Alimata Korogo, a 39-year-old mother of six living in the Keglesse village in Burkina Faso, and her family faced many challenges. Like many farming families in this region, her family often experienced low crop yields due to poor soil and insufficient rains. After multiple poor harvests, Korogo became very sick and her husband had to take on debt to provide necessary care and medicines to keep her alive. The family struggled to afford food, medical expenses, clothing and education for their children as they worked to pay off this debt.
A few years ago, Korogo saw an opportunity to overcome these challenges and generate additional income. In 2014, she participated in several trainings from a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Feed the Future-supported project that empowers communities with knowledge and skills in conservation farming, home gardening, literacy and health and nutrition.
Since 2013, USAID’s Resilience in the Sahel Enhanced (RISE) program, supported by Feed the Future and implemented by partners like NCBA CLUSA, has helped reach more than 2.4 million people like Korogo in Burkina Faso and Niger to better manage crises, pursue a diverse range of job opportunities, feed their families, and invest in their futures. NCBA CLUSA currently leads the effort for one of these projects, REGIS-ER, in Niger and Burkina Faso.
Trainings from the program changed the trajectory of Korogo’s life, as she stepped up to lead not only her own family, but her community and those around her to greater resilience.
Following these trainings, Korogo’s conservation farming group selected her to be their leader. In this role, she trained the group’s 14 members. While it was difficult for her at first, the project’s literacy trainings empowered her to successfully lead her group.
“Now we get higher yields from smaller areas and our soil is rich,” Korogo said. “This year, I had such great yields that I could store 22 bags of cowpea to sell later at a higher price.”
Being able to store — and later sell at a better price — surplus harvests is an important part of resilience. It provides farmers like Korogo with future income and the ability to retain savings for emergency expenses and access credit to purchase agricultural inputs.
Being able to store — and later sell at a better price — surplus harvests is an important part of resilience. It provides farmers like Korogo with future income and the ability to retain savings for emergency expenses and access credit to purchase agricultural inputs, such as better seeds and fertilizers, to increase yields in future growing seasons.
Korogo’s group learned and exchanged best farming practices and shared resources. The group’s success led to Korogo being chosen as a local leader to train and monitor 45 other conservation farming groups in six surrounding villages. Over the past three years, Korogo has helped many of these groups become formal cooperatives. New community groups have requested her help so they can use conservation farming in their fields as well.
“This changed my life,” Korogo said. “I am now a successful producer and entrepreneur. I am recognized as a leader in my community. I will never stop practicing conservation farming, simply because it works! While being a leader and a trainer, I got to know and help many people all over my village and beyond.”
Her success with conservation farming gave her the confidence and ambition to continue to make her community stronger and more resilient. Expanding into other activities after the main farming season, Korogo worked with other women from her producers’ group to grow nutritional crops such as sorrel, moringa and carrots in a collective garden to improve the nutrition of their families. They also began growing onions and sold handmade soap and moringa leaves at local markets to diversify their income.
“I’m so proud of what we achieved through the diversification of our activities,” Korogo said. “It gave me the means to send four of my children and two of their step-siblings to school, and pay for health expenses and clothing for my family. I also bought myself a motorbike, built my own house, and helped my husband build his home. My hard work has had an impact on the whole family.”
Korogo says she’s not the same person that she was when she started this journey.
“I am more confident and have more skills and knowledge,” Korogo said. “I feel that my work has a positive impact on my family, my village and my county. I know that I am on the right path. I am somebody who matters and I hope that my children will have great futures.
—This story was originally published by Feed the Future.