The Senegalese landscape has changed drastically over recent decades. Historically, a patchwork of fields and Savannah woodlands provided farmers and herders alike space to cultivate food for their families, find forage for their livestock, and source a large portion of their food, fiber, and medicine from the uncultivated bush. Farmers traditionally planted millet and peanuts, as well as various vegetable and forage crops when rainfall was sufficient. Over the last 30 years, a variety of factors including changing rainfall patterns, desertification, globalized markets, and the introduction of inappropriate farming practices have combined to reduce the bush to barren land and render most fields poor and unproductive. In many cases, subsistence agriculture is no longer providing the basic necessities for life in village communities.
While recognizing that new techniques and technologies alone are unable to lift communities out of poverty, we see effective and responsive farm practices as being important parts of restoring our relationship with the land. Beersheba therefore aims to be a testing ground for all kinds of promising approaches to rendering the Sahelian landscape both healthy and productive. We aim to learn both from local traditions as well as those from similar climates around the globe. We try to keep our ears attuned to the latest findings from the world of science, and to contribute to that body of research our own observations and experimental results. And we practice with our interns what we see as imperative to the success of any farmer: creatively and responsibly using what God has already provided in our particular place, in our community of people, plants, and wildlife.
- Which drought tolerant tree species make the best dry season forage for sheep and goats?
- In what circumstances is drip irrigation an appropriate technology for a Senegalese farmer?
- How can rabbits best be integrated into a small farm, using housing and equipment that can sourced locally?
- What is the economic advantage of fermenting chicken feed?
- Which tree species, and at what density, provide the ideal amount of shade for growing understory crops?
These are the kinds of questions we ask, and are asked by farmers all around us. With 100 hectares of land and the support of partnering organizations, we can afford to take the risks necessary to find answers, and share them with our interns and visitors from throughout the region.