In 2010, the Dakar-based company Sénéthanol SA was granted 20 000 hectares of land in the Fanaye region in order to cultivate sweet potatoes for the production of biofuels for Europe. Most of the local people who depend on this land for their food and livelihoods firmly opposed this proposal. Tension mounted rapidly and culminated in tragedy on October 26th 2011, when two villagers were killed and dozens of others were injured during an organized protest against the project. In reaction, the Senegalese President at that time – Abdoulaye Wade – temporarily suspended official approval for this project. However, in March 2012, between the two rounds of the presidential election, he re-authorised the project in the natural reserve of Ndiaël, which lies 30 km to the west of Fanaye. In order to grant this re-authorisation, the now-former President Wade declassified 26 650 hectares of a protected area, granting 20 000 hectares to Sénéthanol SA and reserving the remaining 6 650 hectares for the relocation of villages located within the area.
Following the national elections, the current president, Macky Sall, cancelled the project only to once again re-authorise it several months later. The operations have since been implemented by Senhuile SA, a joint venture owned by the Italian-based Tampieri Financial Group – which holds a 51% stake in the venture – and Sénéthanol SA, which holds the remaining 49% stake. The project now aims to produce sunflower (for Europe), peanut seeds (for the local market), and food supplies for livestock. The true intentions of Senhuile SA in terms of cultivation and use of the land remain unclear.
The project zone affects 37 villages, representing a population of up to 9 000 people, who live primarily on semi-nomadic farming with an estimated 100 000 livestock. The operations of the company prevent these villagers from using most of their grazing land, and deprive them of access to food, water and firewood. Women in particular must now cross large distances in order to retrieve these vital and basic resources. Furthermore, while Senhuile SA envisages that certain villages will be displaced, it has not yet kept its promises to construct infrastructures such as schools and hospitals and to create a certain number of jobs in the region. In fact, it has provided practically no compensation to the affected populations. Facing the threat of being driven from their land, the inhabitants of this area are no longer able to support their own needs and those of their families.
I was informed that your operations in the Ndiaël region of Senegal affect 37 villages and constitute a major risk for the food sovereignty of almost 9 000 inhabitants, who find themselves without access to their grazing land, sources of water, and basic social infrastructures.
I thank you in advance for your action in ending this grave injustice,Yours sincerely,
Collective of 37 villages for the Defence of the Ndiaël Reserve
Conseil National de Concertation et de Coopération des Ruraux