Putting down roots for his family and the community: Omar’s story

Above: Omar, an IREM client, working on his plot of land

An unlikely farmer

If you asked Omar what he thought he would be doing for work a few years ago, the answer probably wouldn’t have been farming.

Like many young people in Senegal, he moved to another country to seek other work opportunities. For Omar, he went to Libya with the hope of finding work. Yet, the experience was short-lived because Omar didn’t have the proper work documentation. As a result, he returned to Senegal. “….Back in Senegal, I worked as a laborer in a supermarket. Because this work was tough and not well paid, I decided to return to the village,” Omar said.

Out of tragedy, opportunity

And then tragedy struck — Omar’s brother passed away. He faced a dilemma: what to do with the farmland that Omar’s brother left behind. Yet, Omar saw the dilemma as an opportunity and decided to take over his brother’s land and become a farmer.

Becoming a farmer in Senegal was not unusual. Agriculture plays a vital role in the Senegalese economy. 60% of working Senegalese people work in food crop production, and smallholder farmers operate most farms. Senegal has rich agricultural lands that can feed its population. Yet, because of inefficient infrastructure and limited access to finance and high-quality seeds and inputs, only 65% of Senegal’s nearly four million hectares (9.8 million acres) are used.

So, Omar reviewed his options. He eventually learned about MEDA’s IREM project and the technical assistance and finance he could acquire to support his farm.

“I don’t regret [taking over my brother’s fields] because with the funding I received from U-IMCEC through the MEDA IREM project, I was able to develop the business, ” Omar reflected.

Omar’s partnership with MEDA

Above: Other MEDA IREM clients showcasing their produce

Omar gained access to funding by working with MEDA. This proved to make a big difference for Omar. Finance is an essential tool that young farmers and entrepreneurs need to build and grow successful farms and businesses.

“With this funding, I bought a horse for field work, seeds, fertilizer, and pesticides. I grow peanuts, maize, millet, and I raise livestock. This beautiful peanut field that you see is a perfect example…With the income I’ll have after the harvest, I’ll invest in market gardening. My ambition for the next season is to arrange a loan of 1 million francs [USD $1,526.00] to expand my agricultural activity by buying another horse to add to my two oxen,” Omar said.

Lessons learned

After farming for a while, Omar has learned a lot. He’s convinced that farming in Senegal can lead to a bright future for young people looking for work.

“…I urge young people to invest in agriculture and give up the idea of illegal emigration because with agriculture, you can become successful and earn a good living at home.”

– Omar

Omar’s story shows how farming can provide decent work for people, especially youth. With the right tools, Omar is building a thriving farm that will benefit himself, his family, and his community. MEDA is pleased to partner with hardworking farmers and entrepreneurs like Omar so he can continue creating decent work opportunities and a better quality of life for himself, his family, and his community.

For more MEDA international development projects and stories content, check out the Storehouse.

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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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