Empowering women to participate in the green transition of Mbao, Senegal

Training of market gardening groups and women farmers from the classified forest of Mbao with ILO's Start and Improve Your (Green) Business tool.

Article | 25 August 2022
The classified forest of Mbao, the green “lung” of Dakar, contributes to the preservation of plant and animal diversity and to meeting the needs of the local population for agroforestry and pastoral products. It is a natural carbon sink that also plays an important role for improving the living environment, which is threatened by various forms of pollution (particularly garbage dumping).

The Water and Forestry Service, concerned about the preservation of this mountainous area, but also aware of its decisive socio-economic and ecological functions on several levels, has developed and implemented the Mbao Classified Forest Management Plan (PAFCM) since 2008 with the main activities being the transformation of the forest stands, the organization of local forest stakeholders and the intensification of market garden and pastoral production.

To assist the Water and Forestry Service in monitoring and controlling the integrity of the forest, eight supervisory committees (made up of men and women from six traditional villages surrounding the forest) have been set up.

The women's groups have been actively involved in transforming garbage dumps into agroecological market gardening plots, reforestation and raising community awareness of the need to protect the forest.

The importance of market gardening in the classified forest of Mbao, which is largely maintained by women, is obvious and well known because of its contribution to the household economy and to the supply of food.

However, realising the value of market garden produce (vegetables) and cashew fruits (apples and nuts) through processing is still an area that members of the supervisory committees shy away from exploring and they do not yet have sufficient knowledge and skills to assimilate the appropriate processing techniques. So far, this has resulted in a significant loss of revenue for these supervisory committees.

In addition, COVID-19 has had a profound impact on women's livelihoods as most of their vending points have been closed.

With the support of PAGE and additional funds for green recovery, a project to strengthen the socio-economic resilience of market gardening groups in the Mbao forest was initiated in 2021, with an innovative strategy to promote agroecological market gardening, compatible with the ecological functions of the FCM (more information in 2021 PAGE Annual progress report).

PAGE supported the organization of a series of training sessions, the first of which on the SIYB tools (classic and green) took place from 22 June to 2 July 2021 in order to strengthen the entrepreneurial capacities of these women. The objective of this training, which brought together 15 women, was to help the beneficiaries develop techniques and tools and an adapted and highly participatory methodology to i) help the learners understand the principles of business management, ii) improve the performance of their businesses, iii) take into account the green dimension in the management of their businesses.

The second session, from 5 to 30 April 2022, trained about 150 people (including about 140 women) in agroecology and in techniques for processing agricultural and beekeeping products. This training involved the five market gardening groups supervised within the framework of the management of the Mbao Classified Forest and the eight forestry supervisory committees.

The different sessions have reached women and men whose average age is around 48 years old and who have a wide range of experience.

The problem of scaling up market garden production in the forest remains unresolved and is a challenge to be met by empowering local producers in agroecology and adding value to products from the Mbao forest.

The search for added value on all productions with high economic value in the classified forest of Mbao (market garden products, livestock products, honey, apple and cashew nuts, etc.) and the training on good practices of the quality approach and traceability of food products will allow the marketing of quality products that meet the requirements of customers and thus increase the income of women.

Testimonials from participants

Thanks to the training in Green SIYB, we have improved in terms of efficiency and productivity, as we have reorganised our work and distributed our roles well. In addition, we are now more aware of the quality of our products and also of the environmental impact of our actions. For example, we have reduced our trips to market by grouping the products to be processed, which has also saved us on transport costs."

Aïssatou Ndiaye Kassé, member of the Fekké Facc Group, Manager of the Processing Unit

This training has taught me many things. I didn't know you could make syrup from cashews, or jam from papaya, or even make syrup from white bissap. I now know how to do these things and can even teach them to the other women in my group."

Awa Dione, member of the Transformation Unit

After the Green SIYB training, we abandoned the use of plastic packaging in the cereal processing unit. Paper packaging was very expensive, however, and thanks to the PAGE programme we learned to make it ourselves, which considerably reduced our production costs."

Fatou Laye Fall, Chief of the Supply and Stocks of the Processing Unit

Before the training, we had a lot of post-harvest losses. Our vegetables rotted quickly when they went unsold. Now, thanks to the PAGE program, we have learned how to make chili paste and canned vegetables."

Soukeye Diamé, Sales Manager

Before the training, we were just focused on local grain processing. Thanks to PAGE, our main activity will improve in quality, and we have now invested in other niches such as fruit and vegetable processing and honey production. We can expect to increase our income by more than 30%. If we manage to get the FRA and the barcode, we will be able to sell in supermarkets, which could allow us to triple our current income."

Bineta Wane, President of the Fekké Facc Group