Conflicting Visions of Sustainable Development: Struggles over the Production of Eco-Cities in Dakar | Senegal


The concept of sustainability has been invoked to advocate a wide variety of environmental and economic development projects. Most recently, calls for the ‘sustainable development’ of urban centers in the global South have sought to address environmental and social problems associated with informal housing settlements. This presentation examines debates –among a variety of public and private actors- over how to counteract the proliferation of informal housing settlements and manage natural resources in Senegal’s rapidly urbanizing Dakar Region. In doing so, I draw from ethnographic research and textual analysis to examine conflicts that have developed over how sustainable development should be practiced in urban Dakar. Through an examination of several conflicts that have developed from recent efforts to plan and construct ‘eco-cities’, I argue that actors are struggling over a/how to best preserve urban farmland and floodplains and b/the extent to which middle-class and elite housing estates should be integrated into urban development strategies. In addressing the outcomes of these struggles over sustainable urban development, I contend that these conflicts are reconfiguring Dakar’s urban landscape and increasing urban poverty and inequality.

5 thoughts on “Conflicting Visions of Sustainable Development: Struggles over the Production of Eco-Cities in Dakar | Senegal

  1. After hearing the talk all I have are a bunch of questions and thoughts that come to mind. It is a lot to take in and consider the information about the loss of agricultural land to development. Can zoning help or can it hurt? Can anything ever work out to help benefit the greater good? Can sustainable agriculture work hand in hand with sustainable development? Can the farmers and developers adapt to learn to live or operate next to one another? Is there a way to rethink how we live, how our houses look to work with agriculture? Then there is the issue of access to water and preventing those that are using untreated waste water. Maybe the runoff and waste water produced by the housing and other development can be a source of water that can be used by the nearby farmers after being treated in a system near by. Then there are the opportunities of designing new housing types. As I think of these things I can’t help but be negative in that there are going to be people and families that the changes will unfairly affect while someone that does not even live in the area benefits. Progress and change takes time and I am started to wonder if anyone really has the answers. It will be interesting to see the progress in five years.

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  2. This talk by Nicole List about urban agriculture in Senegal was interesting. Before this talk I honestly could not have pictured the situation she described and showed. Her photos were enlightening in this regard: Large swaths of riparian land and beyond under different stages of cultivation against urbanized edges of many styles and eras. It is landscape very different from anything around here. It’s existence today due to what was described as a well-organized group of farmers. It is impressive they have been able to hold out against the pressures of development for this long. Growing cities have a way of filling in open space.
    That being said the major issue is, as always: water. Access to water will ultimately determine which farms remain viable and which will dry up and likely sold or simply built upon. Given the context of this lecture I think climate change will have a profound impact on the future of this site and its ability to continue as agricultural land.

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  3. The division in farmers was thought provoking when listening to this speaker. As the Dakar region turns the urban farmland into housing developments the newer farmers are on higher ground but the “older” farmers are on lower ground with easier access to water for farming and fishing needs. In the face of challenges you would think the new versus old farmers would band together to carry out their work but that was not the case at first. I was pleased to hear that in the 1977 watershed movement struggles over floriculture enterprise the old and new farmers did join forces to combat the issue. In addition to the conflicts over land ownership between the famers, the water access is a crucial problem. It is unfortunate that when government shutdown water passing zones, the higher elevation farming was abandoned. I cannot image having to just walk away from my livelihood and find other means of providing for a family.

    One comment that baffled me during the discussion was the discrepancy over the world sustainability. I do not fully agree that the term should go undefined because it has multiple meanings. I feel as though the multiple meanings ought to be more detailed and encompassing of varying scenarios. While I do agree sustainability is a buzz word, hot topic, or catch phrase; its overall message should not be lessen due to its growing popularity.

    The topic of sustainable agriculture leaves me with a few final questions. Ultimately, as we seek to live now with the future in mind, do we hinder the ways of life for the present stakeholders? How can we increase housing for the future without displacing the present families due to abandoned farming?

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  4. This presentation was yet another example of when rapidly urbanizing areas disregard the need for farming land and rather build spaces that are not always beneficial to the people but serve as sources of entertainment. The fight that the farmers in Dakar have has not been easy and in order to keep their farming grounds they sell land among each other to prevent land from falling into developers hands. I was shocked that developers have thought of building a wrestling arena where farming land exists. The idea of a wrestling arena is not nearly as important as farming for the people of Dakar. In an especially urbanizing area there is a need of food and by taking land away from these farmers they are also decreasing the amount of food that can be bought locally. This presentation offered me with a great example of the constant battles around the world of urbanizing cities vs. agricultural land.

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  5. The lecturer for this, Nicole List, has played an integral role in bringing improvements to Dakar in Senegal. I thought that she did some incredibly things there and has implemented a sustainable long-term track for improvement.
    Dakar itself is ranked #10 on Royder’s list of worst cities in the world. They have an increasing population, severe droughts, immense poverty, and many other problems as well. There population consists of a large number of farmers who are being forced to sell off land due to no water access. The government has begun to use wastewater programs to try and bring water to the farmers, but it has not been able to help the farmers at higher evolution. I thought it was incredible that they have been able to help at least 50 farmers thus far get water with pipes and other sources. They have also gotten some of these farmers using horses, dramatically increasing their capabilities to farm the land. Furthermore her goal of creating sustainable urbanization through the creation of homogenous areas was very admirable and will hopefully yield a lot of long-term benefits.
    I did find it a bit disappointing however that there reach has been so limited. Though I think the implementation of pipes to get water to the farmers is a good idea, there effect has been extremely limited. I believe they should focus more on improving the waste water system and collecting water more effectively during the rainy season to provide the farmers. If they want any real change it seems like they are going to need to get these changes in place as soon as possible as the farmers have been selling off their land en masse in the last few years.
    Though I believe that there organization’s time could be better spent focusing on different areas of water conservation, I still believe that they are helping the country get back on track with horses and other systems.


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