Wednesday, January 14, 2009

J-term Projects

I traveled to the villages of Mekhe and Mboul in the region of Thies, just north of Dakar. Here we worked with villagers to choose four projects, in total, to bring back and propose to the microfinance committee. The process was long and frustrating in some circumstances, but I think the results turned out really well.

In Mekhe, the projects were:

1. Sahel Vet
This microfinance loan will fund a project to increase the service capacity of the local veterinarian in Mekhe. Mekhe is a center of commerce and trade, with a weekly market and it serves as a point of attraction for many travellers in the Thies region. Livestock production remains one of the main activities for many citizens of Mekhe, in addition to extensive use of horse carts for transporting goods, and people, to and from the markets. Mamadou Seye is the only vet actively working in the town of Mekhe and it is in his charge to ensure the health and wellbeing of all of the animals in the area, however he has trained apprentices who also assist with technical work. He runs both a clinic and a pharmacy where villagers can come to purchase goods and services such as antibiotics. He also does house calls and runs a vaccination program for all the animals, encouraging producers to use preventative medicine and giving advice on technical and economical production. It is also in his charge to work with animals to facilitate the creation of small development projects run by local NGOs. He must certify the health of all of the animals within the project. He also teaches classes on vaccinating animals as well as how to do artificial insemination. Mamadou and the technicians charge a fee for each service they provide. Besides the direct benefits to the animals he is treating, his actions also facilitate other benefits. For example he promotes human health by mitigating the transfer of zoonotic diseases from animals to people and teaches methods of proper disposal of animal carcases. Mamadou and his technicians also educate producers on the proper use of manure for compost to replace chemical fertilizers. While Mamadou is the only current fulltime participant in the program, all of the members share the financial benefits at the end of the year. There is currently more demand for vaccinations and medications than the pharmacy can supply. The pharmacy has adequate storage and a refridgerator for an increased supply of medications, but does not have the funds to buy enough stock. There is also an urgent need for surgical supplies such as scissors and syringes.

I think this project is absolutely incredible. Mamadou was really enthusiastic and it was clear that he really cared a lot about what he was doing. I felt like it was very fateful that this was the project that I focused on, since I originally went to university to become a vet and pursue projects like his. He was also really lucky to have me there, because I was able to explain everything he was doing to the students and the committee. Things like why artificial insemination is so important for the community, etc. In the end, the national microfinance committee selected this project as the best one out of all 20 proposals and they will immediately fund it. Yey!

2. Womens Group of Ndiop
This loan will go to fund a group of over 200 women who wish to improve their community by promoting solidarity and self-sufficiency in their work. Within the large group there are four divisions, each representing a different activity that contributes to the project. Ndiop group 1, comprised of 70 women, sells cakes, eggs, groundnut paste and couscous sauce at the local market. All products are cooked in solar ovens, which are made by a local joiner. The women use all locally grown cereals, eggs and other ingredients to make their food. They have a need to purchase more solar ovens to meet the rising demand for their products. Ndiop group 2, comprised of 40 women, is involved in traditional cloth dying. Currently they must go to Dakar to buy their products, but they would like to be able to purchase goods in Mekhe instead. They use only organic cotton and hope use their loan to receive training in the production and use of natural dyes. The group also re-dyes old fabrics to recycle them. The fabric they dye is used in the production of clothing by Ndiop group 3. Ndiop group 3, comprised of 60 women, is involved in microgardening of fruits and vegetables for market sale, as well as in sewing the fabrics made by Ndiop 2 into traditional clothing and selling the clothes. This group also participates in a weekly nutrition program with the hospital to cook dinners for malnourished children. Ndiop group 4, comprised of 40 women, is involved in animal husbandry whereby they purchase young cows and chickens at the local market. Their feed is all grown in the microgarden, except for a specific fodder, which they must purchase from the weekly market. The women breed the animals to produce a herd, and bring them to market size before re-selling them for meat. These women also manage the tontine for all four groups, who participate together. In addition, the women use the manure from their livestock to produce compost for the microgarden. The problems these women currently face is an inability to purchase all of their needed supplies, as well as covering transport costs to and from market.

Projects from Mboul:

1. Bokk Ndiarignu
This loan will go to fund a group of 6 women who wish to both participate in animal husbandry as well as petty commerce. They wish to use their loan to purchase young sheep at market and raise them to market size, and then re-sell them for meat, as well as to purchase soap and cleaning supplies to sell in the village.

2. Takku Ligay
This loan will go to fund a group of 5 men who wish to create a breeding program in the village of Mboul. They will use the funds to purchase young bulls or rams at market and then breed them to create herds of cattle or sheep in the village. When the offspring reach market size, they will walk them to a nearby market to sell them for meat and skins.

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