The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted lives all around the world, including markets and businesses in sub-Saharan Africa. Many of the entrepreneurs that Energy 4 Impact supports in various sectors of the Senegalese economy have also suffered from the impacts of the crisis. But the Solidarity Fund established by the ENERGIA Network has provided a lifeline for struggling businesses and is proving crucial to the revival of 69 companies (comprising 594 women entrepreneurs) in the agri-food sector. The fund has enabled them to invest in new technologies, rebuild their stock of raw materials and meet outstanding payments owed to their creditors.
Diarriétou Sow runs a market garden business, growing onions and potatoes on her 0.17 ha field with the help of a farm labourer. In 2018, Diarriétou invested in a small solar pump to replace her old diesel generator, but its flow rate of 10 m3 per day was not sufficient to irrigate the entire extent of her field. Without the capital to purchase a larger pump with a higher flow rate, she couldn’t therefore achieve the full potential of her land.
In 2020, Energy 4 Impact helped Diarriétou to develop a saving plan to enable her to put away a proportion of the turnover from each harvest, which generated an average of EUR 1,000 per season. Unfortunately, when the pandemic began to spread, she was forced to tap into her savings to meet the basic needs of her family and could not go ahead with upgrading her pump as envisaged. Having already factored the imminent purchase of a larger pump into her plans for the next harvest, she had planted enough seedlings to cover the entire perimeter, but now unable to irrigate the whole field, Diarriétou lost part of her harvest due to prolonged water stress. Her onion and potato production yielded only a third of what she had planned to achieve. Travel restrictions and market closure also subsequently impacted her post-harvest sales.
Hit hard by the pandemic, Diarriétou ended up letting go of her farm labourer because she could no longer afford to pay him.
After more than 10 years of experience in market gardening, this is the first time that I have experienced such difficulties as a farmer. The pandemic really plunged my businesses into crisis after the market became inaccessible because of local restrictions. No longer able to strike deals with big suppliers from the capital, my produce was instead bought by local suppliers for a third of the price
However, a few months ago Diarriétou was awarded a grant of EUR 1,103 from the ENERGIA Solidarity Fund. Put together with her own savings, the grant enabled her to invest in new equipment. Approximately four-fifths of this grant went towards the purchase of a more powerful solar pump with a flow rate of 5 m3 per hour. The rest was used as working capital which helped her put down a deposit for two more solar panels to power her larger pump. Finally, she had an irrigation system in place that was able to irrigate the entire surface of her field.
With her water problem resolved, the entrepreneur is looking forward to increasing her production and income. Diarriétou planted new crops of cabbages and turnips a month ago. If everything goes according to plan, she will repay the solar panel supplier within twelve months.
With financial and technical support from Energy 4 Impact, she will be able to build a stronger, more profitable business, sustained by improved financial planning, capable of withstanding future challenges.
Jean-César Ndione, Energy 4 Impact’s BDS Coordinator said: “Diarriétou has resurrected her business and rehired her farm labourer. Now she is on the right track to achieve her best ever crop yield thanks to this financial boost from ENERGIA”.
This story has been developed by our partner Energy 4 Impact as part of our Women’s Economic Empowerment Program.