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The hungriest people in the world


Training from her savings group helped Sophie start a new agricultural business. (Photo: Grameen Foundation)

It's often hard to believe that farmers could be the hungriest people in the world, but Sophie Kandiel knows the sting. For five months out of the year, she fretted daily about what to feed her children, often resorting to steamed wild leaves flavored with a pinch of salt. It was the best she could do. 

Like many farmers, Sophie faced a perilous gap between the planting and harvest seasons when food would run out. Her family usually began rationing meals in May. By June they would start selling some of their poultry to help pay for food. But in the rainy season it was often difficult for traders to reach her village of Goumi in central Burkina Faso. 

Sophie had few options. Banding together with women in her village turned out to be the answer. With Grameen Foundation’s help, the women of Goumi came together to create a savings group. At first they began saving what little money they could afford to build a reserve fund for microloans. Working with a local nonprofit, Organisation des Églises Évangéliques and Grameen Foundation’s training guides, they learned new farming and water conservation techniques, business skills—and equally, important, how to stretch their meals using everyday nutritious ingredients found in the community. Her group was also introduced to mobile money, enabling them to make financial transactions digitally. 

Times are better now for Sophie. She used a loan to start a dolo business (making and selling local beer) and now also sells fish, legumes and vegetables. She’s also proud that her savings group is helping to maintain the only water well at the local school.

She knows the hunger season could return, but she’s prepared. Her advice to other women: join a savings group. It gives you the power to learn what you need to know and buy want you need.