PMIL in Senegal

PMIL researchers in Senegal and the U.S., are working to better understand how molecular variations in the peanut plant genome improve resistance to aflatoxin contamination. Aflatoxins are natural chemicals that are produced by mold that can cause stunting, cancer and even death, in humans and livestock. Researchers are utilizing this information to guide breeding programs.

About Senegal

Senegal is located in western Africa along the Atlantic Ocean. French is the official language, but regional languages are commonly spoken as well, including Wolof and Soninke. Senegal is about the size of the US state of Nebraska.


Senegal has 14 million people with nearly half of the population living below the poverty line. Only 81% of primary school aged children are enrolled, a percentage that is much lower than the sub-Saharan average. In fact, only 57% of the population is literate. Life expectancy in Senegal is 66 years old, above the sub-Saharan average.


Senegal has a tropical climate with two seasons: wet and dry. Average temperatures in Senegal range from 17-26° C (63-79° F). Rainfall averages from 34 cm (13 in) in the north to as much as 155 cm (61 in) in the southwest.


The Senegalese diet relies heavily on cereals (rice, millet, and sorghum), vegetables, and fish. Two of Senegal’s primary food production sectors have been struggling in recent years: peanut production and fisheries.

Challenging economic situations and diet shifts, particularly towards high fat foods, have maintained a high level of undernourished people within the country. About 25% of the population is undernourished.

Peanut Production

Peanuts are one of Senegal’s largest food export products, but the peanut sector has experienced extreme variability. For example, in 2008, the harvest dropped to half. Low rainfall and poor seed quality were to blame. Production has shifted south to areas with more rain availability.

Recently, production has increased and in 2010, the government of Senegal began to allow exports of all types of peanuts, reversing a ban that had been in place during the French Colonial Period. However, primary markets remain domestically based. Smallholders are the primary producers of peanuts.

Country Area Harvested Yield Production
  Acres Hectares Lb/Acre Kg/Hectare Tons Metric Tonnes
Senegal 2,171,213 878,659 680 762 669,329 607,205
United States 1,040,313 421,000 4,011 4,496 2,086,675 1,893,000
Table Data Source (FAOSTAT, 2013)          

Improving the yield Senegalese farmers get from their land would help the smallholder farmers’ bottom line and provide nutritious food for malnourished children.

Local Peanut Facts

  • Mafe,” a peanut butter stew, is a popular Senegalese dish served with white rice.
  • There are three main types of peanuts: oil groundnuts (oil extraction), confectionary groundnuts (some are exported and other are eaten locally), and seed groundnuts.
  • Senegal’s groundnut policies are still largely influenced by controls placed during the Colonial Period.