An innovation born from the recent presidential elections in Senegal is its public exchange of ideas on land between presidential candidates and voters.
Senegal deserves huge congratulations. Not only for its peaceful organisation of the presidential election on February 23 2019, but also for holding of a public debate during the electoral campaigns on a subject rarely discussed in the public sphere, land.
Convinced that high levels of social interaction could trigger innovation and learning about land governance, the civil society organised a public hearing at the Grand National Theatre in Dakar, two days to the polls.
Organised by the Voluntary Guidelines and Land Governance Platform, which includes the National Engagement Strategy in Senegal in collaboration with the Social and Political Dialogue Group (GDSP) and the Framework for Research and Action on Land in Senegal (CRAFS), the forum brought together over 1 000 people, mainly made up of fishermen, famers and breeders from rural and semi-urban areas.
Dr Cheikh Omar Ba, Executive Director of l’Initiative prospective agricole et rurale (IPAR), a Think Tank and ILC member and Mr Pape Cheikh Sylla, a Senegalese journalist of the D-Media Group moderated the exchanges. It focused on four themes:
- Responsible and sustainable governance of natural resources;
- Transformation of family farming for wealth creation, especially for women and youth;
- Food and nutritional governance; and
- Health governance.
Four among the five presidential candidates responded to the invitation. While Abdou Aziz Mbodj represented the Idy2019 coalition, Youssou Diallo was present for the incumbent president, Macky Sall, led by the Benno Bok Yaakar coalition. Lastly, Dr Apha BA, represented the Sonko president coalition and Mr Habib Sy, former Minister of Agriculture represented the Madické 2019 coalition.
The political bodies outlined detailed strategies to strengthen the local economy and agricultural development. On agriculture for example, they highlighted progress in the sector, but hinted that land conflicts are slowing growth.
Agriculture contributed 15% to the National Gross Domestic product in 2018, an 8% increase compared to 2017. The figures show progress, but panellists say the country is underperforming.
Among the challenge’s features land governance. Land conflicts have become a serious hindrance to economic growth in the country.