Aissatou is a millet farmer in Kaolack, Senegal. Her family farm, like most in sub-Saharan Africa, is what is called a ‘smallholder’ farm. Smallholder farms are small plots of land less than five acres in size, yet these small-scale farms produce the vast majority of food in Africa. Despite this, smallholder farmers are extremely likely to suffer from malnutrition and are among the most vulnerable to cyclical poverty.
Every season, smallholders are faced with tremendous challenges just to simply process their harvest into consumable food. Throughout sub-Saharan Africa, women like Aissatou are responsible for the majority of this postharvest labor. Many of them still use traditional methods of processing grain. Methods that are not only incredibly time-consuming, but also take a physical toll on their bodies. The use of the large, heavy mortar and pestle wears their hands until they are so rough, dry and calloused that, “when we shake hands with somebody, they believe we have blades in our palms.”
To process their crops, the women wake before sunrise and continue the grueling task well into the afternoon, under the hot, desert sun. Very little time is left in the day to tend to other household chores or other needed activities. Sometimes they send their children to school without breakfast and it isn’t until they are finished after noon that they would be able to feed their children.
As we reach the end of 2019, the world continues to struggle with the dual global challenges of hunger and poverty. 821 million people, 1 in 9 around the world, are undernourished. Although the numbers have decreased in the past few decades, global hunger has been back on the rise in recent years. This reveals that we still have a long way to go to achieve the united goal of #zerohunger.
Bountifield addresses hunger and poverty by focusing on ways to strengthen local food supply and sustainable markets in Africa. We are spearheading efforts to introduce postharvest processing tools and capacity building resources for farmers and entrepreneurs that save time, improve productivity and increase revenue.
With the use of Bountifield’s Pearl Millet Thresher and Multi-Crop Grinder, Fatou, also from Kaolack, Senegal, is now able to step back from the drudgery and arduous work that she has been doing day in and day out to process the crops harvested from her family farm.
Because of Bountifield’s labor-saving tools and support, Fatou notices how the health of her family has improved. She can now afford the things her children need, including doctor visits when a child is sick, and the school supplies required for attendance.
By making crop processing more efficient, women like Aissatou and Fatou now have more time to dedicate to making value-added products including porridge, couscous, flour and more. The food products that she and other women in her village produce can then be brought to market, providing more opportunity to generate income.
Fatou is part of a women’s group comprised of 63 women from her village who jointly contribute to the production and sale of food products. With various training workshops organized in part by Bountifield field staff, the women learn about food safety, including best practices for handling and storage. This introduces alternative methods of processing food that increases the nutritional value and quality of their products. Using these expanded skills, the group prepares couscous, dries it and bags it. They then take the product into the city where they can access additional resources for sealing the bags and procuring product labels from local organizations like the Chamber of Commerce.
Fatou says because of the training provided by Bountifield, her village has become more business oriented. “We present all our products to trade fairs and this helps our business to grow.” In the past year they have been able to attend fairs in Kaolack and send their products to traders who sell them at the markets in Dakar. “The people who buy my products say that it is very good and very clean. At the fair, there are already customers who come back to buy more because they like our product.”
By continuing to invest in the capacity of women like Aissatou and Fatou, we are investing in a tremendous improvement in the day-to-day lived experience of thousands of African women and their families. We are empowering women with new market opportunities in value addition. We are supporting women in the development of stronger food systems within their communities. We are fostering a stronger Africa today that will build for a bountiful tomorrow.