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Mafé: A Recipe for Community

Peanuts are a central ingredient in Mafé, a popular stew made in West Africa, and soon women in CREATE!’s partner communities will be harvesting peanuts from their fields and making this dish for their families.

We often say that the improved cookstoves we teach communities to build are more than just cookstoves. They are a portal to new partnerships and a way to build community around age-old traditions surviving in a rapidly changing world. Globally, sharing food is one of the most important ways that traditions live on, strengthening family ties and distributing resources.

In Senegal, mafé is one quintessential dish that represents this powerful connection between food and family, and is perfect for preparing on improved cookstoves. Cooked in a large pot and served on a single communal platter from which everyone eats, mafé is a rich, peanut-based stew. Many countries in West Africa serve their own version of this dish. In Senegal, women traditionally cook it with cabbage, okra, and eggplant (popular vegetables grown in our partner communities’ gardens), and serve it with steaming hot rice.

Mafé is served in one communal dish, shared by the whole table. (Image by Grant Cornett, New York Times)

With the annual peanut harvest coming up, many women in our partner communities will soon be preparing this dish over their improved cookstoves, sharing it among their friends, families, and neighbors.  While there are many ways to make mafé with chicken, lamb, beef, or other meats, try this recipe from the New York Times for a traditional version of the dish:


  • 12 cloves garlic
  • 1 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • Crushed red-pepper flakes
  • 2 pounds bone-in chicken, skin removed
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 6 ounces tomato paste
  • 1 cup creamy unsweetened peanut butter
  • ½ pound green cabbage, cut into 2-inch wedges
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled, cut in 2-inch lengths
  • 1 medium sweet potato
  • 12 ounces waxy potatoes, like Yukon Gold
  • Scotch Bonnet chili slices, to taste (optional)
  • White rice, cooked, for serving


Cooking Directions: 

Step 1: Finely mince 6 cloves garlic and the ginger with a pinch of salt, plenty of black pepper and crushed red-pepper flakes to taste. Season chicken all over with salt, and rub with the garlic mixture. Marinate for three hours or overnight, refrigerated.

Step 2: Finely chop the remaining 6 cloves of garlic. In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. When it is hot, add the onion, chopped garlic, 2 teaspoons kosher salt and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes, until the onion is starting to become translucent. Stir in the fish sauce, then the tomato paste, and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes, until the paste and onions have combined and are a shade darker. Stir in 6 cups water, scraping up any browned bits.

Step 3: Add the chicken, bring to a boil and turn heat down to a moderate simmer. In a mixing bowl, stir a cup of the cooking liquid into the peanut butter, a splash at a time, to loosen it. Pour the peanut butter mixture into the pot, and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the cabbage and carrots, and simmer 10 minutes. Peel and cut the sweet potato and waxy potatoes into 1 1/2-inch chunks, add them and simmer 30 minutes, until the vegetables and chicken are tender and the sauce is like a very thick gravy. (The oil will be separating in the sauce.) If the chicken and vegetables are tender but the sauce is still a little loose, remove them, and let the sauce cook down. Add the chili if using. Taste, adjust seasoning with salt and serve over white rice.

Tabaski Mubarak!

On Eid al-Adha, known as Tabaski in Wolof, families will celebrate with feasts, dancing, and visiting with friends and neighbors

This Friday, Sept. 1st marks the beginning of Eid al-Adha, a four-day Islamic festival celebrated worldwide every year. Known as Tabaski in Senegalese Wolof, the festival honors the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son Ishmael, as an act of obedience to God’s command. According to the holy story, before he sacrificed his son, God intervened by sending a ram in his son’s place.

In commemoration of this, on Tabaski families slaughter a ram in ritual sacrifice after sunrise prayers at the local mosque. Traditionally, one third of the ram is kept and eaten by the family, one third is given to friends, neighbors and relatives, and one third is given to the poor. Over 90% of Senegal’s population is Muslim, and many people travel to their home villages to share a feast with their families, eating the ram, vegetables, rice, and sauces.

Garden cooperative members in CREATE!’s partner communities will harvest vegetables to be shared at their family feasts.

Families save all year to purchase a ram for the celebration. In the weeks leading up to the holiday, traders bring hundreds of thousands of sheep to Senegal from Mali and Mauritania and corral them in pens in Dakar and other cities. In CREATE!’s partner communities, women will sell off their poultry, VSLAs will do financial share-outs, and vegetables will be harvested for the feast. In addition, gifts are exchanged between family and friends, and people have new clothes made to wear for their dances and celebrations.

