Couscous saving a village

 Food Security
 13th Feb 2018

By Elizabeth Adéwalé, CARE Niger

Bassi, a couscous made from millet, is very popular across Niger.

In the village of Tamroro, the women of the Munwadata Village Savings and Loans network process millet into bassi, providing them with income and, at the same time, helping feed their village.

Bassi is high in nutrition so the women of Munwadata are living up to their name: munwadata means “we are fulfilling or enjoying” in Hausa, one of the languages spoken in this part of Niger.

Operating out of their “factory,” a small compound in the center of the village, the 132 women who make up the network work together to process the millet grown on their collective farm just outside town. The younger women are responsible for pounding and grinding the millet, while the older women take charge of the processing.

Initially the women were grinding the millet by hand, a long and arduous task that didn’t produce enough bassi for their needs. The women needed a grinding machine – and not just any machine but one that would enable them to grind on a larger scale. With training from CARE, the women developed their skills in advocacy and building partnerships, and approached a food security and development program who agreed to fund the purchase of a grinding machine. Not only are the Munwadata women now producing more bassi in less time, they’ve also increased their profits.

The refined grain is then mixed with water and steamed over large cooking pots, and spread out on a mat to cool for a day
Photo: Elizabeth Adewale/CARE

“Not only are we producing more bassi for our community,” says Ramatou Hassane, the network’s president, “our work has been so profitable, we were able to buy a cart to carry women to the village health center.”

In the past, women in Tamroro lacked a voice and were not regarded as decision makers. The Munwadata VSL network has broken down those barriers, helping women develop their skills and make a lasting contribution to their community.   

In addition to building the skills of the women of the Munwadata VSL to enable them to manage their savings and loans network, CARE also provided training in income generating activities, leadership skills and literacy.

CARE launched the first ever Village Savings and Loan group - Mata Masu Dubara or Women on the Move - in Niger in 1991. Since then, village savings and loans groups across Niger have helped women, men, girls, and boys fight poverty and develop income generating activities. Members make weekly contributions to a collective savings fund that is then made available as loans to individual members to help them build their business activities.  Most of the groups established with assistance from CARE are made up entirely of women. 

For more of our work in Niger, click here.

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