Structural adjustment and food security in the Sahel: the example of Senegal
by Tom Amadou SECK
Many countries of the Sahel, like Senegal, have been trying to
apply a policy of food security since 1986 (when the Cereal Plan was set up), as
part of a structural adjustment drive. In Senegal, this is called the Medium-
and Long-Term Adjustment Plan, or PAMLT, covering 1985-90. It is perhaps a good
idea to look at the past five years to produce a partial summary of the New
Agricultural Policy and its limitations and of the constant effort needed to
ensure it fits in with regional cereal policies in the Sahel.
Combining structural adjustment and food security is no easy
matter. We shall attempt to examine the practical difficulties involved in any
structural adjustment policy aimed at fitting in with an agricultural
A strong lever
The system suggested by the funders, particularly the World
Bank, hinges on a farm price policy which makes imported cereals (such as rice)
more expensive removes the subsidies on agricultural inputs and urban
consumption, liberates the input market and ensures remunerative prices for the
peasants. What is actually being proposed here is a cut in the real price of the
rice produced locally in the River Valley, given the very high production costs
(rice being a strategic product in that it is a staple for the majority of
Senegalese). In fact, a farm price policy can be a strong lever when it comes to
changing the terms of domestic trade to the benefit of the rural community and
the detriment of the people in the towns (by pushing up the price of local
products, doing away with urban consumer subsidies and engineering a change in
eating habits in relation to imported cereals such as Thai rice). But it will
not promote a food security policy on its own. There are political constraints-
such things as political upheavals among the urban consumers-which are not easy
to get round. In February 1986, for example, political upheavals forced the
Senegalese authorities into lowering the price of imported rice from CFAF 160 to
CFAF 130 per kg, thereby compromising their food security policy and showing
just how difficult it is to run a cereal plan properly. Encroaching on the urban
consumers privileges by making cereals more expensive, doing away with
consumer subsidies or charging real prices can easily threaten the nations
political stability. Political constraints of this kind are a real dilemma for
any Sahel country attempting to run a food security policy during a period of
They are indeed preventing the introduction of the Farm Sector
Adjustment Policy (PASA) and they have been holding up Senegals SAP III
(structural adjustment, phase three) negotiations with the funders (the IMF, the
IBRD, Frances CCCE, the EDF etc) for nearly a year now. What is causing
the friction, of course, is the rise in the price of imported rice from CFAF 130
to CFAF 160 per kg.
Senegal may be what the IMF considers to be a good
pupil, but its political leaders also have public opinion to take into
account, since they are living in what has long been rare in Africa, a political
democracy. But a compromise is on the cards.
The funders see a rise in the price of imported rice from CFAF
130 to CFAF 160 per kg as tantamount to discouraging its consumption and
encouraging people to eat locally-grown cereals (millet, maize and local rice),
bringing in selective protectionism and making for the emergence of a food
security policy as advocated in the Cereal Plan (established in 1986, as a
complement to the New Agricultural Policy of 1984, to exploit the agricultural
potential of the Diama and Manantali dams in the Senegal River Valley and
achieve 80 % food security for the nation by the year 2000).
They also propose doing away with various subsidies (on seed,
fertiliser, transport etc) to rationalise the management of agriculture and
bring down the price of local rice which is presently high because of the heavy
production costs. If the negotiations are to get going again, both sides have to
compromise. Over and above the divergences of opinion between Senegal and the
funders, no farm price policy will have any real chance of success unless it
goes hand in hand with a series of land and credit reforms, selective subsidies,
road infrastructure, agricultural research, technical extension work,
nutritional surveys, meteorological monitoring of rainfall (an essential factor)
and institutional changes in the administration. If it is to work, it must aim
to harmonise with the policies of the other countries in the region on cereals,
exchange rates and structural adjustment. But national policies are frequently
drawn up without taking all of this into account.
Farm price policy-the challenge
An efficient farm price policy must be a synthesis of all the
above factors, a culmination rather than a starting point -something the funders
do not seem to realise. If it is to make a proper job of inverting the domestic
patterns of trade to the benefit of the people living in rural areas, then it
must also introduce selective protectionism (hence the search for a good nominal
rate of protection-40 %, say, in the case of Senegal), which is completely
different from looking for comparative advantages.
It all hinges on selective subsidies, decent agricultural credit
facilities and land reforms.
