Ardjouma Biago, a 52-year-old farmer, owns a one hectare cocoa plot in Koupella, Côte d’Ivoire, near Bouaflé. Ardjouma suffered from poverty and had to borrow constantly because she “did not have the money to eat” or properly feed her family of seven. To turn this situation around, she joined 164 other women in their efforts to achieve financial literacy, diversify their families’ incomes, fight food insecurity, and prevent child malnutrition. The program, part of the Cocoa & Forests Initiative’s inclusion strategy, is composed of three courses: Financial Education, Income Generating Activities, and Nutrition.
“This new business has already improved my family’s quality of life.”
The training empowers women to participate in their families’ income by embracing new activities. Ardjouma learned to calculate profit margins, evaluate market potential, and compute cashflow analyses. Following this process, she decided to get into the livestock breeding business, and looks forward to securing a three-month loan from a Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA) supported by the Dutch government. Follow-up meetings were set with cooperative agents serving as coaches to guide the course participants through their new entrepreneurial ventures.
“Since I started budgeting for my family’s needs and for our savings, I have noticed I have more money left over, as well as peace of mind.”
The training’s financial education modules help participating women improve their position in the household and determine their families’ financial goals. Ardjouma was taught to create budgets, and short to long term savings goals based on annual income. Ardjouma describes that crop diversification, which she learned to implement during her training, was crucial to meeting her daily savings objectives. She has since given “some of (her) savings to (her) son so that he could start a small farm.”
Unpredictable cashflows can have dire consequences for children: a 20-30% stunted growth prevalence exists among cocoa communities. As a mother of five, Ardjouma took a special interest in the nutrition training where participants were taught to identify and remediate malnutrition in children. Ardjouma learned how to select certain types foods in coordination with her household’s revenue flow to optimize meals and nutrition throughout the year. Today, her family enjoys recipes she prepares with ingredients that now grow on her farm such as bananas, peanuts, corn and rice.
Ardjouma Biago’s life has changed and she loves to share her experience with her community: “I try to tell the women (…) that budgeting, and crop diversification is life-changing. I also tell them to make sure that their children are hydrated!”