In late November, Lenny Baer, Vibrant Village Foundation’s Program Director in Ghana and Philip Bune, VVF Ghana’s borehole mechanic, traveled to central Senegal to visit CREATE!, one of our grant partners. During their six-day trip, Lenny and Philip learned about CREATE!'s cooperative garden program and gained valuable insights into cookstove construction, village savings and loan associations, chicken farming and other appropriate technologies.
Philip touring a garden in Senegal
On their visit, Lenny and Philip were struck by many of the similarities and differences between the communities where they work in Northern Ghana and the communities where CREATE! works.
“In Senegal, we saw many of the same vegetables that we have in Ghana, including okra, moringa, and a green tomato-like vegetable that we call ‘kombye.’ We also saw vegetables that are either uncommon or unavailable in Fielmuo, like eggplant and a red variety of turnip that looks like parsnip.” It was also interesting to see the differences in how people consume vegetables, Lenny explained, “In Ghana, people eat spinach-like leaves as part of stews whereas in Senegal, people reportedly throw the leaves away.”
It was clear from their visit that Senegal’s rainy season is much shorter, which poses more severe challenges around food security. Lenny remarked that, “the soil in Senegal is also much sandier, which makes it even more amazing to see beautiful lettuce growing in a desert.”
With CREATE! Lenny and Philip had the opportunity to attend a formal Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) meeting. Lenny’s team has not worked directly with VSLA’s before, but have a sense that the VSLA program in their area, which was disseminated many years ago through Plan Ghana, has strayed from the original concept over time. After seeing an example of best practices and realizing the extent of the problem in the Fielmuo area, Lenny is hoping to integrate VSLAs into several of their projects and emphasize the benefits of strong savings groups.
VSLA meeting with CREATE! in Senegal
During their visit, Lenny and Philip also participated in a cookstove construction demonstration using clay, sand, millet husks, and water, all of which are also available in the Fielmuo area. Upon their return from Senegal, Philip built a cookstove for a member of the soap making group in Fielmuo. According to Lenny, “It was not as polished in appearance as the one made in Senegal, but it was a wonderful start.” Philip and a group of interested women have since completed five more cookstoves. Each cookstove is better than the previous one, as Philip and the women gain experience.
Stove construction workshop in Senegal Philip building a stove in Ghana
Lenny and Philip were excited to bring back many new ideas and experiences to share with their team. They extend a huge thank you to all the staff at CREATE!, to the community members they met in Senegal, and to Vibrant Village for sponsoring the exchange.
Thanks to the CREATE! Team for a fruitful exchange