The arid regions of Louga and Matam in northern Senegal are vulnerable to droughts and land degradation, which are exacerbated by climate change with severe impacts on human well-being and livelihoods. Moreover, the increasing pressure on natural resources, including water, has led to numerous conflicts and reinforced existing inequities in the access to basic needs and services.

In the face of such challenges, one of the best opportunities we have to define pathways towards desired and inclusive futures is through dialogues.

How do we design pathways to sustainable and just futures?

Plurality is the key. Through a science-action research process, XPaths researchers have been organizing and facilitating multi-actor dialogues in each case study. These dialogues are based on the conviction that diverse groups of actors can craft together a mixed bag of solutions, rather than assuming there is a single answer that fits all.

Multi-actor dialogues on how to reach the Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs) in Senegal. Photo by Deborah Goffner

The Senegal Xpaths team, Deborah Goffner, Amadou Diallo, and Claire Stragier, in partnership with the National Water and Forest Direction and the Senegalese NGO CERFLA (Centre d’Etudes, de Recherche et Formation en Langues Africaines) brought together a diverse group of actors to participate in multiple dialogues.

The list of active participants includes local communities such as livestock herders, farmers, fishers, youth and women’s groups, as well as actors working at a regional and national level with expertise in different food production systems. They included ministerial policymakers, national and international NGOs, academics and research institutions, and international funding agencies.

Finding the right pathways means considering different realities and cultural contexts in which the actors are immersed. In that way, actors participating in the process may co-construct and express the best way forward. For example, community-based management of natural resources is one of the most commonly expressed aspirations by local participants in Senegal.

The transdisciplinary navigation of Xpaths dialogues enriches the overall process in itself

The transdisciplinary navigation (meaning researchers from different disciplines alongside actors outside of academia) during these dialogues also enables the identification of “low hanging fruit’ actions, even before the full dialogue process is finalized. This means that participants perceive the immediate benefits from the dialogue process, which has stimulated ongoing and further engagement.

For instance, the participation of national networks, international organizations, and funding agencies in recent Senegalese dialogues is deemed as a promising way to orient funding to more inclusive bottom-up approaches for existing and future development initiatives.

Photo by Deborah Goffner.

The plurality of insights and perspectives gained from these multi-actor dialogues will allow XPaths to generate a better and shared understanding of how to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals in drylands regions.

By building on such understanding, these series of dialogues are starting points to strengthen coalitions among key actors and collaboratively create action plans toward just and sustainable futures.

So, stay tuned! because more exciting news from XPaths dialogues is coming.