In Senegal, the Vibrant Village Foundation partners with Oregon-based non-profit, Andando, supporting women’s collectives to run community gardens. Recently, Andando completed a solar-powered water borehole project, bringing new irrigation water to the small plots of land run by each cooperative. Madame Diagne, one of the coop’s leaders, oversees a one-hectare market garden and represents the agricultural group made up of 85 women.
“We have organized ourselves into groups of 10, with one woman responsible for each bed,” she tells us. “The group collectively determines what to plant. If they use the produce for their own purpose, they must ‘buy’ it from the group at a reduced price, with all profits going into a collective pot.” Some of the crops in the garden include lettuce, carrots, onions, tomatoes, okra, corn, peppers, eggplant, potatoes and cabbage.
Madame Diagne has encouraged the group to be extra frugal as they start out with their fledgling business. The cooperative already has one steady customer in town: a small, basic motel that purchases 65 pounds of food a week. “We are excited to have customers and now want to develop relationships with more people to keep business steady,” Madame Diagne says.
Thanks to the new solar-powered water borehole, the women’s cooperative will have three harvests this year instead of one, which they hope will allow them to provide a more consistent supply of produce to customers. During the rainy season, the women plant lower-maintenance crops such as hibiscus and okra, while they are busy in the millet and peanut fields providing for their families. Then, during the other two harvests, they will plant higher yield cash crops to generate more revenue for the co-op. Madame Diagne tells us that the group already has plans to purchase a scale to weigh their produce for sale at the market.
By working closely with the Andando garden manager, the co-op is starting to bring soil amendments to their gardens such as manure, peanut shells and other organic matter. These practices and other new techniques will take time since change does not come easily and farmers are often skeptical of new agricultural practices. Yet with water flowing, new technologies, improved practices and burgeoning demand from customers, Madame Diagne is confident the market garden will continue to grow and be a successful, stable source of work and income for these 85 women.
By Molly Rooney
Molly is an Agriculture Volunteer through the U.S. Peace Corps (2012-2014) working in Bugubelle, Ghana.
As a Peace Corps volunteer in the community of Bugubelle in the Sissala East District of the Upper West Region of Ghana, I have the opportunity to work closely with a wonderful women’s soap-making group. The group works together to make a wide variety of soaps that they sell in the local market. To increase their capabilities, some of the women have been looking for a way to start training other women’s groups in soap-making. Recently, we were delighted to receive an invitation from Vibrant Village Foundation for two of the women from Bugubelle to lead a three-day soap-making class for 20 women in Fielmuo. None of us had traveled to Fielmuo before and, although we were nervous to begin the training, we were welcomed warmly by the community. The Fielmuo women were enthusiastic to learn the fundamentals of soap-making and its application as a business in their community.
The training started as soon as we arrived in Fielmuo. The first two days were spent carefully going over the recipes and methods of preparing each kind of soap. The women then mixed the oils and lye. Once soaps hardened, the women got busy stamping and cutting the soaps to create the beautiful final products. The last day was devoted to the Fielmuo trainees showing off their new knowledge by preparing new batches of the soaps they had learned in the training.
Besides the amount of soap produced, what amazed me the most was how enthusiastic all of the women were to get started with work, to help each other, and to stay as late as needed to clean up after the day’s activities. It’s never an inactive period for any of these village women – but they put aside their household activities to do something to better themselves. The support and enthusiasm with which the women received us in Fielmuo made a lasting impression on us. I cannot wait to see the Fielmuo women build upon their training and start making some fabulous soap for sale in their own markets!
Over the past six months, Vibrant Village Foundation has partnered with DESEA Peru, a Peruvian NGO working to improve health of the Quechua people in the Andes mountains, in villages 13,000 feet above sea level.
With our grant support, DESEA Peru is working in the communities of Microcuenca, Ccarampa and Chayna to engage local residents in health trainings and screenings, install bio-sand filters and provide community water, sanitation and hygiene infrastructure projects.
In the last three months the team has distributed 58 bio-sand filters, provided health services to over 200 people and trained community health workers, or qhalis as they are known in the region as, to provide community health outreach in this extremely remote region of South America.
See DESEA Peru's video of their great work.