On October 3 2019 in Dakar, Senegal, the Africa Lead Senegal Learning Event brought together a cross-section of stakeholders who share a common interest in the agricultural food sector and efforts to increase investment in agriculture in Senegal and West Africa. This event was held and organized by the Feed the Future Program for Increasing Investment in Agriculture in Senegal, a program implemented by Africa Lead.
The Learning Event reviewed five years of Africa Lead’s program activities and achievements originating from the Senegal program. Since its launch in 2014, the Senegal program has worked with 21 partners across West Africa. Aptly, the event’s 72 participants represented the breadth of partnerships and stakeholders that have been involved with the program since it launched in Senegal in 2014. These included government, private business, grassroots and civil society organizations, and institutions of higher education and research. Representatives from USAID Senegal and Leslie Gonzales, Africa Program Director for DAI, were also in attendance.
The Senegal Learning Event centered around two high-level panel discussions highlighting the core thematic areas and activities of Africa Lead in Senegal. The first panel, Institutionalizing Multi-sector Coordination and Collaboration, featured an exchange between top officials from key government agencies charged with overseeing agricultural policy implementation and adherence to the African Union’s Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) goals and the civil society organization that serves as the watchdog for ensuring inclusive dialogue on agricultural policy issues.
The second panel, Capacity Development at the Heart of Agricultural Transformation, focused on Africa Lead Senegal’s pioneering efforts in institutionalizing its Champions for Change (C4C) Leadership and Management courses into the core curriculums of agricultural departments at six universities in West Africa (all represented on the panel) as well as its facilitation of an innovative collaboration between a local Senegalese farmer organization and the Higher Institute for Agribusiness and Entrepreneurship at Cheikh Anta Diop University-Dakar (ISAE/UCAD). The panel was moderated by Dr. Olanrewaju B. Smith.
During this exchange, a representative from the Movement for Development in Senegal (MSD), one of the largest farmer platform organizations in Senegal, expressed how critical the partnership with Africa Lead has been for the association both in terms of the leadership and capacity building training workshops organized for its members and for connecting the association with ISAE/UCAD. This introduction by Africa Lead led to a two-year partnership agreement whereby the agricultural school will provide training for MSD’s youth members.
Abibatou Diatta, a student from ISAE/UCAD’s first cohort, spoke about the valuable lessons she gained from taking part in the leadership training course and participating in the mandatory 10-week field internship in the agricultural sector, which she says has deepened her resolve to work in agriculture. She sees herself becoming part of the new generation of young, modern agribusiness entrepreneurs who will contribute to agricultural transformation in Africa. The internship program was created with the support of Africa Lead.
After the panel discussions, participants exchanged ideas about ways to ensure sustainability of the gains achieved and identified new opportunities for networking and collaboration. Alongside this, a mini-trade fair exhibition showcasing products and activities of local Senegalese partners was set up outside the main meeting room.
The Senegal Learning Event is part of a series of capitalization workshops that are being undertaken as the Africa Lead II program comes to a close in November 2019 in Senegal and December 2019 across the continent. Participants expressed their appreciation for the program and their hopes that its important work will be continued.