Subsidies: Subsidisation (of inputs and urban consumption) is a
very delicate matter. Let us start by looking at urban consumer subsidies, since
town-dwellers are politicised and therefore in a good position when it comes to
defending their privileges and causing political strife. Farm subsidies cannot
last for ever, either, because that would turn them into assistance.
However, some subsidies are worth maintaining to protect
underprivileged target-groups in the cities-low-paid employees, for example,
children, pregnant women and old people in working class areas such as Pikine,
Guediawaye, Grand Dakar etc.
Selective subsidisation may mean handing out food or using a
percentage of food aid (Food for Work, for example), combined with information
campaigns to change eating habits-Eat Senegalese, say, to get Thai
rice replaced by local maize and millet.
Nutritional surveys of poor household budgets and cereal markets
may also go some way to a solution.
Import taxes on the luxury goods used by the comfortably-off can
also yield revenue to provide food stocks for associations in working-class
districts (fairness through taxation). This kind of selective subsidisation,
which can help improve the nutritional situation of the underprivileged sections
of society, could be accompanied by a policy of better primary health care.
Food for Work programmes are very common in Sri Lanka among the
landless peasants and unemployed in poor districts.
Efficiently used food aid can be a help here too (with the
construction of village dispensaries etc).
Such schemes would aim to cushion the social effects of
structural adjustment policies. Unless the weight of structural adjustment is
spread fairly amongst the different social categories of the population,
adjustment will always be synonymous with austerity.
Some forms of selective subsidisation -of seed and
fertiliser-have to be maintained and the right sort of rural credit facilities
chosen for small farmers when the input market is freed.
Total liberalisation of the seed market could lead to
speculation by rural middlemen and better-off peasants, penalising the small
It is generally agreed that small farmers can run up debts with
rural middle-men and better-off peasants during periods of non-production and
pay them back when they harvest. The creditors are paid in seed during the
harvest period (at very high rates) and they then sell the seed back to the
small farmers during the sowing period (at even higher rates, thus ensuring very
high profit margins of, say, 45 %).
The SEDES report clearly explains the strategy of the various
people involved in the cereal market. The whole seed problem hinges on storage
capacity and the better-off peasants really do have good facilities here, which
is more than can be said for the small ones. The authorities have made a
considerable but as yet limited effort with USAID help, but there is a long way
to go before village associations of small farmers have largescale storage
capacity (thanks to the building of sheds, for example).
Credit facilities: Selective subsidies must be arranged so that
small farmers can get fertiliser and avoid situations in which high prices
preclude its use and output dwindles, as has happened over the past year or two.
There is a lot to do in the credit sector. Access to loans
should go some way to solving the problem of seed use, fertiliser supply and
farm equipment utilisation. Any farm price policy not accompanied by a credit
system that is available to the small farmers is not likely to be a success.
Senagals National Agricultural Credit Fund (CNCAS) is
being set up gradually, but the interest rates are very high (13 %)? the
individual guarantee unsuitable for the needs of the small farmer, the
paper-werk expensive (about CFAF 25000) and beyond illiterate peasants and the
management too centralised.
The NGOs have done some interesting work in their Green Africa
campaign, providing credit at low or zero interest, setting up cereal banks to
suit the small farmers storage capacity, introducing local-language
training and simplified management, generalising primary health care in the
regions concerned, converting food aid into financial means so as to even out
the harvest over areas with surpluses and areas with shortfalls and so on. The
funders (the World Bank and USAID, for example) and the authorities should get
together with the NGOs and the village association representatives to take these
original ideas further. Other forms of credit should be tried out along with a
kind of federation of Farm Economy Interest Groups and NGOs. The Interest Groups
have to form a federation to ensure their future effectiveness.
Alongside this, the CNCAS management should be more
decentralised and the representativeness of the delegates of village
associations, economic interest groups and other groups of well-off peasants
greater, so that every member of society in the rural areas is represented.
All the problems attached to obtaining input supplies depend on
accessible credit facilities.
Small farmers need to form groups
The local powers: Unless the small farmers form proper,
autonomous groups which are independent of the influence of leading rural
figures, there is no chance of an efficient food security policy or even a
decentralised agricultural development model.
As the NGOs showed in the Green Africa campaign, there is a
potential for the emergence of small farmer groups in rural areas everywhere.
