Mitou Diouf, 45, of Gagnick Mack, has been a part of CREATE!’s programs in her village for the last three years, and has participated in all four of the primary project sectors. Her favorite activity? Vegetable cultivation, particularly because of all the lettuce she can grow, she says! “I have become healthier since I started eating vegetables that I grow myself,” says Mitou. Even better, the vegetables are more affordable now that they’re grown in her own village. “Years ago, vegetable prices were very expensive in the village because sellers came from very far away. Now thanks to CREATE!, I can get them for a cheaper price from the cooperative garden.”

With training from CREATE!’s field technicians, Mitou and the other women in her cooperative have learned to raise chickens in the poultry shed, manage their finances through their VSLA group, and build improved cookstoves that have proven to be safer and more efficient than the open fires on which they used to cook.

Learning and leadership in Gagnick Mack

In Gagnick, Mitou takes care of the moringa trees, a medicinal tree. Gagnick Mack is a Serere community. Couscous prepared with moringa leaves is a traditional dish for Serere people.

“The improved cookstove is built in such a way that it conserves heat, which makes it more efficient and reliable, while the old stove was more open and wasted firewood,” Mitou explains. “Before we knew how to build these cookstoves in Gagnick Mack, there were fire risks because many of our houses are built with straw and the wind could cause the flames to spread and burn them down. Now we are no longer in fear of that happening, because the cookstove keeps the flame inside.”

Between feeling safer with the improved cookstove, and healthier with better access to fresh vegetables, Mitou has already experienced some of the benefits of CREATE!’s programs in her community. However, she also recognizes the importance of community organization, teamwork, and leadership to keep these projects working smoothly. “As a group leader I always encourage women to work hard because CREATE! has given us all the tools we need for helping each other and ourselves,” she says. With Mitou’s leadership, the women of the cooperative are well on their way to achieving even greater self-sufficiency, and we look forward to following along on their journey!