Thirteen years of partnership with The Hunger Project has brought the Ndereppe community in Senegal a long way. During this last phase of the epicentre strategy the villagers are preparing for the withdrawal of The Hunger Project.
Ndereppe consists of thirteen villages with a total of 9500 inhabitants, all living within walking distance of each other. In 2002, The Hunger Project-Senegal started holding Vision, Commitment and Action workshops here. During these workshops villagers were invited to share their dreams about the future and to create concrete and doable plans to realize them. They were a huge success and since then a lot has changed.
Many services and activities have been developed since 2002 and they all take place within the newly-built epicentre building:
- The food bank is filled with bags of millet.
- The microfinance bank provides saving accounts and micro credits for 102 women groups, 7 men groups and 96 individual members.
- The health station educates young mothers on nutritious food and monitors their children’s health.
- The store is profitable and the women managing it expand their knowledge on bookkeeping and entrepreneurship on the job.
Aside from these activities, the epicentre building also accommodates a hairdresser, a shoemaker, a day-care and a primary school.
Within the epicentre people are building a better future for their village. Dozens of local volunteers run workshops here, educating hundreds of their fellow villagers in the fields of literacy, food security, entrepreneurship, health and more, inspiring them to take action. The volunteers may be coached and mentored by both local trainers and experts from The Hunger Project, yet they organise, lead and execute all programs themselves. Because they believe that Ndereppe can change for the better and they want to invest in that future.
Moving towards self-reliance
Ndereppe has entered the final phase of The Hunger Project’s epicentre strategy. During this final phase The Hunger Project slowly withdraws its support from the epicentre, preparing the epicentre for self-reliance. After many years of training and coaching the people from the Ndereppe community are able to continue independently, without hunger or poverty. The community is fully competent to tackle future challenges and works well with their local government. Self-reliance, without financial support from The Hunger Project – that is what epicentre Ndereppe is striving for. Existing initiatives need to reach maturity so that the epicentre will be able to stand on its own. The microfinance bank will have to cope without The Hunger Project investments, while the epicentre will have to pay its own expenses and continue without the coaching from The Hunger Project trainers. The volunteers will start to have to carry the health, education and information programs on their own.
Looking to the future
Mbaye Ndiaye is chairman of the epicentre committee. He is confident about the future. ”I work closely together with committed people from the thirteen villages of Ndereppe. They are hard workers and very steadfast in their commitment. That won’t change when The Hunger Project has left. Everybody is very much devoted to keep working to better our circumstances.”
Mbaye is preparing well for The Hunger Project’s withdrawal. “We are very conscious that before long we will be on our own. That is why we charge a contribution for every activity that is held within the epicentre building so that we are able to pay the current expenses and maintain the building. So everybody – from the hairdresser to the shop manager, from the food bank to the rural bank – pays a monthly contribution. This way the entrepreneurs keep the epicentre building up and running. We cooperate closely with the local government. They will take over some of the activities, like day-care, primary school and the health and food program.
From the very early stages The Hunger Project-Senegal has encouraged us to cooperate with the local government and has showed us how to do that. Finally, the rural bank has merged with an official bank. All of this will ensure the continuation of the programs and activities in the future.”
Self reliance by 2016
The community is taking responsibility for more and more projects, while The Hunger Project does less and less. Programme Manager Alassane Pouye of The Hunger Project-Senegal says: “We are striving for Ndereppe to be self-reliant by 2016. We have always been very upfront, that we would withdraw in due course. That way we can help other villages in other areas, but more importantly, because the community of Ndereppe should learn to manage well by themselves. And they are doing that admirably. Of course we keep advising and supporting them until we leave so they will be well prepared.”
Alassane explains why Ndereppe is functioning so well that it is already moving towards self-reliance: “Ndereppe is a forerunner compared to other epicentres. We think that’s because Ndereppe was a close-knit community even before The Hunger Project came into play. It’s characteristic that Ndereppe epicentre is one of the few that isn’t named after one of the participating villages, but carries a name that indicates this cluster of villages. We often use Ndereppe as a test case, because its inhabitants are so open to change. That makes cooperation a joy. They’re not beneficiaries, they’re true partners.”
Each of the thirteen participating villages has a village committee of volunteers, which is directed by the village chief and a coordinator. Each of the seven members is responsible for one theme: food and health, literacy, food security and the food bank, micro financing, entrepreneurship and the store, women’s rights and mobilisation. The members work closely together, and also regularly convene – often under guidance of a member of The Hunger Project – with the committee members from the other villages to exchange knowledge and experience. They also guide the animators, who then inform their fellow villagers on the different themes, leading the volunteers to spread their knowledge around. The aim for the village committees and the animators is that they work so well together, that this structure will remain after The Hunger Project’s withdrawal.
Village mothers are the eyes and ears
The animators from the food bank train their villagers in sowing techniques and food security, so that the harvests will increase. The women who manage the store expand their knowledge on entrepreneurship and bookkeeping on the job. The 1000-day program, aimed at food security and health for the youngest children, is being mentored by the village mothers.
