 years, Michael’s experience of the climate, people and politics of the region made him the perfect partner to embark upon an adventure which has evolved significantly beyond anything we could have conceived in the pioneering days of 2005. Our SCL headquarters are located on the original farm site in the community of Diama, 30km from St Louis in Northern Senegal only a few km’s away from the Mauritanian border. Michael continues to live at the farm and direct the business in all its functions, managing a team of over 30 farm managers, who in turn manage a workforce of over 1000 local people.
The land is dry and sandy, with high degrees of salinity – about as far away from the rich alluvial plains of Chichester one can imagine! What it has that makes it ideal for growing crops, is bright sunshine, long day length and in high volumes of uninterrupted flow, a magnificent source of fresh water. The northern perimeter of the farm neatly adjoins the banks of the cascading Senegal River, before it passes through an impressive 1980’s Italian ngo-built fresh water barrage which opens up into the marshland delta of the Atlantic Ocean. With both the acquisition and long term lease of new domains of land, SCL farming now accounts for over 3000 hectares of cultivated terrain from what had previously been open bush and scrubland for grazing.
The workforce is one of the evolving success stories of SCL. With no previous history of industrial employment, the people within the environs of St. Louis, Diama and the surrounding 12 community villages now have the opportunity to become involved and trained within a horticultural export business. The latest impact study by the N.G.O “ACONA” indicates that the workforce of SCL supports an estimated community of over 10,000 people who previously had existed by subsistence means only. Pastoralists and fisherman by trade, there has never been an agricultural economy in this part of Senegal. SCL, through its business activities and open approach to community engagement, has brought to the region investment and enterprise which has helped galvanize a community and offered an employment opportunity to young people who previously would have migrated to Dakar and St. Louis in search of a livelihood beyond the villages.
To support this extensive community and reflect its commitment to long term sustainable development, SCL invests a proportion of the profits of the business in projects which benefit the community infrastructure. Schools, medical centres and potable water amenities have been constructed by SCL to ensure that the social contract between the tribal villages and the working apparatus of SCL is in balance. This involves the appointment and training of locally sourced management on the farms, so that the agricultural know-how, management of crop harvesting and post-harvest controls are all part of a continuous working practice narrative and not solely reliant on European management.
The main cropping season is November through to May, involving but not limited to:
- Sweet potato
Barfoots investment in Senegal has been the subject of research by the Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) Partner Africa and ANCONA as part of their “Africa Now” series of social and environmental impact studies