Encouraging their formation means a policy of offering training in the local
language, providing an introduction to simplified management (human resource
management) and ensuring decent credit facilities- all leading to the creation
of different forms of non-official power (including peasant women in the rural
areas), which could be partners involved in a dialogue with the authorities and
the funders and have an effect when major rural development decisions are taken
and structural adjustment policies brought in.
Unless such powers exist, society will never be revitalised. No
dynamic movements will occur and no decentralised agricultural development model
geared to the culture of the Sahel countries will emerge.
Land reform: Other reforms should go along with the farm price
policy (agricultural research and a reform of the land arrangements). A land
reform would be aimed at updating the 1964 National Domain Act and giving the
peasants greater security of tenure and broader individual rights to encourage
them to invest in the land and improve its value. This sort of reform could be a
kind of individual guarantee of better access to credit.
The law adopted at the time of independence (during a period of
State centralisation, that is to say) ought to be reformed in the light of the
New Agricultural Policy, which recommends that the State withdraw and producers
be freed from administrative supervision. A detailed account of the content and
practical arrangements of such a land reform is outside the scope of this
article, but, undeniably, with the new economic deal which adjustment brings,
some provisions, and maybe even the spirit of the law are now outmoded.
Lastly, agricultural research and extension work should
emphasise cereals, not just groundnuts, and involve such things as the
investigation of new strains of cereals and pulses, modern extension methods and
Ultimately, a cereal policy will only be effective if it aims to
harmonise with the policies of neighbouring states in the region and sub-region.
Regional harmonisation of agricultural price, exchange rate and
structural adjustment policies in the Sahel.
Differing agricultural price policies in neighbouring countries
(Senegal, Gambia, Mauritania, Mali etc) are barriers when it comes to
harmonising cereal policies throughout the Sahel region. Maize (see table) is
Cereal prices in Mali and Senegal are different. In 1981-82, for
example, maize was CFAF 42.5 per kg in Mali and CFAF 50 in Senegal, while
Nigers price was twice that of Mali.
Mali had a surplus at the 1990 cereal harvest (about 600 000 t
of sorghum, millet, maize and rice), which it was barely able to dispose of in
Mauritania sells imported rice (CFAF 250 per kg) to its
consumers at about twice the price asked in Senegal (CFAF 130 per kg).
A sack of Thai rice is far cheaper in Gambia than Senegal
(around CFAF 9 000), a situation which encourages smuggling along the frontiers,
partly neutralises Senegals policy of charging more for imported rice and
loses it revenue from tax and customs duties.
In some years, Burkina Faso has had good cereal harvests which
it has found difficult to sell to the neighbouring countries. In some years, the
Senegalese peasants go and sell their groundouts and groundout oil in Gambia and
Mali where the prices are higher, which encourages parallel marketing and home
grinding and thereby reduces the revenue of the State.
The effect of all these farm price imbalances is to encourage
informal trade between consumers in different countries and hamper the
efficiency of the tax, customs and price policies of the states in
question-which is why farm prices in the sub-region (Senegal, Gambia,
Mauritania, Mali and Niger) and region (Nigeria, Cdlvoire, Senegal,
Mali and so on) have to be harmonised.
Towards a solution
-The countries in question could agree to common prices for some
cereals, in the light of the different transport and marketing costs and
-Regional food security stocks, gradual production cost
alignment measures and more technical cooperation (meetings of national experts
and then of Ministers of Agriculture, Finance, Cooperation etc. in the form of
quarterly meetings, lectures and work sessions coordinated by CILSS could be
arranged in the short and medium term.
In the immediate future, CILSS (the Permanent Inter-State
Committee on Drought Control in the Sahel) could, say, take the initiative for a
meeting to discuss this in 1991. Although there is a lot of controversy over
regional exchange rate harmonisation, the World Bank, the French Treasury and
the various States could come to some provisional arrangement. The problem is
one that will of course come up in the medium term with the opening of the
single European market in 1993. A provisional solution, or even a permanent one,
could be found at that time. Sub-regional-and then regional-harmonisation of
structural adjustment policies could be outlined with the help of the World
Bank, the other funders and the states concerned- although the question is one
which is often only seen from a national angle.
