It’s early afternoon in November, the sun is directly overhead, and overwhelming heat reigns in Kaolack, a city in the heart of groundnut-growing territory. In a building in the Leona neighbourhood, and in this building dozen women are busy sorting roasted groundnuts, hands protected by white gloves, aprons at their waists, and white masks covering their faces.
Women are at the heart of the groundnut processing industry in Senegal. Among this group of women, Fatou Kiné Ciss is the head of the processing unit. The proud young woman never stays still, and meticulously coordinates every activity. Despite the sweat that beads her face and the dark circles under her eyes, she remains courteous.
Kaolack is a town on the north bank of the Saloum River, 200 kilometres east of the capital, Dakar. This is the part of Senegal where groundnuts are produced and processing methods are passed down from one generation to another. The list of products made from groundnuts is long: oil, paste, powder, and even livestock feed are a source of revenue for many rural families.
Ms. Ciss is from this area, and she has chosen to invest in groundnuts.
The 29-year-old has a master’s degree from the University of Nantes in France and taste for entrepreneurship. During a class project, she made a presentation about producing and marketing groundnut paste. After graduating, she decided to apply her studies and launch a business producing groundnut paste.
In March 2017, she launched Adja Mania with 500,000 FCFA ($870 US) in capital.
Groundnut paste requires nine to ten hours to make. The first step is to collect groundnuts from the market. Ms. Ciss says, “Once the product hasarrives, we do a first sorting to remove bad seeds. We then proceed to cooking with a large stove and a pot. After cooling, we proceed to skinning, then tanning.”
After tanning, she and her team sort and clean the groundnuts. They use a colander to identify and remove nuts that contain aflatoxin, a substance that can increase the risk of cancer.
Due to lack of resources, the young entrepreneur does not yet have her own machines for grinding the groundnuts into paste. She pays 40 FCFA ($ 0.07 US ) per kilogram to have them ground, and then packages the product. Adja Mania sells its products in jars ranging from 500 grams to 20 kilograms, filling orders from Paris, Côte d’Ivoire, and northern Senegal.
The company produces nearly 2,000 kilograms of paste each year, and earns more than 850,000 FCFA (about $1,480 US).
Ms. Ciss wants to expand her business. She says, “We want to innovate and present groundnut paste with different flavours: sweet, natural, vanilla, etc.”
In Thiès, a region in Senegal closer to Dakar, a large farmer organization is also active in groundnut processing. The Union de Groupement Paysanne de Meckhé which brings togetherhas memebers from 77 villages. Women account for about 60% of the 5,000 members.
Fatou Binetou Diop coordinates the organization’s program to process groundnuts into oil. She says, “In collaboration with various NGOs, we have modernized and enhanced the activity. Today, groundnut processing is a very promising activity for local women.”
In addition to oil, the organization markets various other products, including Noflay, which is created from groundnuts and used to prepare exquisite local dishes.
The women in the organization use the groundnut residues from oil processing to make soap and cattle feed.
These rural women are active in many different pursuits. But for them, groundnuts are worth their weight in gold.
Uniterra is a program implemented by CECI-WUSC, working in Senegal with local partners in the rice, groundnut, poultry, and market gardening sub-sectors to help youth and women access better economic opportunities. The objective is to reinforce the economic power of women and youth by developing their entrepreneurial spirit. The Uniterra program provided funding and technical support for the production of this story. CECI and WUSC are financially supported by the Government of Canada through Global Affairs Canada, www.international.gc.ca. For more information you can follow Uniterra Senegal on Facebook at www.facebook.com/cecisenegal.