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Senegal's Peanut Farmers Suffer from Poor Rains

Poor rains this year have caused problems across West Africa, especially for crop-deprived farmers. In Senegal, peanuts are the main cash crop. Farmers depend on them for 90 percent of their revenue, but this year the little money they will make will quickly dry up. VOA's Nico Colombant reports from central Senegal in what is known as the peanut basin.

Peanut farmer Gallo Ka is complaining.

His shed in the village of Thicath Diery, outside Kaolack, is nearly empty.

He says where in a good year he would have 30 to 40 100-kilogram bags of peanuts inside his shed to sell, he now only has seven.

He says if you do not have livestock, other crops or money to buy new seeds, you have nothing, he says, you really have nothing.

These women and children, working out in the fields since six in the morning, really do have nothing. They planted their seeds too late on their own land, because they could not afford seeds in the beginning of the planting season.

The rains in July and August were too few and far in between for them to have any sizable crop.

They have been given permission to look for peanuts on someone else's land, not to sell, but simply to feed themselves.

Marianna Ka, 70, works while babysitting a grandchild. She says her life is difficult, but that she has no choice than to be out here, under a broiling sun, hunched over, clawing at parched land.

It is market day, in the nearest city, Mbirkilane.

Peanut sellers, resellers and exporters come from across Senegal, and from other countries as well.

Reseller Mariam N'Diaye is also complaining. She says the few peanuts that have come to this wholesale market, so far this year, are of very poor quality.

Senegalese government officials say they expect only about 420,000 tons of peanuts being produced in-country this year compared to 460,000 tons in 2006, which was also a bad year with poor, inconsistent rains.

Production used to be around one million tons per year. Senegalese non-governmental organizations are warning that about 70 percent of peanut farming families will have huge difficulties finding money to buy food within three months.