Senegal women revitalize rural economy with food processing
Seven years ago five women from Khelcom Birane, a village in central Senegal, set up a farming cooperative with only $10.
The Amath Ly group has now grown to 30 members running a successful food processing and preservation business with a monthly turnover of $875 and plans for growth.
When the rural exodus drove down demand for their crops, the Amath Ly group had to reinvent their business to make a living.
“Agriculture was our main source of livelihood, but no matter how cheaply we sold our produce, we couldn’t manage to sell it all,” says Fatou Ndiaye, the group’s president. "That’s when we had the idea to transform our unsold stock into processed food products. We started drying fruits and vegetables in the sun, turning them into concentrates, canned vegetables, millet semolina, etc., and then we sold them in town.
“However a few years on, we still struggled to make a healthy turnover as our lack of technical skills, poor knowledge of conservation and hygiene processes, and inadequate equipment impacted the quality of our products,” she explained.
The turning point came when the women started working with Energy 4 Impact.
We could see that with tailor-made business and marketing support, there was considerable income potential for this women’s cooperative,
says Abdoul Dosso, Project manager, Energy 4 Impact. “We helped them to diversify and strengthen their operations with advice on business management, processing and packaging techniques, and sales and marketing.
We connected them with buyers and helped them to access international markets.
To improve product quality and cut down the time and labour needed to dry the produce, we helped them obtain a loan from a local microfinance institution to purchase a solar drier, as part of a women economic empowerment initiative funded by the Swedish Postcode Foundation.
The Amath Ly range now has 15 products and is marketed across Kaolack, Fatick, Kaffrine and Dakar. The processing really adds value; cereal products sell for $1.4 per kilo, compared to only 0.37 cents for the raw product, increasing cereal sales from $172 to $350 per month.
“The advice, training and access to finance that we got from Energy 4 Impact has turned around our business,” said Fatou Ndiaye. “We can now offer distribution jobs to young people in the village and our ambition is to establish ourselves nationally and certify our products for export. Our increased profits mean we can complete the construction of our production unit and buy a juice machine and solar mill to diversify further.