Sokhna Diop, 32, of Thienaba, has taken part in all of CREATE!’s programs in her village, but says the VSLA program is her favorite. “The VSLA is playing the big role in the community because we all have the opportunity to have credit,” she says. “Many women are saving their money in the VSLA, and because of this, I have noticed changes in the community.”

Sokhna invests earnings from her garden in the VSLA program

Sokhna now sells the corn and okra she grows in her garden on the market, instead of buying vegetables to resell from other villages.

Before CREATE! partnered with her village, she would buy vegetables from the towns of Gossas or Fass, and resell them on the market. This meant her profits were small and she often did not have enough vegetables to feed her own family. Now, however, she grows her own vegetables in the community garden cooperative, and has enough to both feed her family and sell the surplus on the market. “Since we have the vegetable garden, my family eats more vegetables than before, and I have noticed an improvement in their health,” says Sokhna. Most notably, “there is no more child malnutrition in the village.”

The integration of the community garden with the VSLA program and poultry production means that villagers like Sokhna are able to not only earn a better living, but also improve the health of their families. And with the improved cookstove in her home, she reports that she spends less time cooking, and less money on firewood, since the stove is more efficient. Together, these improvements have allowed Sokhna to spend more time doing what she enjoys, like spending time with her family, tending her garden block, and participating in the VSLA program with her fellow cooperative members.