Senegal: Producing seeds for self-sufficiency (IRIN)

| June 12, 2017

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Lamine Biaye is a veteran of the Senegalese peasant movement. As such, he understands the importance of seeds. Without seeds, no plant can grow. But the challenge is that seeds can be costly.

Mr. Biaye says, “The challenge is primarily economic…. Lots of money is involved [in seeds]. We know that the multinationals don’t make things easy.”

Genetically-modified and hybrid seeds produced by multinational companies can be costly to purchase. That’s why Mr. Biaye founded and chairs the Association Sénégalaise des Producteurs de Semences Paysannes (ASPSP), also called the Senegalese Association of Peasant Seed Producers.

For instance, commercial onion seeds in Senegal can cost between $70 and $80 US per kilogram. Mr. Biaye criticizes a system which prices some farmers out of the market. He says, “Producing our own seeds is essential for ensuring our food self-sufficiency.”

Five years ago, Mr. Biaye  moved to Djimini, in southern Senegal’s Faladu region, where he launched an educational farm that specializes in producing seeds and sharing market farming techniques.

He produces seeds that are well-adapted to the soil and climate. Mr. Biaye adds, “You know one has to take climate change into account.” For many farmers, that means planting quick-maturing or drought-tolerant crop varieties.

In Faladu, this means planting the Galmi violet onion. Mr. Biaye prefers this variety to improved or hybrid types of onion which require expensive inputs such as fertilizer or pesticides. He explains, “Whatever the variations in weather, it’s a variety that thrives and reaches maturity. Its yield potential is good, even when there is less water.”

Fatou Diallo leads a group of women farmers in Djimini. She has benefited from Mr. Biaye’s work and training. She says: “We would never have thought that one day we would be able to produce our own seeds ourselves…. ASPSP removed a major thorn from our feet, because buying seeds took up a lot of our costs. Now we are better equipped to produce more onions and sell them to our neighbours.”

Mr. Biaye also produces rice seeds and provides them to farmers in the area. When the farmers harvest their rice crops, they return the quantity of seeds they were given, plus an additional 25%. Every two years, participating farmers will have enough seeds that they can plant without “borrowing” from Mr. Biaye.

Twice a year, Djimini hosts a seed fair, which draws visitors from across Senegal and even neighbouring countries. At the seed fair, participants trade seeds and share practical tips about farming techniques.

In this way, Mr. Biaye is spreading his passion for seeds and seed production.

This story is based on an article by IRIN titled, “Seeds of rural renewal sown in Senegal.” To read the full story, go to:


Photo credit: Cissokho Lassana/IRIN