Boosting Climate Resilience for Senegalese Farmers with Flood Residual Water Cultivation (FRWC)

Agriculture is always a risky business where to a large extent, the output is dependent on the whims of nature. And when you add the accelerating pace of climate change into the equation, the risks become more pronounced. In Senegal, agriculture employs more than half the population, and yet the country relies heavily on food imports to meet the needs of its growing population. Erratic rainfall patterns, extended periods of droughts, deforestation, and soil erosion have exacerbated the need to find innovative ways of boosting farming productivity. Senegal’s President Macky Sall also emphasized that “Africa needs to learn to feed itself” highlighting the need for improving agricultural practices that ensure food security, self-sufficiency, and climate resilience.

From climatic adversities to unpredictable market dynamics, Senegalese farmers face many challenges that demand innovative solutions. Nevertheless, the agriculture sector has the potential to flourish and feed the nation given the right support and technologies. In this blog, we introduce a novel water conservation technique that can extend the growing season for Senegal’s smallholder farmers, enhance their climate resilience, and boost agricultural output.

Senegalese agriculture sector’s battle with climate change

Agriculture is an important part of Senegal’s economy and employs nearly 80% of the rural population. Smallholder farmers and subsistence farmers form the majority of the agriculture sector where 90% of the agricultural land is worked on by them. Senegal’s farming is primarily rain-fed, hence water availability is one of the most pressing challenges that farmers face. Due to global climate changes, extreme weather events like disrupted rainfall patterns, floodings, and extensive periods of droughts have become a regular occurrence in Senegal, which adversely affect the farming output.

Salinization is another big challenge. Due to climate change, large areas of land which were once arable have become barren due to salinization. Rice production in Senegal has seen major setbacks in recent years due to salinization, with estimated losses amounting to USD 22 million per year.

As the climate trends continue to threaten Senegal’s farming sector, the agricultural livelihoods, socio-economic conditions, and food security of the people of Senegal worsen. Therefore, there is an imminent need to find innovative ways of climate-resilient farming practices for the benefit of millions of people whose livelihoods depend entirely on agriculture.

MEDA’s role in promoting climate-resilient farming through AVENIR

As part of its commitment to strengthen women and youth in the agriculture sector, MEDA in partnership with International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) is working in Senegal’s Tambacounda and Sedhiou regions through the AVENIR project to promote climate-smart agricultural practices. AVENIR, which stands for Adaptation and Valorization of Entrepreneurship in Irrigated Agriculture, is a multi-year project funded by Global Affairs Canada which aims to improve the socio-economic well-being of 11,500 smallholder farmers, mainly women and youth, through promoting diversified, productive, and innovative agricultural systems.

AVENIR focuses primarily on strengthening the women and youth run farming households who have limited access to modern farming techniques, land, and financial resources. One salient aspect of AVENIR’s strategy is to improve the management of water resources sustainably and equitably through improving the governance mechanism.

Flood Residual Water Cultivation as a method of sustainable water harvesting

As part of the project activities for AVENIR, a team of researchers from CIAT1 carried out spatial estimation study in the Tambacounda and Sedhiou regions of Senegal to identify innovative water harvesting techniques. The objective of the study was to improve access to water resources in Senegal’s farming sector through affordable and innovative technologies. With the potential to optimize water management, improve crop productivity, and boost climate resilience, the study proposed a novel water harvesting technique called Flood Residual Water Cultivation (FRWC). Complete details of FRWC study and the team of researchers can be read here.

While farmers rely heavily on rainfed agriculture, Flood Recession Agriculture (FRA) emerges as a prominent practice in the Senegal River valley, representing a climate-smart water management strategy. FRA leverages the fertility of soil in proximity to flooded water bodies by utilizing the receded floodwaters for cultivating crops. In contrast, Flood Residual Water Cultivation (FRWC) offers an avenue for harnessing flood-prone regions that extend beyond immediate water bodies, as well as low-lying areas, thereby extending the benefits of floodwater utilization.

FRWC utilizes surplus flood residual water for short term water cultivation as well as to extend crops’ growing season. FRWC offers an efficient water conservation technique by capturing flood water for crop cultivation and optimizing limited water resources, thus reducing the reliance on freshwater. It also helps in diversifying the water resources by providing a way for climate adaptation to smallholder farmers.

The research indicates that FRWC is suitable for low lying areas like flat slopes, river valleys, and areas where seasonal reservoirs form. Additionally, FRWC also supports the ecosystem by minimizing the impact of the flood and conserving wetland ecosystems through promoting biodiversity. It is a sustainable way of optimizing limited resources of water and also helps in mitigating the water stress on crops in areas where water scarcity challenges are prevalent.

According to the research findings, nearly 20.7km2 in Tambacounda and Sedhiou regions can be used for cultivating short-term crops, hence enhancing food security for the local farmers and their households. Fast growing rice varieties in the Tambacounda and Sedhiou region can also be ideal for FRWC. The flood residual water is estimated to be available for approximately 13 days, which can support crops like okra, corn, sorghum, french beans, carrots, and spinach.

FRWC for climate adaptation and food security

In addition to offering climate adaptation opportunities to smallholder farmers, FRWC has the potential to improve nutritional security and social justice for women, kids, and youth. FRWC is favorable for low water requirement vegetables like okra and french beans, which are also easy to grow by female farmers. At the same time, these vegetables are high-demand, nutrition dense crops that can be easily grown with other crops after rice cultivation. Hence, while supplementing household diets, vegetables like okra and french beans can be profitable crops that can pave the way for women farmers to gain economic empowerment. Similarly, by adding more water resources through FRWC, rice production in the country can be increased which is one of the most loved staple foods in Senegal.

MEDA believes in continued investment into practices and technologies that create equitable, gender-responsive, and climate-resilient opportunities for women and youth farmers in Senegal. It might be a long road to walk, but with innovative methods like FRWC, we will continue to overcome capacity constraints and improve climate resilience in Senegal.


1. Researchers from International Center for Tropical Agriculture included Wilson Nguru, Wuletawu Abera, Issa Ouedraogo Christine Chege, Babacar Kane, Katiana Bougouma, and Caroline Mwongera

The research article titled “Spatial estimation of flood residual water cultivation (FRWC) potential for food security in Sédhiou and Tambacounda regions of Sénégal” can be accessed here.

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  • MEDA (Mennonite Economic Development Associates)

    MEDA is an international economic development organization that creates business solutions to poverty. We work in agri-food market systems, focusing primarily on women and youth in rural communities in the Global South. Our success is measured by income, improved processes, increased knowledge, and the creation of decent work.

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