Madame Mbacke Provides Opportunity and Empowerment for Senegalese Women
Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Food Processing and Post-Harvest Handling (FPIL), led by Purdue University, aims to reduce post-harvest loss, promote economic growth, improve nutrition, and enhance food security in Sub-Saharan Africa.
In Senegal, an instant flour business uses technology provided through the Food Processing Innovation Lab (FPIL) to provide employment to 1,147 Senegalese women. This offers them a source of income, empowerment and independence. The business owner, Madame Astou Gaye Mbacke first partnered with the FPIL in 2016. Since then this partnership has led to her business, the Touba Darou Salam Cereal Processing Unit, gaining a food extruder giving the facility the technical capacity to develop instant enriched flours. Today, women flour processors bring grain to the processing facility to be made into instant flour. Given the importance of her business, FPIL commissioned a study to measure the social and economic impacts of Mbacke’s addition of instant flour into her line of products.
In January 2020, FPIL researchers Dr. Cheryl O’Brien of San Diego State University and Laura Leavens, graduate student at Purdue University, traveled to Senegal to evaluate the impact of the Touba Darou Salam Cereal Processing Unit on incomes and empowerment along the value chain. They surveyed stakeholders (farmers, processors, retailers, and medical personnel) and held participatory focus groups with female retailing and processing entrepreneurs to analyze the impacts of instant flours in the community.
Benefits to Community
O’Brien and Leavens discovered the average female retailer sells 50 kilograms of instant flours during a typical sales month, earning the equivalent of half the monthly household income of a typical Senegalese household.
Ninety-eight percent of the women surveyed by O’Brien and Leavens reported their household income has increased due to their involvement in this program.
Beyond increased income from engaging with Mbacke’s processing unit, FPIL researchers also found meaningful evidence of increased empowerment for participating women. During these activities, many participants indicated they also felt more respected by their husbands and their community because they themselves were able to earn money for their families. The participants also reported that instant flour sales increase their households' ability to improve their dietary diversity, invest in their children’s education, and several other key elements.
As Mbacke’s business grows, the area around the factory has seen many improvements including access to water, electricity, and roads. In a 2020 participatory activity called “Before and After,” women processors and distributors drew and discussed what life was like before and after they started selling instant fortified flours. Participants said that after joining their respective women’s groups, the following changes occurred in their lives, households, and communities
- Gender equality and women’s empowerment
- Improved infrastructure and overall security
- Improved household finances, health, and living conditions
- Education of children of all ages
These positive impacts were echoed in a 2019 focus group discussion, in which women processors summarized that their employment through Mbacke’s business has given them the following:
- Earning and saving more money
- Gaining knowledge, training, and freedom
- Being less dependent on their husbands and gaining support and respect
- Feeling successful, confident, and more involved in dynamic work
- Sense of community and solidarity with other women
Benefits to Health Centers
As instant fortified flours have become more well known in the area, demand is growing, especially in hospitals, private clinics, and community health centers. A representative of the Matlaboul Fawzeini Hospital said that they have an increased demand for instant fortified flour, which they provide to malnourished patients, particularly children, women, and the elderly. A memorandum of understanding has been established between the hospital’s director and Mbacke; the hospital is currently purchasing 800 kg/month of instant fortified flours. In addition to the private health clinics’ demand for the fortified flours, the FPIL team documented the demand in public community health centers that target malnourished persons in the poorest neighborhoods of the greater Touba area. On average, the clinics purchase 390 kilograms each month, with one reporting their purchases doubling during the lean (hungry) season. According to public community health center directors, instant fortified flours have been shown to improve the health of malnourished patients’ overtime, (interviews by FPIL team, January 2020).
Notably, the success of instant fortified flours to combat malnutrition (based on the government’s assessment) has led to a partnership between the Mbacke business and the Cellule de lutte contre la malnutrition (CLM), a Government of Senegal entity to curb malnutrition. In the past year, CLM has purchased 40 tons of instant flours for subsidized distribution.
FPIL is currently working towards two more studies surrounding the work in Senegal: a market penetration study and a nutritional impact study. The market penetration study will focus on the peri-urban markets of Senegal to understand how the market can drive the adoption of instant fortified flours. The nutritional impact study is associated with the market penetration flour to model the potential nutritional impacts of scaling instant fortified flours.
This study would not have been possible without the support of our local colleagues Dr. Chiekh Ndiaye and Dr. Djibril Traore of ITA Dakar for their hard work helping coordinate and run this evaluation, and our two facilitators/surveyors Maïmoune Sadio and Soukeyna Ndiaye for their help with the stakeholder interviews and participatory activities
This post was made possible through support provided by Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Food Processing and Postharvest Handling through the U.S. Agency for International Development, under the terms of Contract No. AID-OAA-L-14-00003. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Agency for International Development.