Republic of Senegal
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Contributor: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Contact: Jean Bonnal

Republic of Senegal

The terms and data used in this publication are in no way an indication of the authors' position relating to the legal status of the countries, territories, cities or zone mentioned, or of their authorities or borders.

A. General Country Data

Surface Area196,722 sq. km
Population (millions)8.1
Population Growth2.7%
Urban Population40%
Density (1995)41.2 inh/sq. km
GDP (1994) Billions US $3.06
GDP per Capita US$ 377
Currency CFA Franc
National Budget14% of GDP (1994)
15.3% (1995)
Human Development Indicator0.340
HDI Ranking (out of 174 countries)152

Borders, Topography and Climate

Together with Cape Verde Island, Senegal occupies the westernmost position in West Africa facing the Atlantic Ocean. It is situated between 12 degrees and 17degrees of the northern latitude and 11 degrees and 18 degrees of the western longitude. Senegal is bordered by Mauritania on the north and on the north-east, Mali on the southeast, Guinea and Guinea Bissau on the south. The Gambia is an enclave of 10,000 sq. km within Senegal.

Senegal is a flat country not rising above 130 m with the exception of the South-East region where the relief does not rise beyond 581 m in the Fouta Djallon. Senegal's climate is affected by its position facing the Atlantic Ocean for more than 700 km, and by atmospheric conditions determined by sea breeze and the Harmattan. There are two distinct seasons with extremes of rainfall. The dry season lasts from November to April. The rainy season lasts from May to October. It begins in the east and then spreads to the rest of the country. Precipitations decrease from 1.500 mm per year in the southern regions (Ziguinchor, Kolda) to 800 mm in the central region (Kaolack) and then to 300 mm in the north (Podor, Matam).

The drainage system is tropical, marked by great differences in the river levels between the rainy season and the dry season. River beds can be dry during the dry season. The floods of the Senegal contribute to ground water. Senegal has significant underground water resources and many vegetation zones. In the north the sahalian zone is covered with rare, mostly thorny bushes. The wooded savanna is rich in fauna and characterizes the sudanian zones (East-Central). Thick forests are found in the Sub-Guinean zone of the lower Casamance. The average annual temperatures of the coastal region is 27 degrees centigrade and those of the interior are 35 degrees centigrade.

Characteristics, and Recent Developments of the Political System

After the failure of the short-lived Mali Federation, Senegal like most African countries, gained independence in 1960. The first constitution installed a parliamentary democracy (a new experience) which did not survive the December 1962 and the 7 March 1963 crises and a new constitution establishing a presidential regime was adopted.

Single party politics was the norm at first with the Senegalese Progressive Union (UPS) which later would become the Socialist Party (PS), at the helm. Later, starting 1974, four schools of thought were instituted by the new constitution (law 76-1 of 19-03-73 and constitutional law 78-68 of

28 December `1978) with the creation of three other parties. Complete multi-party politics was introduced in 1981 with the election of a second president which led to a proliferation of political parties (36 at the end of 1998). Legislative power is vested in the National Assembly of 140 members and the Senate of 60 members, elected for a five-year term.

Senegal is divided into ten administrative regions headed by governors appointed by the national government, and regional councils, the deliberative bodies whose members are elected by universal suffrage for five-year terms.

Agriculture in Senegal

The agricultural sector, which employs 60% of the work force has faced enormous problems for two decades. Its contribution to the GDP (18.75% between 1960 and 1966) has fallen to 10%. Agricultural production rose only 2.7% between 1981 and 1991(the rate of population growth). 3.8 million hectares of the country's 19.7 million hectares are arable 2.4% of it is farmed. Soil diversity, climatic conditions and underground water resources all help to divide the country into six homogeneous zones known as agro-ecological zones. Rice production has been insufficient in spite of major investments especially in the valley of the River Senegal, with the building of the Diama dam, which keeps salt water in check, and that of Manantali, which evens the flow of the River Senegal.

The production of other crops (cotton, peanuts, cereals...) has even gone down. Rural depopulation has increased and the food deficit has worsened because of the growth in urban population and the divergence between the agricultural production system and consumption. The signature in 1995 of the Agricultural Development Policy Letter (ADPL) and its approval by theWorld Bank led to led to the implementation of the Agricultural Sector Adjustment Policy (ASAP) followed by the Agricultural Sector Investment in 1998. On the whole, the government's price policy translated into real increases of the price of most crops, but the decrease in the real revenue of peasants was followed by the sharp reduction in the use of agricultural inputs, the obsolescence of agricultural equipment and the insufficiency of good quality seeds. At the start of 1997, most of the Agricultural Sector Adjustment Policies were carried out and the sector is practically liberalized. Nonetheless, the results are below expectation and the agricultural sector still has some difficulties.