This is a fairly new program so it is still supported by Marie Cecile Diam from The Hunger Project-Senegal. “Whenever necessary I join a meeting, but the village mothers truly are the ears and eyes of the village. They have a very important task!” she says. These women organise meals for the children, advise the other mums and monitor them to see if they apply their new knowledge daily, and they weigh the children and measure their arms to see if they are well fed. These village mothers and the nurse from the health station work closely together. Marie Cecile adds, “the nurse from the health station regularly visits the villages to confer with the village mothers. When they encounter a malnourished child, its mother is referred to the health station. The role of the health station and the volunteers is increasing. When The Hunger Project has withdrawn, they will fully run this program.”
The microfinance bank and the food bank also have a strong working relationship with other parties. The rural microfinance bank has now merged with the official rural bank within the region. This official bank has brought mobile banking to Ndereppe. The food bank has also become an official agricultural cooperation, which means it is eligible for the programs from the government that offer financial support. Djibril Ndour, chairman of the agricultural cooperation, says: “Through these governmental programs we can offer our members microcredits, supplementing those of the microfinance bank. Thus we want to encourage our members to develop other activities besides agriculture, like raising cattle. Furthermore, we want to apply for the government programs to be able to provide all our 429 members with sowing seeds. Only the farmers that receive our sowing seeds are allowed to participate in the food bank at the moment. So at this point we cannot supply all our members. When we are accepted into the government program they will all be able to participate in the food bank.”
In order to be able to pay the running expenses of the epicentre and maintain the epicentre building, everybody who makes use of it is charged a certain amount of money. For instance, the microfinance bank pays rent. Tacko Faye, manager of the bank, says: “The 8% interest that people pay over their loan provides us with a profit. For mobile banking we charge a small amount of money for every transaction, so that too derives income. Part of our profit pays the rent to the epicentre building, and that will ensure the continuation of the building and our office.”
The small businesses that are created using microcredit loans also provide income within the epicentre. People sell soap, sugar, coffee or milk, they sell their own vegetables, make peanut oil or fatten cattle to sell them for a good profit. Ndeye Kane for instance, manager of the store, adds to her income by selling cloth that she embroiders herself. The cloth she bought with the money from the microcredit she received through the women’s group in her village. “I buy cloth for 10,000 CFA and sell the embroidered ones for 15,000 CFA. And I earn even more, about 3000 CFA per kilo, by selling the peanut oil I make myself. My dream is to open my own shop. That way I don’t have to travel around to sell my cloth and peanut oil. I hope to realise that with a new microcredit.”
The store itself also plays a role in the financial independence of the epicentre. Part of the profit is being invested into the epicentre building. The rest of the profit goes to the manager and the store itself. Ndeye Kane recently finished her four month period of managing the store. She says: “We know The Hunger Project will withdraw. But because of our contribution system the epicentre building will remain and thus the store will too.”
Plans for the future
There is more than enough ambition in Ndereppe. Store manager, Ndeye, says: “We want to expand in the future. We are saving money to build a larger stockroom. That way the suppliers won’t need to deliver their goods so often, which will keep the transport costs low and because the store will have more products in stock our shelves will be filled most of the time. We would also like to open a small store in a village further down the road, so that not everybody from the thirteen villages of the epicentre needs to buy rice, soap and other products here. At the moment we have 3 million CFA in the rural bank. So the store is in very good shape!”
Tacko Faye, manager of the bank, also envisions a bright future with new possibilities: “We want to keep growing. At the moment we often have to say no to new members, because we don’t have enough money in the till to provide them with a loan. There is a long waiting list. The more people open a savings account, the more means we have to lend out new micro credits. So it’s vital that we keep getting new members. Our animators do whatever they can by informing the people in the villages.”
The food bank is confident about the future too. Djibril Ndour, chairman of the agricultural cooperation, says, “The Hunger Project provided the food bank with capital, built a large storehouse together with the community and taught the animators better agricultural techniques. That was a brilliant starting point. We will continue on the same road, with the knowledge and the techniques that The Hunger Project has taught us. We expect the storehouse to be self-reliant in the future. We want to build new ones to increase our stock capacity, so that more farmers will be able to pay for their sowing seeds with part of the harvest. We also hope that more people will be able to fall back on the stock of millet when it becomes scarce, so that they won’t be at the mercy of exorbitant prices of the traders. The current storehouse isn’t big enough for our ambitions. Members of the cooperation pay a one time fee of 5000 CFA for their membership and then 1000 CFA a year. With these contributions, the profit from the sale of the millet and the future support from the government programs, we will be able to pay for the additional space. That way the food bank and the cooperation will be able to provide even more food security for the villages.”
Djibril, Tacko, Ndeye, Mbaye and the many other animators, village mothers, village chiefs, customers of the microfinance bank, members of the food bank, managers of the store, and their fellow villagers are working hard towards self-reliance and a hunger and poverty free future for Ndereppe. And they’re almost there! Self-reliance is The Hunger Project’s goal for all our epicentres, this can only be possible thanks to your longterm, continued support and investment in our programmes together with our global investor community. In Ndereppe this includes in particular, the partnership of the Ward Group of investors from Australia, who have invested since 2008, and who like you are committed to the end of hunger.
All photography by Johannes Odé