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Winrock International

Winrock International’s Board of Directors and Senior Leadership Visit Projects in Senegal

Nine members of Winrock International’s Board of Directors, including Board Chairman Jude Kearney, joined Winrock CEO and Board President Rodney Ferguson and senior Winrock staff on an activity-packed trip to Senegal to learn about Winrock’s impacts in the fast-growing West African country.

In addition to Kearney and Ferguson, traveling Winrock board members included Peter O’Neill,  Saud SiddiqueJerry AdamsLisa MiltonNanette Medved-PoJohn Nees and Tuan Nguyen, along with Winrock senior leaders.

During the March trip, board members and staff met Senegalese community members, local partners and Winrock project staff, capitalizing on a rare opportunity to observe project impacts firsthand and learn about the successes and challenges. Winrock collaborates with local partners to implement a trio of USAID-funded activities in Senegal that support food security and livelihoods, climate change and natural resources management, entrepreneurship and agriculture. Senegal has experienced significant economic growth over the past decade but still grapples with poverty and is highly susceptible to climate shocks.

In Senegal, traditional fishing boats are called “pirogues.” They symbolize the country’s deep connection to the sea and the vital role that fishing plays in its economy and culture. These brightly painted vessels, each with their unique design, are a testament to the creativity, craftsmanship, and resilience of the Senegalese people — photo by Gabe Gentry for Winrock International.

Ongoing Winrock projects in Senegal include the USAID Senegal Feed the Future Dekkal Geej activity. Dekkal Geej, which means “Restore the Sea” in Senegal’s national language, Wolof, fosters collaboration with fishing communities, youth groups, the private sector and Senegal’s government to strengthen management and sustainability of one of Africa’s largest fisheries. Winrock also implements the USAID Entrepreneurship and Investment Activity, which promotes entrepreneurship and business investment, and the West Africa Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Program, which provides technical assistance and training requested by farmers, agribusinesses and others in the agriculture sector, delivered by experienced, U.S.-based volunteers.

From left to right: Diarra Diouf, la Secrétaire général Adjoint du GIE Sagal Sajekar; Jon Anderson, former chief of party – Dekkal Geej; Awa Diagne, Présidente du GIE Sagal Sajkar; Aminata Dieng, deputy chief of party – Dekkal Geej; Bineta Ndir, membre simple du GIE. The artisanal fish processors of GIE Sagal Sajkar are preserving the delicate balance of marine ecosystems for future generations — photo by Gabe Gentry for Winrock International.

The trip began with a drive south of Senegal’s capital, Dakar, to speak with fish processors in Joal, located on Senegal’s long Atlantic coastline. There, they met with a group of women processors called GIE Sagal Sa Jeker that is working with the Dekkal Geej project. The Winrock group learned about local, artisanal processing of fishery products including the steps to process and package the fish and marketing channels used by women processors. Women entrepreneurs are leading this historic work in the artisanal fisheries sector, and shared news about upcoming plans for expansion.

As part of the Joal visit, board members also learned about Winrock’s F2F program activities, which provide volunteer-based technical assistance to farmers, agribusinesses, and education and extension providers to promote sustainable improvements in the country’s agriculture sector. Two F2F volunteers working on assignments in Senegal shared their experiences working with local fishers and entrepreneurs to improve livelihoods.

F2F is a volunteer-based program that fosters community empowerment and sustainable agriculture. This farmer-led approach is driving economic growth and strengthening resilience in rural communities across Senegal. F2F Volunteer Daniel Lavin (left) and F2F Staff Ndiame Sene (right) — photo by Gabe Gentry for Winrock International.

The board later visited youth organizations involved in biodiversity conservation in the mangrove forests on Senegal’s southern coast near the border with The Gambia, where they learned about Winrock’s work with youth groups to protect and restore mangroves in Senegal. The Dekkal Geej project supports youth association members to find markets for honey produced in the mangroves, one of the many sustainable livelihood opportunities offered by Senegal’s mangrove forests.

