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Impact – Making A Positive Difference For Senegalese Youth

senegal children

The Center for International Research, Education and Development has received a $4 million award from the U.S. Agency for International Development to continue transforming Senegal’s agricultural sector through youth empowerment, education, and training.

The purpose of the five-year Feed the Future Senegal Youth in Agriculture (YIA) project is to increase youth engagement in Senegal’s economic growth.  The project will carry on the work of the CIRED-led Education and Research in Agriculture (ERA) project in Senegal by expanding 4-H clubs across the country and institutionalizing positive youth development nationally. The project will also work with vocational training institutions to strengthen their connections to private-sector actors and markets.  This will include piloting innovative approaches for creating entrepreneurship and income-generating opportunities for youth.   

The ERA project, also supported by USAID, helped transform Senegal’s agricultural education and training system countrywide by inspiring new legislation that mandates Senegalese universities to incorporate outreach, community service, and private sector partnerships as part of their mission.

Working with Virginia Cooperative Extension agents, ERA used the land-grant model to create 4-H youth clubs in communities around the country. Like 4-H clubs in other countries, members grow vegetable seedlings, participate in community service projects, raise chickens, visit laboratories, organize fund-raising events and other typical 4-H activities, but also incorporate local practices, such as promoting traditional Senegalese wrestling matches.

“The 4-H model gave us a clear structure that we could adapt to meet the needs of local communities,” said Bineta Guisse, who helped launch the 4-H program in Senegal for ERA and will serve as the national director for YIA.  

“This new project allows us to build on our momentum in Senegal and use a model, 4-H positive youth development, that we know works,” said Van Crowder, CIRED Executive Director. “4-H positive youth development focuses on building skills, fostering healthy relationships, and supporting youth to be active partners in development efforts,” Crowder says.

Thomas Archibald, assistant professor of Agricultural, Leadership, and Community Education, is the Principal Investigator and Project Director for the YIA project. He describes how the project’s focus on vocational training programs that meet the needs of local communities and private-sector agricultural enterprises is critical to improving profitable youth employment.  “Today there is a mismatch between what students in Senegal learn in their training programs and what the agricultural sector actually needs,” said Archibald.

The project will conduct trainings, curriculum development workshops, and other collaboration opportunities to bring educators, entrepreneurs, employers, investors, and other stakeholders together to address this mismatch. The stakes are high for Senegal, where 75 percent of the country’s 13 million citizens work in agriculture, yet the country imports much of the food it consumes. 

The award continues a multi-decade connection between Virginia Tech faculty and their Senegalese counterparts. “The Youth in Agriculture project helps us maintain a presence in Senegal and also allows us to expand our partnerships there well into the future,” Crowder said.  He adds that the program fits well with the goal of Virginia Tech to become a leading global land-grant university as expressed by President Tim Sands.  “4-H positive youth development is a flagship Virginia Tech program and by introducing and adapting the approach in Senegal, we are furthering the global land-grant goal,” Crowder said.