Positive youth development in Senegal

Students from the primary school gardening with students from Virginia Tech, ENSA, and ISFAR; 4-H school garden project.

Students from the primary school gardening with students from Virginia Tech, ENSA, and ISFAR.

By Ozzie Abaye, Bineta Guesse, Kathleen Jamison, and Tom Archibald in collaboration with ENSA, ISFAR, ANCAR, and Peace Corps-Senegal

About 4-H

4-H, the youth development branch of U.S.D.A. and Cooperative Extension, provides programming that invests in young people to evolve as independent, contributing and caring members of society. 4-H provides a positive foundation for youth by cultivating the essential elements of belonging, mastery, independence and generosity. Most of the 4-H programs are designed to engage, excite and integrate young people in the field of agriculture while offering opportunities for them to address larger global issues related to food security and environmental, social, and political needs. The 4-H curriculum and supporting programs fuse the social, cultural, and agricultural aspects of a community through hands-on experiential learning activities.

Virginia 4-H

In March, 2015, USAID-Education Research in Agriculture, a project funded by USAID and managed by Virginia Tech, launched a Positive Youth Development program based on 4-H principles in Senegal. The project is partnered with four American research institutions (research institutions, Michigan State, Purdue, and Tuskegee) and several Senegalese agricultural universities. The five-year project adapted the Extension model of the land-grant university system that encompasses agricultural education, discovery, and outreach. The overall goal of the project is to revitalize the agricultural sector through education, research and discovery, and outreach. USAID-ERA sees the 4-H Youth Development program as a model that will assist Senegalese youth and families in addressing the fundamental causes of food insecurity. There is no better way to look at the basis of global food crises and security than directly working with the most affected segments of the population, children and women. The overall objective of establishing a Positive Youth Development Program in Senegal based on the 4-H Model is to invigorate, mobilize, motivate and most of all empower youth to take charge of the social, economy, and agricultural issues facing their communities.


March 2015: USAID-ERA in collaboration with the Virginia Cooperative Extension/4-H,  Ecole Nationale Superieure D’Agriculture, Institute Supérieur De Formation Agricole et Rurale, local Peace Corps volunteers, Peace Corps/Senegal, Kaolack Univerity, Senegal’s Ministry of Higher Education, County representatives and other government officials launched 4-H Positive Youth Development program in Senegal (Table 1). The 10-day program included training 25 individuals consisting of community leaders, local and Peace Corps volunteers, faculty from USAID-ERA partner institutions (ENSA and ISFAR), ANCAR and government officials. The overall objectives of the training program were to work as a team to set program goals, develop life skills, and establish a safe and positive learning environment for youth to develop self-efficacy in meeting the needs of the community. Specific objectives included the establishment of 4-H clubs; identification of projects that serve and directly meet the immediate and long term needs of the community while providing the young people with effective learning activities that address social, cultural and agricultural issues across the curriculum. During the 10-day program, the team established three youth clubs with different goals and objectives: Ndoumbouji primary school (ages 8-13), the village of Santanba (ages 7-15) and Toubacouta (ages 15 -17).

Table 1. List of names and organization involved in the initiation and development of 4-H Senegal

Personnel involved Institution
Bineta Khalla Guisse, Gender Coordinator and Outreach USAID/ERA USAID/ERA
Mouhamed Manga, Program Support USAID/ERA
Mamadou Thiam Diop, Nematologist ENSA
Mor Seck, Instructor ISFAR
Alkaly Badji, Instructor ISFAR
Alioune Diouf, Local Extension Agent ANCAR/Kaolack
Famara Massaly (program director) andPeace Corps volunteers from Toubacouta Peace Corps-Senegal
Kathleen Jamison, 4-H Youth Development Virginia Tech
Thomas Archibald, Department of agricultural, leadership, and community education Virginia Tech
Ozzie Abaye, Professor of Agronomy andInternational Research and Development Virginia Tech
Representatives from: Kaolack University, Ministry of Higher Education-Senegal, Ministry of Agriculture-Senegal, the villages of Toubacouta and surrounding villages