To our field staff and all CREATE! community members: tabaski mubarak!

Photo Highlights from the Field

Last month was busy for the CREATE! field team in Senegal. With three new partner communities (Mboss, Santhie, and Wéréyane) getting started on various projects, from improved cookstove trainings to well rehabilitations, our technicians have been hard at work. Check out some of the highlights from July’s projects through these latest photos from the field.

The village of Fass Kane graduated from CREATE!’’s program last year, and the community garden has continued to thrive, thanks to the hard work and dedication of the garden cooperative members who tend to it daily.


Fass Kane’s garden includes fruit and nut trees, many of which are beginning to bear fruit this time of year with the help of the rainy season.


Community members of Back Samba Dior take advantage of the summer rains to get work done in their community garden.


CREATE!’ technicians and volunteers from the village of Santhie finished their well rehabilitation project last month, emptying out the debris and mud from the bottom, and enabling it to fill with clean, fresh water once more.


One of CREATE!’’s newest partner communities, Mboss, is beginning to establish its first cooperative community garden, with training from CREATE!’’s technicians. Members learn sustainable and effective growing techniques, as well as how to manage the garden efficiently for their village.


Community members in Mboss begin to prepare their field for planting vegetables that they will harvest in the coming months. With their newly installed solar water pump, they will be able to plant different varieties of vegetables year-round, even after the rainy season comes to an end.


Women in the village of Keur Daouda have already begun to harvest peppers from their cooperative community garden. Anything they don’t use for their families will be sold at the local market and profits can be invested into their VSLA program.


Wéréyane is CREATE!’’s newest partner community, so their first project has been to participate in improved cookstove trainings. Having shown a high level of interest in, and commitment to CREATE!’’s program, they will begin taking part in CREATE!’s other projects over the coming months.

Well Rehabilitation in Santhie

Water truly means life for people who live in desert regions of Senegal, like the village of Santhie, one of CREATE!’s newest partner communities. However, it can also be one of the biggest challenges to address. Up until about 40 years ago, rural villages maintained their own wells, but when the government began making water available through a commercial system, these wells were abandoned, and in some cases, became trash pits. Over the years, however, commercial water has become cost prohibitive for use in growing food for local consumption.  Yet, thousands of wells remain, offering untapped potential as sources of clean, affordable water.

The new, locally built winch system uses hand cranks, powered by volunteers from the village, to bring equipment and people up and down from the well in order to rehabilitate it for use again.

Determined to find a local solution to bring affordable and abundant water back to Santhie, the CREATE! team in Senegal, under the guidance of CREATE! Founder Barry Wheeler, worked with a local fabricator to design a human-powered winch system that could lower people and equipment down into the wells to clean them out and rehabilitate them. An impressive example of how appropriate technologies, combined with community mobilization, can solve a longstanding problem.

Volunteers and CREATE! staff spent about a week hauling up mud and trash from the well in Santhie in order to clean it out

The winch has proven to be both affordable (costing only about $500 to build), and efficient, as it can be loaded in the back of CREATE!’s pickup truck and taken wherever it’s needed. With the help of CREATE! technicians and expert well builders, young men from Santhie organized to clear the well of its 40 years’ worth of trash debris, clean it, rebuild the walls, and fully rehabilitate it.

The new winch system is safer than the old methods for lowering people down into the wells, using extra safety ropes and a seat

The project has been an outstanding success. When fully operational, and outfitted with a solar powered pump, the well will once again provide the community of Santhie with a renewable source of clean, abundant water.  We send our enthusiastic congratulations to Santhie and the CREATE! team that made it happen!

Volunteers pulled up years and years worth of trash and muck from the well – talk about a dirty job! Major respect for the men who went down into the well to clear it out!

This is an exciting time for CREATE!, as our team works to rehabilitate wells in additional communities. And it is all thanks to the commitment and mobilization of our partner communities, the innovation and organizational skills of the CREATE! field team, and the support of our donors

As a final step, this plate (known as a “dalle de fond”) gets lowered to the bottom of the well so water can bubble up through holes in it, while the plate holds back mud and debris that would interfere with the operation of the solar powered pump.

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