Senegalese village cooperative benefits from Oikocredit’s support
Association des Usagers de Thielène (Adu Thielène) is a farmer’s cooperative with more than 300 members in the village of Thielène, Senegal. The cooperative was established in 1960 to provide members with a market in which to sell their products under better conditions. The cooperative provides each family in the village with a plot to cultivate rice, tomatoes, onions and other vegetables, with some members selling their tomatoes to nearby processing factories.
The village of Thielène borders the Senegal River and is irrigated naturally when the river floods, but a second and larger area (300 ha) is further away. Shortly after the year 2000, the village experienced a severe drought and subsequently flash floods which destroyed crops and resulted in a food crisis. With help from the Dutch Water Management Authority and another organization, the cooperative was able to get access to the river shores for irrigation and also drinking water.
Access to finance
The cooperative also sought finance from Oikocredit, receiving a loan of 23 million XOF (around € 36,000), as a joint venture with a Rabobank Foundation grant of the same amount. This support has enabled Adu Thielène to buy six batteuses (harvesters) to separate rice grains from straw and 11 water pumps, erect field fencing and construct and refurbish farm buildings.
Mr Amadou Kane, treasurer of Adu Thielène said what Oikocredit provided was more than credit. “We’re so proud that we’re a cooperative, the feeling of meaning something in our country, being a community of brothers and partners like Oikocredit,” Amadou Kane said. “We love living here in this this part of Senegal and are so proud to be a community of producers; our partnership goes further than business,” added Amadou Kane.
Oikocredit’s partnership has helped this farming community increase productivity, resulting in better incomes for villagers and more food security during times of unpredictable weather. The cooperative’s confidence has also grown. Villagers want to work locally and to avoid having to emigrate to towns and cities. They also aim to integrate village elders and involve them in employment. And they recognise that, with more than half the village aged under 20, more land will be needed over time to feed the growing population.
Empowerment of women
Farmed land has traditionally been divided among Thielène’s men, depriving village women of their own income. When Oikocredit originally partnered with the cooperative a condition was made that some land would be allocated to women. The women now have 10 ha of fields to themselves, which is new in this Muslim community, and have divided their land into small plots for individual cultivation. A women’s group has been formed, and the women cultivate their own crops for sale. The head of the women’s group, Guile Diol, explains what a difference this has made to their lives. “We’re so proud of having our own plots of land,” said Guile. Our dream is to also one day have a school in the village, so our children don’t have to walk 6 km to the next village,” added Guile.
Through a loan from Oikocredit, both men and women are now able to support their families financially, including paying their children’s secondary school fees. Partnership with Oikocredit has also provided members with food security and self-reliance during unpredictable weather conditions.