NCBA CLUSA’s U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)-funded Millet Business Services Project has been awarded a research-focused extension through May 2020 to capture lessons and challenges that could inform future work.
The project, in partnership with USDA and Senegal’s Ministry of Agriculture, hosted a closing workshop on December 19, 2019 to highlight its achievements in increasing the agricultural productivity of the country’s millet value chain and expanding millet trade. Over five years of implementation, the project impacted close to 500,000 people and led to almost $12 million in total millet sales.
“I am proud of the results that our Senegalese team and partners have achieved under this innovative program,” said Alex Serrano, Senior Vice President of International Development at NCBA CLUSA, who spoke on behalf of NCBA CLUSA president and CEO Doug O’Brien at the closeout.
“You have transformed the millet value chain from one of basic subsistence to a profitable commercial system that now fills granaries and feeds families across Kaolack, Fatick and Kaffrine,” he added.
One way the project has empowered farmers and lifted the community as a whole is by improving the post-harvest handling of millet. Its 18 millet “hubs,” or centers where harvests are inspected, cleaned, sorted and stored, allow farmers to preserve the quality of their millet, leverage their bargaining power to stabilize prices and, ultimately, earn more income.
Built with bricks made from an innovative mixture of cement and clay that can withstand fluctuations in temperature and moisture better than either material alone, each 200-ton capacity storage warehouse keeps millet in the best possible condition until it is sold.
Another innovation the project has piloted is helping Senegalese people recognize the benefits of eating locally-grown millet—potentially transformative in a country that imports 70 percent of its food. By establishing millet “canteens,” or small cafes that sell flavorful and nutritious millet-based dishes, the project can showcase the versatility of the ingredient.
Canteen mangers—most of whom are women like Ndeye Ndoumbe Diallo—receive training from the project in millet preparation, marketing, business management and bookkeeping, ensuring that their businesses, along with the jobs they create and food security they provide, will be sustainable in the future.
Project organizers hope the new interest in millet is lasting, too. Despite growing up eating the grain, many Senegalese had moved away from it, relying instead on imported grains that undercut the country’s economy and environment. “Millet is nothing new; it’s in our culture and ancient traditions,” said Pape Sen, Senior Technical Advisor for the project. “But now, we are valuing it, branding it. It has become sacred.”
The project touches all aspects of the millet industry, including packaging and marketing. At one millet processing and packaging center in Kaolack, women even make their own sustainable craft paper packaging.
“We make quality products. We have quality raw materials… [and] we do everything in-house,” said Khady Cisse, president of the facility. “Now we have access to new markets.” In just one month, the women packaged and sold 1 ton of millet, earning 800,000 West African CFA francs, or about USD $1,400.
The Millet Business Services Project is a follow up to NCBA CLUSA’s previous Millet Value Chain Project, which increased millet yields by 69 percent and sales revenues by 145 percent.
With a budget of close to $10 million, the Millet Business Services Project almost doubled NCBA CLUSA’s USDA funding for millet value chains in Senegal.
Last month’s closeout ceremony was attended by Senegal’s Minister of Agriculture, Papa Abdoulaye Seck; the U.S. Ambassador to Senegal and Guinea Bissau, Tulinabo S. Mushingi; the Governors of Koalack, Kaffrine, and Fatick; local mayors; and the Director of the U.S. Agency for International Development in Senegal, Peter Trenchard.
To learn more about this project’s impacts, watch the videos screened during the closing workshop below.