CGIAR Gender News

Senegalese plant microbiologist’s quest to offer smallholders a solution for soil damage

2020 One Planet Laureate Candidate Photo: AWARD

About 80% of Senegal’s rural population depend on subsistence farming. But, with the increasing drought and rising temperatures, their yields have significantly reduced,” explains Dr. Nogaye Niang, a Plant Microbiologist, and a 2020 One Planet Laureate Candidate.

Climate change has hit farmers hard. Extreme weather events like droughts are impacting harvest causing food insecurity. Despite long days of hard work in the fields, many farmers can no longer get enough yield to feed their families. In 2020, Food Crisis Prevention Network reported that more than 2.5 million Senegalese were at risk of food insecurity, while another 700,000 were in the crisis phase.

For Nogaye, this evidence reinforces the need to introduce sustainable agricultural practices that promote healthy ecosystems and sustainable land management. She explains that such methods will increase the smallholders’ food production and strengthen their resilience to climate change.

She is already developing alternative methods to improve the situation. Nogaye is working on a project to promote mycorrhization and biological nitrogen fixation in groundnut (Arachis hypogaea L.). She explains that the farms suffer nitrogen deficiency because of the nature of the semi-arid soils in Senegal. This case is worsened by the overuse of chemical fertilizers by the farmers. Therefore, legumes, such as groundnuts, are vitally sustainable and environmentally friendly alternatives to chemical fertilization.