Current Economic Situation

Since independence the Senegalese economy has seen contrasting developments. The first five years were characterized by high growth. Then at the end of the 1970s the economy was stagnant, the internal finances deteriorated and the external debt mounted. This period marked the beginning of the implementation of radical reforms : a stabilization policy in 1978 and the implementation of the Economic and Financial Recovery Plan (EFRP). A Medium and Long Term Structural Adjustment Program (MLTSAP) put into effect between 1985 and 1992. In spite of these reforms the Senegalese economy was still characterized by the slow growth of its GDP (on the average 2.9% in real terms). However, public finances improved considerably : the balance of government operations rose from 2.9% of the GDP in 1985 to a slight surplus (0.2% of GDP) in 1991.

In 1993 the country plunged into a serious economic crisis due to a depressed international context, the downturn in certain sectors : (fishing, phosphate mining, peanuts and tourism). An economic emergency plan was put into effect in August 1993. The change in the parity of the national currency in 1994 was followed immediately by the signing of a confirmation agreement with IMF and changed into a three-year agreement called the Reinforced Structural Adjustment Facility (RSAF). In March 1994 the World Bank made an economic recovery credit, and multilateral and bilateral budgetary arrangements (EU and France, notably) relating to the rescheduling of the external debt, also supported this program. Also, in July 1995, a consultative group of donors met in Paris and offered Senegal financial aid over the 1995-1997 period. On the whole Senegal made considerable progress on the macroeconomic level, the reduction of financial imbalances, the liberalization of the economy and the establishment of a more favorable base for a more sustainable economic growth. The macroeconomic objectives have been generally attained, and most of the criteria have been adhered to. Over the period as a whole, the growth rate of the GDP was above the rate of population growth (2.7%).

B. On-going Decentralization Process

Background, Objectives, and Legal Framework

The Senegalese experience in decentralization goes back to colonial times with the four self-governing communes which were a training ground for participatory management of local affairs. However, this experience had very little impact on the country because it only involved the Úlite of certain towns. That is why the real beginning of the process is when the Rural Community was created in 1972, so that the rural population, the majority of citizens of the country, could participate in the management of local affairs. In 1990 and especially in 1996 considerable progress was made with regard to the reinforcement of accountability of presidents of rural councils, the creation of regions as legal entities with their own responsibilities.

Functions, Resources, and Autonomy of Decentralized Entities

Through the 1996 law, a new entity, the region, was created to be focal point of regional development policy formulation, with Rural Community having the task of implementing policies. The law was followed by a well thought-out distribution of powers in nine areas, among regions, rural communities and municipalities. A major fiscal reform is in process which would assign local jurisdictions enough financial resources to carry out their new responsibilities.

C. Decentralization and Rural Development

Forms of Decentralization, Agricultural and Rural Development Policy Formulation

The systematic interventionism in the decade after independence relating to the affairs of local communities did not bring about the desired results and basic reform was undertaken starting in 1984 with the New Agricultural Policy (NAP) and the implementation of the Agricultural Sector Adjustment Program (ASAP).

With the changes in the decentralization process, the Rural Community became the primary target of central administration policy. Many ministries have responsibility for the rural community : the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of the Environment and the Protection of Nature, the Ministry of Hydraulics, and especially the Ministry of Agriculture. Deconcentrated subnational authorities (governors, prefects, sub-prefects, and village chiefs) represent the state in the regions, districts and villages. There are two types of decentralized local authors : the Rural Community, the lowest jurisdiction, and the Region. They have legal status and financial autonomy and are freely governed by elected councils.

Decentralization and Agricultural Support Services

The Agricultural Sector Adjustment Loan is intended to prop the decentralization framework while providing a new direction for agricultural support services. It is expected that the loan will be used to implement many support programs, especially the National Program for Rural Infrastructure which is supposed to last for twelve years. The objective is to improve and consolidate the regulatory and institutional framework of decentralization, the establishment of a Rural Investment Fund (RIF) to provide extra financing for basic community infrastructure, and to end the isolation of rural communities.

The state intends to use the Agricultural Services and Producer Organization Program to build the capacity of producer organizations, reorganize agricultural services in restructuring central, regional and local services of the Ministry of Agriculture, in reorganizing agricultural and agribusiness research, and in creating a new agricultural and rural council to be assigned to peasant organizations and the private sector.

Support Policies, Constraints and Evaluation of the Decentralization Process

The support policies for decentralization involve institutional support and capacity building of rural communities in particular. To this one must add the creation of collective infrastructure and financial support.

The major constraint is the extreme poverty of local jurisdictions. In order to solve their financial problems, an extensive fiscal reform is in process which would supplement the various grants (FDD, FECL) they receive. Productive investments are also encouraged and the law offers the opportunity to take advantage of decentralized cooperation.


Three important conditions need to be satisfied in order for decentralization to truly work in Senegal :

  1. an extensive information campaign targeting citizens and also actors in the decentralization process (locally elected officials and authorities of the decentralized administrations)
  2. a working framework for consultations as stipulated by the regionalization process
  3. sufficient resources for local jurisdictions so they can effectively carry out their new responsibilities.