Table 1: Price producers obtained for
maize, 1981-82, November - April
The adjustment of the economies of the Sahel and the whole
series of social and political reforms (protection of the most underprivileged
groups and involvement of the operators, particularly the rural and urban
associations) that goes with it I can only be achieved on a regional basis I and
the World Bank, representatives I the national authorities and, most important,
various African and foreign research workers (in universities, consultancies
etc) interested in the subject should suggest ways of doing this.
Lastly, no regional harmonisation of agricultural and cereal
price policies will ever be successful unless it actively involves CILSS, the
Club du Sahel and the other operators (i.e. the groups of small producers, who
are primarily concerned). Unless there are local non-official powers, regional
harmonisation decisions could well be little more than inefficient red
tape. It is upstream, with the public authorities, and downstream, with the
local operators, that the question of regional integration has to be envisaged
in both the Sahel and on the continent as a whole.
Without local democracy, without fresh responsibility for the
local operators, no cereal policy (at either national or local level) will work
and no efficient decentralised development model will emerge. So lessons should
be learned from the NGOs educational approach and the ideas disseminated.
Lastly, in the institutions, the states should try and take a closer lock at the
farm price policy scenarios and their financial consequences on the balance of
Farm price policy scenarios to be investigated
It is worth taking the investigation of farm price policies, and
the effect they have on the balance of payments, further, as this should make
the relevant administrative decisions more efficient.
Although it has shortcomings, the World Banks first study
has at least merit of actually being there. The main virtue of the SEDES 1989
report, by far the fullest and most original, is that it sets out four series of
In particular, Scenario No 3, the quest for greater self
sufficiency in cereals, explores some very interesting ways of setting up
an efficient farm price policy to obtain food security-although it does raise
problems of practical application at an institutional level. The Sahel countries
have to encourage more of these studies to promote the harmonisation of their
The funders, especially the World Bank and the CCCE, have to
give their financial backing to studies of this kind. More generally, they
should increase the flow of finance to help the states bring in the reforms
attendant on the economic social consequences of structural adjustment (finding
work for redundant civil servants and providing selective subsidies for target
groups). Unless the international flow of finance is increased, the Sahel
countries will continue to be prey to damage to the fabric of their societies
and destabilisation of their political situations.
In turn, the Sahel countries, like Senegal, have to use this
improved international financial flow to bring in reforms to go with their
structural adjustment policies, spread the burden of adjustment more fairly (via
tax reforms, educating the people to change their eating habits etc), make a
better job of explaining the scope of the adjustment policies and try to devise
Imported rice has to go up in price if the cereal plan and the
food security policies are to work. But the reform has to be gradual and go hand
in hand with such things as selective subsidies.
It is in its practical arrangements that the Senegalese state
has to try and find flexible answers to the question of higher Thai rice prices.
Both partners have to compromise to get the PASA negotiations off the ground
again, in the interests of the people and the politica. stability of the nation.
When it comes to selective subsidisation, the funders have to be more flexible,
since no country so far has managed to achieve self sufficiency in food without
subsidising its farm sector.
Even developed countries such as Japan subsidise cereals such as
rice, as do the EC Member States and the USA (see table).
Adjustment, a condition of economic development- necessary but
Financial adjustment is unavoidable for the Sahel countries, but
an adjustment policy, while necessary is not sufficient of itself to promote
economic development. Priorities have to be changed to favour economic
development. Institutional, economic and social reforms, first at national and
then at regional level, may suggest a decentralised development model which puts
priority on the needs of the ordinary operator rather than just aiming for
large-scale macro-economic equilibrium.
Table 2: Hypotheses based on the 1 May
Table 3: Subsidisation of main
products (including assimilated transfers) in some developed countries, 1979-80
to 1984-85 (%)
Unless something is done about the dynamics of ordinary society,
there will be no democratic development, no food security, no regional market
and no possible success for structural adjustment. Adjustment will only work if
it adapts to the peasant way of thinking, not vice versa, as has been the case
so far. The natural, Darwinian selection of economic operators and states, as
recommended by the adjustment policies (a real cult of the market and its
comparative advantages), can only hope to succeed if it harmonises with the
Socratic-type approach of the NGOs. And reconciling Darwin and Socrates means
explaining the full complexity of the links between economic development and
structural adjustment. Greater emphasis has to go on Socrates and his approach.
Economic development is not only a financial parameter. It is a fact of life.