Mbene Fall, 67, is a fish and vegetable seller from the community of Fass Kane. Before her village partnered with CREATE!, she would buy and resell goods on the Kaolack market nearly 20 km away. As a widow supporting a family of 8, it was hard to makes ends meet.

But things changed after her community partnered with CREATE! in 2010. “Since we started working with CREATE!, we have been able to better take care of ourselves and our families,” she says. Today, Mbene grows enough vegetables to both sell on the market as well as to feed to her family. “Thanks to CREATE! I always cook vegetables for my children now because I grow the vegetables myself, and I can say that my family’s diet has greatly improved.”

Part of this is due to the restoration of her village’s well. “Since our well was rehabilitated, we can now grow vegetables in the community and there are many villagers who come here to get water,” she says. “My own community and even others from outside the village are benefiting from CREATE!’s help.”

Bissap, a type of hibiscus flower, is used to make a popular beverage in Senegal. Mbene grows bissap in her garden plot to sell on the market and to make into tea for her family.

“Before CREATE! came to our village, I used to drink the salty water from the old borehole wells, and I frequently got sick,” she explains “but now with the clean water from the rehabilitated well I’ve noticed my health has been much better.”

Along with seeing an improvement in her health, Mbene also remarks that she has seen an improvement in her finances through her involvement in the VSLA (Voluntary Savings and Lending Association) program. “There was an old savings system I used to use, but it was not profitable because I had to pay a lot of interest,” she explains. “When I had money, I spent it quickly. But with the VSLA I am actually able to save money.” The money is all managed within the group, so there is a high level of accountability among members. “The VSLA group has improved solidarity in the community, because we are helping each other,” she says.

Fass Kane graduated from CREATE!’s program in 2017, and since then, the community has been thriving. Members now manage their garden and poultry cooperatives independently, serving as role models to women other villages that are newer to the program. We are so proud of Mbene and her community for the great work that they do, for building solidarity, and for the incredible progress they continue to make!