The Potential for Private Irrigation in Senegal

Throughout the developing world, the dissemination of irrigation equipment can help farmers mitigate a principle risk of agricultural production: variable rainfall. This risk affects farmers’ food securities, livelihoods, and cropping choices. However, the system of irrigation equipment distribution and use brings about its own risks, both for the farmers that use the equipment and for the shops that distribute it. How these risks are arranged across shops and farmers is a major policy concern. Some arrangements of risk may disadvantage more rural shops and poorer farmers. This study brings together a multidisciplinary faculty and student research team from across MIT to examine under what conditions supply chains and extension services shape risks faced by shops and farmers , using a case study of the Senegalese irrigation sector. This study uses surveys of firms, government officials, voluntary associations, and farmers to characterize the risks inherent to sales, use, and repairs. We pay particular attention to the spatial patterns of risk, and the degree to which those patterns reflect where sales, use, and repairs are located. Irrigation access and availability lies at the center of Senegal’s food security and economic policies. These policies aim to achieve self-sufficiency in irrigated rice production and increases in vegetable production. Like in other countries, these policies rely on private supply chains and large public-private schemes, reflecting reforms in the 1980s that shifted the distribution and management of agricultural equipment to the private sector and pared down the capacity of the public sector to intervene in agricultural markets.

This project was funded by a J-WAFS seed grant.

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Operations, risk, and small firms: Field results from irrigation equipment vendors in Senegal

What are supply chain management challenges in a lower-income economy, and how do managers at smaller firms address them? This field study presents these challenges from the perspective of the 60 managers who run firms selling irrigation equipment in Senegal. By canvasing 35 cities, we gain unique visibility into how private supply chains, on which public officials and smallholder farmers in Africa rely, effectively deliver agricultural goods. The primary challenges for managers in this supply chain are day-to-day risks that are quality and contractual in nature and have financial implications. City size in combination with supplier type, firm size, and manager network determine risk exposure. Firms’ efforts to manage the chain are more reactive than proactive and more informal than formal, which reveals an opportunity for public agencies to support supplier and customer coordination. Public decision makers should tailor support to account for the differential risks that city size brings to supply chain management. This support should include not just financing the firms directly but should also entail giving loans to customers, certifying suppliers, and sharing inventory risk with public and nonprofit partners.