Since my new research project is focused on using crop isotope values to discover how ancient farming practices changed in West Africa, I have just spent two weeks in Senegal. This is where I will return next year to collect pearl millet grains and see what effects farming practices—manuring, composting, terracing etc.—have on their isotope values.
My contact in Senegal (although he now lives in the US) is Dr Makhtar Diop, founder of the Regenerative Agriculture Resource Center and someone with a long history of working with farmers to improve the size and longterm success of their crop yields in traditional ways.
Makhtar is a fountain of knowledge and has a fantastic relationship with the farmers that he has worked with in the past. We visited three villages in the region of Thiès, a couple of hours from the capital, Dakar. It had rained a few days before we arrived and people were frantically sowing their millet using clever sowing machines that are dragged along behind a horse, simultaneously making a groove and dropping the seeds at regular intervals. I can scarcely believe that in 4 months time there will be a swaying field of millet in place of this sandy soil!