Dakar — Farmers in Médina Yoro Foula, in Senegal's southern Kolda region, are expecting a good grain harvest this year, and hope to sell thousands of tonnes of grain in the local and regional markets.
"The harvest will be far better than last year's," said Moussa Sabaly, from the Regional Office for Rural Development (DRDR) in Kolda.
Médina Yoro Foula département has a population of around 120,000, nearly 90 percent of whom are farmers and herders. Local farmers will also sell part of their produce in the neighbouring countries of Gambia, Guinea Bissau and Guinea.
DRDR statistics show that in 2011, farmers harvested 8,225 tonnes of millet from 1,012 hectares. They also reaped 1,626 tonnes of sorghum from 2,255 hectares and 4,485 tonnes of maize from 2,997 hectares. Fifty-five hectares planted with black-eyed peas yielded 30 tonnes.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture's Office for Analysis, Projections and Statistics, Senegal produced more than one million tonnes of grain in 2010-2011, including 102,714 tonnes from the Kolda region.
"Every Sunday throughout the year, producers bring three or four trucks - each loaded with ten tonnes of locally-produced grain - to the weekly market in Médina Yoro Foula," farmer-herder Moussa Sabaly (no relation to the DRDR official), president of the National Federation of Cotton Producers of Senegal, told IPS.
"Our area is truly a grain-producing zone. I can't say what the total tonnage of grain will be by the time the growing season ends, but we are definitely expecting an extraordinary harvest," he said.
The ministry's office for statistics is still working on the results of the 2011-2012 growing season, and has not provided definitive figures for the present year.
"We are expecting an increase in grain production despite difficulties linked to a lack of resources for smallholders, poor soil, and the lack of roads to provide access to farms," said Aliou Badara Baldé, who was a grain producer before his election in 2009 as the mayor of Pata, a commune in Médina Yoro Foula.
Baldé told IPS: "The total grain production here will be 50, even 60 percent higher than last year." The harvests will be completed between late September and late December."
In this part of Senegal, in addition to family farms, producers are members of cooperatives known as economic interest groups (GIEs) with a view to combining their efforts to increase production.
The Pata agro pastoral coop, created ten years ago, planted 50 hectares of maize this year. "This area can yield 2.5 tonnes per hectare, which would mean a total of 125 tonnes of maize," said Kébé Baldé, one of the leaders of the cooperative.
"We have not yet finished harvesting our maize, but we're expecting a good yield. And our GIE has just acquired, with support from our (Senegalese and Spanish) partners, some agricultural equipment including threshers, in anticipation of a commercialisation programme which has not yet started," Baldé told IPS.
For his part, the Senegalese minister for agriculture and rural infrastructure, Abdoulaye Baldé, speaking on the sidelines of the launch of a campaign for the commercialisation of groundnuts, said that grain production at the national level is estimated at 1,673,730 tonnes in 2011-2012, against 1,099,279 the previous year.
According to the minister, cereal production this year recorded an increase of 52 percent when compared to the 2010-2011 campaign.