Follow Ups

April 2015: A team consisted of Bienta Guisse, gender and 4-H coordinator and outreach officer – USAID-ERA, faculty members from ENSA and ISAR, an Extension agent from ANCAR-Kaolack visited the club mentors, leaders, and the three 4-H clubs at Toubacouta, Santanba, and the Ndoumbouji elementary school. The newly formed clubs have been working with their mentors, volunteers, and community leaders to come up with service projects. The 4-H clubs formed in March 2015 have already set new goals for their prospective 4-H clubs. According to Guisse, the community as well as the club members showed undeniable passion and enthusiasm for 4-H. The club leaders have been fully utilizing the lessons they learned during the training sessions (pedagogical practices that are experiential learning in the context of community service). Furthermore, the mentors/advisors from ENSA (Thiam Diop) and ISFAR (Mor Seck) expressed high level of enthusiasm and desire to advance the universal goal and theme of 4-H – “to make BEST BETTER”.

June 2015: Facilitated by USAID-ERA and led by partner institutions (ENSA, ESFAR, ANCAR), there were  visits to the three 4-H clubs and the associated club mentors/advisors/leaders and local Peace Corps volunteers. The 4-H clubs continued to make progress through higher level of engagement within their communities. The Santanba 4-H club is working side-by-side with the local women’s organization. It is actively raising funds through such activities as: selling tickets to watch a wrestling game; selling vegetable seedlings; getting paid for helping build the community center, a project already underway at Santanba village.

The Ndoumbouji primary school 4-H club continues with the school garden project initiated by students from Virginia Tech who came to Senegal in 2013 and worked with students from ENSA and ISFAR on several community service projects. The gardening exercise at the primary school appears to give the students a sense of pride, ownership, and responsibility for producing their own food. The 4-H club is expanding the garden project beyond the school grounds to adjacent communities. Several project ideas are being proposed by the club and the mentors.

Activities during the launching of the 4-H program at Toubacouta, March 2015.

Activities participants during the launching of the 4-H program at Toubacouta, March 2015.

The Toubacouta 4-H club is a little different from the other two clubs. The club members are older (14-19 years of age), and a number of them are planning to attend the University du Sin Saloum de Kaolack or go to a career in agriculture. Thus, the purpose of the 4-H curriculum would be to help the youth develop skills and knowledge in career exploration in agriculture and related fields. Future training programs for this club need to include career-oriented skills such as developing business plans and solving agricultural production constraints such as: soil fertility, water use efficiency, seed quality and quantity etc.

Following the visits with the 4-H clubs and project evaluation, the club advisors/mentors and facilitators met to discuss how to strengthen the working relationship between the various actors. Dr. Famara Massaly (Peace Corps-Senegal program director) was instrumental in reinforcing Peace Corps volunteers’ role and responsibility in assisting with the 4-H clubs.


Primary school students with the founding mother Bineta Guesse.

Primary school students with the founding mother Bineta Guesse.

Agriculture is the back bone of Senegal’s economy. The agricultural sector employs 75 percent of Senegal’s 13 million people. However, the lack of clear connectivity between the various agricultural sectors makes it impossible to measure any advancement in the agriculture. One of the objectives of the USAID-ERA is to advocate the Land Grant model which encompasses the three missions: discovery, education, and outreach. 4-H is the youth outreach program born from the land-grant universities and Cooperative Extension in the U.S. 4-H emphasizes the importance of young people being engaged in and well –informed about their communities. By connecting with their communities, the young people understand their role and contributions to the social, economic and growth of their community. 4-H trains young adults to be leaders in agricultural practices and health related issues, including food security and nutrition. Thus, the initiation of a 4-H program in Senegal would be the key to bridge the agricultural sectors in Senegal. Aligning and partnering Senegal’s 4-H Youth Development Programming with Virginia 4-H provides opportunities for coaching and mentoring with adult volunteers and youth programming.

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