Kadhy Ciss used to sell processed millet at the market, taking the raw grains and grinding them into flour or cooking-ready pieces at her small processing center, but sales weren’t great. Without professional packaging, no one in the larger towns would buy millet from her processing center in the Fatick region of west-central Senegal. But professional packaging for her small business was hard.
“To grow my company, I needed access to packaging,” Ciss said. Unfortunately, the existing packaging on the market was made of plastic and was not biodegradable.”
Ciss learned to make her own local packaging out of paper and other biodegradable materials with help from a U.S. Department of Agriculture-funded project in Senegal.. After her millet processing group began making their own bags, sales began to increase, and Ciss set out to share her skills.
She soon earned a reputation for training and was teaching other small millet processing centers around Senegal how to make their own bags. Though time-consuming, for the smaller, mostly women-owned centers, the added income was welcomed. For Ciss, the added income from training and sales afforded her the ability to access additional economic opportunities in her hometown. She was able to further invest in the processing center and employ four more women.
Other groups noticed her success as well. Partners with another NCBA CLUSA Feed the Future project in the region saw the benefits of safe and effective packaging, as did local entrepreneurs who were dedicated to bringing much needed health, agriculture and nutrition products to their communities.
Ciss recently trained 60 representatives from 30 companies in the Kaolack region on packaging – and she believes more will be interested in the future.
For the smaller businesses, starting off with non-plastic packaging also makes it easier to comply with the new laws against plastic bags in Senegal. Local alternatives give them the ability to market their products professionally and increase their sales in urban markets.
The ability to professionally package products has addressed an issue facing all small producers, especially women. “But it also supports the government of Senegal in its fight against the use of plastic packaging in order to preserve the environment,” Ciss said.
The Millet Business Services Project is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and implemented by the National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA-CLUSA) in four regions in Senegal.