Women are often constrained within production and processing areas of a value chain, because they lack access to information, capital, technical skills and the confidence needed to engage in more complex activities such as bulk marketing, export markets, or higher value-adding activities. By forming Economic Interest Groups (EIGs) women can pool resources, share knowledge and provide support to one another, allowing them better access to higher-value markets.
In response to urban demand, women in the city of Thies, Senegal created an EIG to engage in processing local raw products into ready-to-use products. The EIG Keur Tafsir Makhary helps its 15 women members develop and improve food-processing techniques to diversify the types of products they can commercialise.
The EIG members transform a variety of products including maize, honey, cassava, fruits and vegetables. Following a sharp rise in rice prices between 2007 and 2008 the group took the initiative to start making couscous out of cassava, which they now market from their homes or local shops as an alternative to rice. Cassava couscous and flour are their most popular products.
Whilst the EIG has had a positive impact on the women’s revenue, it remains to be seen how the EIG can better position itself in markets for processed products. Members still face several challenges: maintaining a steady supply of raw products, especially the cereals they have to buy; overcoming technical difficulties related to the lack of suitable equipment; obtaining adequate training and transport; improving labelling and packaging; and expanding points of sale.