Weaving Success and "Le Projet"

We have another great field report from our intern - Miriam - on people in Keur Soce participating in our micro-loan program. We are excited to announce another round of loan disbursements will take place in the next week or two, which we hope will lead to more stories like these. Further, borrowers in Keur Soce will be participating in small business classes in the coming months as part of the program in an effort to boost productivity and profit.

Ndiaya Diasse

Ndiaya Diasse with her new baby 2

When Ndiaya Diasse first started buying fruit wholesale in Kaolack to sell in Keur Soce, she had to borrow money from family members to be able to afford the large bulk purchases. Her two loans from Andando for 50 000 FCFA each have helped her gain financial security and feel at peace with her finances, and her fruit business has been growing. Ndiaya used one of these loans to purchase a larger table, allowing her to increase her merchandise and thus her sales. She now makes about 5 000 FCFA profit from each bulk purchase she makes, and says she never runs out of clients but often runs out of fruit.

Ndiaya’s increased income has ameliorated other aspects of her and her family’s life. She uses her profits to pay for school fees and to buy schoolbooks for her five school-age children, which she often struggled to afford in the past. Her 6th child, Pape Kebe, is still an infant and slept soundly through our interview. She said he is nicknamed “Projet,” the French word for “project,” because Ndiaya was working in Andando’s gardens while she was pregnant with him; Andando’s work is often referred to as “le projet” throughout Keur Soce and the other villages where we work. Naming a child after someone is a great honor in Senegalese culture, and Ndiaya wanted to thank Anando for the support she has received.

Elhaji Modou Diouf

Elhaji Modou Diouf with his wife and new baby

After five agricultural loans of 60 000 FCFA with Andando, Elhaji Modou Diouf is proud of his fields. During a trip to Keur Soce, Elhaji took us to visit his corn, millet, and peanut fields and show off what he has been able to do thanks to Andando. Elhaji picked up Refilwe, Boubou, Mandou, and me on his older brother’s donkey charette to bring us to his fields in a village just one town over from Keur Soce. We passed through dozens of open fields planted with a variety of crops until we reached Elhaji’s area, which stand apart from the rest because it is surrounded by a fully-grown live fence. Live fencing is especially advantageous because it is self-sustainable, and Elhaji does not have to pay for repairs to maintain the fence. In addition, it is a very environmentally friendly option as opposed to typical fencing with wood or plastic.

Elhaji has luckily never had problems with crops failing or poor weather conditions, but in the past he often had trouble finding enough money to buy seeds for the new planting season. With his Andando loans he purchased seeds, allowing him to focus his efforts on other parts of his fields, like his living fence which took 5 years to grow to full size and the small hut he constructed in case it starts raining while he is there.

Elhaji Modou Diouf's fields 3

In addition, Elhaji’s wife, Syra Mbodji, has been sick for over a year and only recently regained her health. During that time, Elhaji had to grapple with the additional costs of her extensive treatment, as well as the loss of the income she brought in from her business selling soap. Nevertheless, with his agriculture strengthened thanks to his Andando loans, Elhaji has been able to manage and additionally has been saving money on the side to prepare for the construction of a new home on his own land. Elhaji currently lives with his older brother and his family, but he dreams of being able to build his own home for himself, his wife, and their 5 children. Currently, he has purchased the cement blocks needed and is now saving up to pay for the labor.

Yande Ndiaye

Yande Ndiaye

Yande learned to sew when she was growing up in Ndoffan, a village near Keur Soce. Every Thursday a group of Nuns would come to the Ndoffan church to teach the girls there how to sew with a machine and by hand. When she was about 18 years old, Yande started sewing to sell for a profit, and has been sewing since. When she got married at age 20, Yande’s husband bought her a sewing machine as part of her brideprice, but unfortunately now it is broken so now she mostly sews by hand. She uses a different type of thread, more like yarn, to create colorful patterns and designs on stark white bed sheets, pillowcases, and other materials.

Yande’s creations are very popular in Keur Soce and the neighboring towns, and she sells them too quickly to be able to stock a boutique. For now, she is happy to be selling from her home. Usually she makes merchandise for clients who order specific items, but sometimes Yande makes extra merchandise and is able to sell to people who visit her or hear about her goods. Yande reinvests her profits back into her sewing business by purchasing new items like needles and stencils. In the past she has also used profits to purchase a goat or a chicken, which provide additional income for her family. She can sell the goat’s milk or chicken’s eggs, as well as breed them and sell the offspring.

Yande’s loans with Andando allowed her to make her first foray into agriculture and diversify the income she makes to support her large family, which now includes grandchildren. She used her first loan to purchase peanut seeds and fertilizer, and she takes the peanuts to Kaolack to sell. Yande told me that her peanut fields provide her with extra monetary security; since her sewing sales are principally based on orders she is not guaranteed to have a steady income, but peanuts are sure not to fail. Though she has not had an Andando loan in years, Yande continues to cultivate peanuts to protect her and her family from hard times. She can now express herself creatively through her sewing without worrying about providing for her family.