Investing in agriculture and farming technologies will help to change the perception that young people have of farming, making it an appealing career choice that also contributes to the long-term development of rural communities, Kanayo F. Nwanze, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), will tell Senegalese leaders when visiting the country from 31 July to 3 August.

With more than half of Senegal’s population under the age of 20, creating employment opportunities for youth needs to be high on the nation’s agenda, said Nwanze. It is estimated that about 200,000 young Senegalese join the labour market annually. When there are no opportunities for them in rural areas, they migrate to already bloated urban centres or beyond national borders.

“We need to give young people a good reason to stay in rural areas,” said Nwanze. “Young people are Senegal’s greatest resource and are key to the country’s prosperity. We need to channel our investments so that rural areas become vibrant, economic centres that offer attractive employment opportunities.” Nwanze said prior to his visit.

While in Senegal, Nwanze will meet with President Macky Sall. Their discussions will focus on rural development and youth employment in rural areas. The two leaders will also discuss how IFAD, a strong partner in Senegal’s agricultural development, can support the government’s strategic plan to make Senegal an emerging economy by 2035.

While agriculture remains the main source of employment and income for about 70 per cent of the population, most of Senegal lies within the drought-prone Sahel region, with dwindling natural resources.

Nwanze said that given these natural and climate-related challenges, it is worth noting that the government has boosted its rice production by investing in simple technologies that farmers can use to manage water resources and improve seed varieties. At the moment, Senegal is a net importer of rice with a demand for about 900,000 tonnes this year alone. The government’s goal is to meet more of this demand with locally produced rice.

“IFAD will continue supporting the government strategy for long-term agricultural investments that benefit rural women and men, including young people. This will lead to greater productivity and higher incomes which, in turn, will ensure future food security for the entire country.”

In the capital city of Dakar, Nwanze will also meet with Papa Abdoulaye Seck, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Equipment, Amadou Ba, Minister of Economy, Finance and Planning, and Aminata Mbengue Ndiaye, Minister of Livestock and Animal Production.

During his visit, Nwanze will travel to the Kaolack region where he will meet with smallholder farmers and young people benefitting from the IFAD-supported Agricultural Value Chains Support Project, known as PAFA. Here, Nwanze will have an opportunity to see first-hand how the project is transforming the livelihoods of rural communities, particularly women and young people in Kaolack region. As a result of the project’s activities, the hungry period – a time of year when food stores run short and new crops are just being planted – has been reduced from four months to zero in the region.

Since 1979, IFAD has invested a total of US$216.4 million in 16 programmes and projects in Senegal. This has generated a total investment of $435 million, benefiting 455,943 rural households.