Dieynaba Thiam Ka (left), chief of party – USAID Entrepreneurship and Investment Activity, and Winrock staff at the Lionceau baby food processing center — photo by Peter O’Neill for Winrock International.

Board members also visited a baby food processing business that uses locally sourced products developed by Siny Samba, a woman entrepreneur supported by the USAID Entrepreneurship and Investment Activity. Ms. Samba was supported by the project to fundraise and become investment-ready to expand the processing capacity and distribution networks of her enterprise. Board members also stopped at Maraz Origins Leather Goods factory, where they heard the owner’s success stories and learned about the owner’s plans to establish a factory to cater to the whole West African Economic and Monetary Union. The Union is an organization of eight mainly French-speaking African nations: Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte D’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo. The entrepreneurs are receiving support from the USAID Entrepreneurship and Investment Activity.

Winrock International Board members and staff at Maraz Origins Leather Goods factory — photo by Gabe Gentry for Winrock International.

The delegation visited L’Université Gaston Berger Entrepreneur’s Incubator, where they attended a training session with entrepreneurs and learned about activities and support provided by the USAID activity. They also visited members of a fishing community who have been displaced by climate change and lost their traditional fishing grounds, to learn about how people are adapting and how the private sector can be engaged to provide support through alternative livelihoods training.

The trip provided opportunities for board members and senior U.S.-based staff to get to know Winrock’s successful Senegal-based teams, build new relationships and strengthen existing partnerships, as well as to expand collaboration and potential Winrock partnerships across West Africa. While in country, the group met with the USAID/Senegal mission director and other USAID representatives, as well as with Senegalese government officials, investment and private sector partners.

Team leaders and staff in Senegal said they were happy to present a cross-section of some of their important activities, introduce local partners and share information about impacts to the delegation. For its part, the board and home office staff gained a deeper understanding and appreciation of the significance of Winrock’s important and varied programming in West Africa ─ a region with tremendous potential to drive sustainable growth and showcase responsible, climate-smart stewardship of resources across Africa.

Former Winrock International CEO Rodney Ferguson (center) connects with Senegalese entrepreneurs enrolled in the USAID Entrepreneurship and Investment Activity — photo by Gabe Gentry for Winrock International.

“I was particularly thrilled during the visit in Saint-Louis where we had the opportunity to hear 50 motivated and engaged entrepreneurs, who came from far away villages, talk about how the Entrepreneurship and Investment [Activity’s] business development services had an impact on their startup businesses,” said Dieynaba S. Thiam-Ka, the project’s chief of party.

“As a Senegalese woman, my main ambition is to give back to my community, especially my peers who are struggling to be economically empowered,” she added. “The entrepreneurship project is making it easier, as we get to provide well-needed capacity building and investment support to entrepreneurs with a strong focus on women, who drive the economy and ensure their families’ wellbeing through economic empowerment, food security, health and education at a smaller scale.” 

Related Projects

Senegal Dekkal Geej (Restoring the Sea)

A sixth of Senegal’s population relies on fisheries for their livelihood, yet the sector faces challenges posed by poor fisheries management practices and increasing domestic and international demand for fish. The Senegal Dekkal Geej project is working with local fishers, the Senegalese government and the private sector to improve food security, increase incomes and strengthen…

USAID Entrepreneurship & Investment Activity

Each year an estimated 300,000 young new job seekers enter Senegal’s workforce. With few opportunities for wage-based employment, self-employment and entrepreneurship currently offer the most viable path to self-sufficiency for Senegalese youth. While small and medium-sized enterprises represent 90% of Senegal’s private sector, most of these businesses are operated and managed informally, resulting in low…

West Africa Farmer-to-Farmer

The West Africa F2F program aims to enhance the agricultural sectors of Guinea, Senegal, and Sierra Leone by utilizing climate-smart agriculture innovations, local technologies, and targeted interventions for marginalized groups to improve access to technology, food security and nutrition, and skills development to boost agricultural productivity and support resilient livelihoods.