To engage citizens and community members in regional government meetings, NCBA CLUSA—in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture—is bringing the needs of millet processors, input suppliers and millet farmers like Aissatou Ndiaye to the forefront of regional development.
Ndiaye, a 56-year-old millet processor and mother of eight, recently attended a meeting of the Regional Development Committee in Senegal to bring her unique perspective on engaging millet farmers and processors as part of NCBA CLUSA’s USDA-funded Millet Business Services Project (MBSP). The Regional Development Committee (CRD) is the decentralized arm of the Senegalese government that brings together state technical services, administrative and political authorities, NGOs, youth and women’s organizations and helps to coordinate development projects in the regions.
“I am pleased to be invited to this high-level meeting. The CRD is the highest decision-making body in the region. When women are invited to this type of meeting, it is a source of motivation and encouragement as a leader in the cereal processing sector,” Aissatou said.
Able to share her experience in developing a processor cooperative, Aissatou explained the benefits of working with the MBSP project and how the CRD could connect with other agriculture work across the region.
Aissatou worked with the first phase of the millet project through the Union of Female Processing Groups in the Fatick region of Senegal. There, she was elected president and worked to increase processing standards for the group of over 100 members, supported training women in millet processing and marketed millet for consumption to increase incomes and nutrition.
Supporting women-owned millet cooperatives with administrative recognition from Senegal’s Ministry of Agriculture, the MBSP project is creating a formal structure that means they will be plugged in to CRD support and meetings after the life of the project.
Starting in May 2016, the MBSP project began with an awareness tour with local politicians and administrators, getting smallholder farmers and community members at the table for development and value chain conversations. From this, the CRD was a natural continuation of that partnership management and community-led collaboration.
Led by the regional governor, the establishment of the CRD is in line with the vision of the Senegalese authorities, which promotes local institutions as the gateway to any policy or program in the region. Bringing the smallholder farmers and all these stakeholders together, NCBA CLUSA—through the USDA MBSP project—continues to give a central place in the development process to the communities themselves.
At the CRD meeting, Aissatou discussed how the MBSP project had supported her group and advocated for access to equipment.
After training with the project, Aissatou’s group more than doubled their incomes. At first they were simply processing millet, but after marketing throughout the region at bus stations and shops, they increased sales. Daily sales can now top 70,000 CFCA (over $100 USD).
“Communities choose our products because they know groups that worked with NCBA CLUSA have quality products,” Aissatou said. “It is thanks to these incomes that our members maintain their households, namely: the education of children and the strengthening of household nutrition.”
To share the techniques and strategies that work for smallholder farmers, communities can lead the direction of their development and inform top government decision makers about what matters to them as millet farmers.