Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

International aid profits Senegal’s women

In Nganda, a remote area in Senegal close to the Gambian border, restaurant owner Aissatou Tisse is carving out a reputation for tasty homemade, locally grown food.

About 100km away in the village of Niakhar, handicapped Daba Dione feeds her family by raising chickens on a modest smallholding. Thanks to a training course in veterinary health, she is routinely consulted by neighbours about their own poultry.

“Today, I have even forgotten the difficulties of the past,” Dione said.

The two have benefited from schemes that seek both to support women’s empowerment and fight poverty in parts of rural Africa.

Khadija Doucoure, who works on gender and youth issues in West Africa for the International Fund for Agricultural Development (Ifad): “We have an enormous need of women. We’re up against the ageing of those who hold land and the phenomenon of migration among men.

“It should be normal for them [women] to have access, like men do, to financial resources, fertilisers, and to be present in decision-making bodies for product marketing.”

United Nations agencies such as Ifad and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) manage projects to help rural women, who account for at least 43% of agricultural labourers worldwide, according to an FAO report.

These women are also responsible for childcare and household tasks but have “limited access to land, credit, information and technologies”, Ifad said in a recent report.

In West and Central Africa, Ifad runs 55 projects that feature gender equality as a goal. Between 2010 and 2015, its projects “reached a total of 139-million people, of whom 43.2-million saw an increase in farm income”, and others built up larger cattle herds or poultry stocks. The support “lifted 24-million people out of poverty”, according to the agency, which said that helping women is “an efficient means of reducing chronic infantile malnutrition.”

Nevertheless, independent analyst Jean-Christophe Debar warned of broader risks if institutional donors such as the FAO and the World Bank concentrate unduly on women because of perceived hardships.

“I’m worried about trendy effects. What we need most is a rural economy that works for everyone,” said Debar, head of the think-tank foundation FARM. “We should not give the impression that it’s enough to focus on women for everything to go well.

“The two main problems in Africa are access to the means of production [land, seeds and fertiliser] and access to the market, with the possibility of selling the harvest at a rewarding price.”

In Nganda, where some families cannot afford all the food they need, Ifad has financed farm support programmes jointly with the Senegalese state since 2012. Villagers are given seeds adapted to survive in drought conditions and also get basic agronomic training in soil management.

Tisse works only with local produce, she told AFP in her small Nganda restaurant where she provided a glass of ruby-red bissap, a popular drink made from dried hibiscus petals.

“We have been able to buy our sheep and horses and we have launched into the production of [groundnut] oil,” said the young woman, who was forced to leave school early after her parents died.

Until the funding scheme began, “we had problems meeting our needs, but now we’re cultivating 200 hectares and we run our own business”, Tisse said.

In Nganda, increased crop production has enabled women to make the most of a bumper harvest by preparing bags of sankhal (processed crushed millet) for desserts and arraw (rolled flour pellets) for porridge.

The women pooled their earnings to set up a bank and lend themselves money for their individual projects at a fixed interest rate of 10%.

Tenning Ngom (27) has been a beneficiary. “My work for the collective is to sieve millet after the harvest. I work from November to February.”

For the rest of the year, Ngom runs a roadside catering concern started when the women’s group lent her money. “My first loan dates from 2015,” she said. “I have paid it all back.” — AFP

Subscribe for R500/year

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and get a 57% discount in your first year.

Isabel Malsang
Isabel Malsang works from Paris, France. Compte au ralenti. #Grèce. Sinon Journaliste @afpfr @AFP: Nourrir le monde/Feed the world #agriculture #alimentation #food #wine #vin #FutureofFood #UE #femmes Isabel Malsang has over 4994 followers on Twitter.

Related stories


If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Subscribers only

Fears of violence persist a year after the murder of...

The court battle to stop coal mining in rural KwaZulu-Natal has heightened the sense of danger among environmental activists

Data shows EFF has lower negative sentiment online among voters...

The EFF has a stronger online presence than the ANC and Democratic Alliance

More top stories

Mkhize throws the book at the Special Investigating Unit

It’s a long shot at political redemption for the former health minister and, more pressingly, a bid to avert criminal charges

Pockets of instability in Kenya are underpinned by unequal development

Stability in Kenya hinges on a just, equitable distribution of resources, and a commitment to progress human development for the marginalised

Eastern Cape premier Mabuyane lives large amid province’s poverty

Oscar Mabuyane and MEC Babalo Madikizela allegedly used a portion of state funds for struggle icon Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s commemoration for their own benefit

Constitutional court confirms warrantless searches in cordoned off areas unconstitutional

The law was challenged in response to raids in inner Johannesburg seemingly targeting illegal immigrants and the highest court has pronounced itself 10 days before an election in which then mayor Herman Mashaba has campaigned on an anti-foreigner ticket

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…