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Sustaining Rural Livelihoods Amid Changing Agrarian Landscapes in Senegal

  • Author(s): Voss, Rachel Charlene;
  • Advisor(s): Shennan, Carol;
  • et al.
Abstract

The late 20th and early 21st century have wrought drastic change in the lives and livelihoods of smallholder farmers in the Global South. This research evaluates how rural farming households in Senegal are navigating the intersecting pressures of globalization and environmental change while responding to new opportunities, including the arrival of new technologies. First, I assess farmers’ perceptions of and responses to changes in climate and socioeconomic circumstances, with attention to the factors shaping their adaptive strategies. Second, I evaluate the impacts of aid projects leveraging information and communication technologies (ICTs) and participatory farm trials to incentivize uptake of seeds and fertilizers among farmers. Finally, I follow up with direct beneficiaries of participatory farm trials to gauge post-project impacts on farmers’ production practices, with attention to how new technologies are applied in relation to farm soil fertility gradients. My research shows widespread perceptions of changing weather patterns and shifting socioeconomic circumstances that together undermine the viability of smallholder farming in Senegal. While farmers’ adaptive strategies are differentiated based on their access to resources, I find that youth emigration is playing a growing role in sustaining rural households. My findings further point to limitations and gender inequities in using ICT-enabled extension to disseminate information to rural farmers. Ultimately, farmers in semi-arid parts of Africa face an increasingly risky environment that limits the viability of costly agricultural technologies and increases farmers’ focus on resilience-oriented strategies. These findings provide insight into the future of farming under climate change and suggest ways that development efforts can—and cannot—better support rural smallholder farmers in a changing world.

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