Archive for the VSLA Category

“CREATE! is like school!”

“Years ago, Darou Diadji was threatened by the desert because there were not many trees and it was very windy and dusty,” says Daba. “Now thanks to CREATE! we have a green oasis and each one of us has trees around the house.”

It’s scorching hot in the village of Darou Diadji, but rain clouds swell in the distance. Summer brings with it the short rainy season, and villagers like Daba Kane take advantage of the weather to help boost their crops. Before CREATE! began working with her community, though, Daba would not have imagined herself working out in the field, tending to her hot pepper plants as she’s doing now. “CREATE! is like school,” she says. “When we started I was a beginner. But now I have skills and knowledge from the technicians, and now I’m able to create my own vegetable garden.”

“Over the last two years my family food has changed because we now eat vegetables every day and have gotten healthier. Before CREATE!, we would go many days without eating vegetables because the village is so far from the market.”

The self-sufficiency and independence that Daba, age 40, has gained from CREATE!’s programs is evident in other parts of her life as well. “Chicken production in the village is a very important source of income for us, along with a source of protein accessible to the villagers,” says Daba. “And it is also a diversification of activities in the rural environment.” Between vegetable gardening, poultry production, tree planting, and their VSLAs, Daba’s community has integrated a well-rounded system of income generation into their daily activities.

Though she enjoys the variety of opportunities now available to her, Daba says her vegetable garden site is her favorite part of CREATE!’s programs. “It’s an activity I’ve wanted to do for a long time and just didn’t know how,” she says. The hardest part about it? “The weeds that grow quickly in the rainy season!” Even with such challenges though, Daba says that having her own vegetable garden has made it so she now eats vegetables daily, it saves her time from having to go buy vegetables, and now enables her to sell her own produce on the market.


Eating Local in Fass Koffe

“Before we began working with CREATE! vegetables we ate were coming from Kaolack but now thanks to the site we are able to eat vegetables without leaving the village.”

Anyone who’s been to a farmer’s market in their community knows the value of being able to buy fresh, locally grown produce from a nearby farm or garden, rather than having to buy fruits and vegetables that have been shipped across the country or grown on industrial farms.  Less than a decade ago, people in the community of Fass Koffe would have never thought they’d be growing and selling their own produce for the local market; rather, vegetables had to be bought from distant regions of Senegal and their options were limited. Today however, Sophie N’diaye points out that “There is a big improvement in Fass market because almost all the vegetables come from our community.”

Sophie, age 65, has been participating in CREATE!’s programs for 6 years now, long enough to see the profound differences it has made in her community. In fact, Fass Koffe is one of CREATE!’s graduated communities, and is now successfully running all of its programs on its own.

As a graduated community, men and women in Fass Koffe now run all of their own programs and community gardens using skills and knowledge that they learned through CREATE!

Communities that partner with CREATE! receive five years of training and assistance from our team of technicians in Senegal, who teach them to build improved cookstoves, rehabilitate their wells, start income generation programs like poultry sheds and VSLAs, and establish cooperatively managed community gardens where they can grow food year-round. If they’ve reached self-sufficiency after five years, communities like Fass Koffe graduate from the program with everything they need to continue their projects on their own, with only periodic check-ins and support as needed from CREATE! technicians.

“With the tree planting program, we all now have shade to sit under when it’s hot,” says Sophie, who also appreciates the abundance of clean water from their hand-dug well for drinking and for irrigating their gardens. She says there are now many poultry sheds in the village as well, providing chickens for them to eat and sell on the market, while the VSLA program helps women to save money from their market sales and provide loans to those who need them. The beautiful transformation of Fass Koffe that Sophie has seen is evidence of the great work and participation that members of the community have committed to continuing their success as part of the CREATE! program.

Making a Difference at Home in Walo

“Before we started working with CREATE! it was very difficult to find vegetables in the village because it is so small and there is no market, but now thanks to CREATE! we are able to eat vegetables every day.”-Aminata Diack

“I’m passionate about this project and I decided to join the CREATE! team because there were no jobs in the village, and women used to stay in their houses without anything to do,” says Aminata Diack, age 28, Walo.

In small villages like Walo, it is not unusual for young adults to leave and go to the city to make their living. This is partly due to the impacts of climate change: drought and variable weather patterns make it difficult for people to do agricultural work in their home villages in desert conditions, so they are forced to look elsewhere for employment. Those who stay behind to take care of the households are left with very limited opportunities. However, Aminata has seen this change with the help of CREATE! in her community. Living in a household of 10 people, including her husband, co-wife, and children, she has participated in all of CREATE!’s programs over the last 2 years, including crop cultivation, building improved cookstoves, tree planting, and poultry production.

“The improved cookstove is helping me to save my time because I don’t need to walk many miles for collecting firewood,” she says. The implementation of improved cookstoves, combined with the tree planting campaign, has also reduced deforestation around the village.

Additionally, Aminata has found that the VSLA (Voluntary Savings and Lending Association) program has made it possible for community members to save and manage their money, as well as provide loans for those who need them. She enjoys raising her own poultry through the poultry production program, as well as gardening fresh vegetables to feed her family. All of these projects together have made it so that fewer people are leaving Walo, and instead making their living through improving their own home community, which Aminata observes has made life better for the village.

Cooperative member Aminata puts compost around the newly transplanted green pepper. This time of year it is very hot in Walo, which is why it is extra important to take care of the tiny plants.

Photo Highlights from Spring 2017

Every month, we receive dozens of fabulous photos from the CREATE! field team in Senegal – more than we can usually fit into our blog each week. So to celebrate the end of our busy spring season, and welcome in the new summer season, we wanted to share some highlights from the past few months of our field work in Senegal. If a picture really is worth a thousand words, we hope these photos will speak volumes for the incredible work our field team continues to do in rural Senegal each and every day.

CREATE! Founder Barry Wheeler visited the Senegal field teams in May. Here in Fass Koffe, he appreciated hearing from the women about the progress that they’ve made since graduating from CREATE!’s program.


As CREATE!’s newest partner community, Mboss will soon be replacing this traditional means of pulling water from a well with a solar pumping system installed by CREATE!


In a community where temperatures can soar above 110 degrees F, the shade of lush green trees and thriving gardens are a welcome relief, as seen here in Ouarkhokh. With the average annual temperature expected to rise by nearly 1 degree C in Senegal over the next 40 years (source: UNDP African Adaptation Programme) due to climate change, it is important to be nurturing the land now in preparation for the future


Thienaba is one of many communities in Senegal where women take part in CREATE!’s Voluntary Savings and Lending Association (VSLA) program. The program was introduced in response to community members’ need for a simple, yet effective, way to manage their money. As a self-managed, highly organized, and democratic money management system, it helps women gain basic financial literacy skills and that they can use to manage their profits from poultry and agricultural production programs.


Although many of CREATE!’s programs focus on helping women, men play a vital role in our program activities as well. In the community of Walo, for example, men volunteer to work in the community garden. With their involvement, they can also support their wives’, sisters’, and daughters’ involvement, as well as gain financial and agricultural skills to support their families together.


In Diender, the CREATE! community garden is now going on its 7th year, thanks to the dedication of the nearly 40-member community garden cooperative that keeps it running year-round. Here women have learned efficient composting techniques to reuse the organic matter leftover from their crops and donkeys.


Thienaba is one of many villages where members have planted fruit and nut trees as part of CREATE!’s cooperative community garden project. A total of more than 11,000 fruit and nut trees have been planted since 2010 in all of CREATE!’s partner communities.

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