Hidden off the beaten path in the rolling mountains of central Guinea, the community of Pellelmodiyadhé was one of the first communities in Guinea to participate in Tostan’s three-year Community Empowerment Program (CEP) starting in February 2003. During the program, they gained new knowledge on democracy, hygiene, health, literacy, and project management as well as received funds from Tostan in 2004 to start their own community-managed microcredit funds. Through good financial management and an entrepreneurial spirit, they were able to increase the initial amount given ($71 USD) by tenfold.
Before Tostan’s arrival in Pellelmodiyadhé, the community came up with innovative ideas such as collecting and selling gravel to construction companies in the region. Once they began Tostan’s program and participated in class sessions on financial management, community members were able to expand their economic activities and significantly increase profits. They in turn deposited their profits in the community microcredit fund managed by the Community Management Committee (CMC) in the village.
Through the initial loan, community members also started making soap. They used a portion of the initial fund to purchase oil, perfume, and other materials, and they sold their products to their community at the weekly market nearby. Pleasantly surprised by their success, they held a meeting to decide what other activities they could do to supplement their soap making. It was decided that a portion of the funds would be used to build a bread stove in a large room attached to the building where Tostan classes were held. They called on a local baker to help them build the stove, purchased flour and other supplies, and soon after set up their own bread making business.
After the success of this business venture, community members came together to brainstorm about further ideas. They decided to reinforce their current farm; they bought material to build a fence to keep out grazing animals, better soil fertilizer, and a larger variety of seeds to diversify their crops. Eventually, community members began growing different products including onions, rice, and tomatoes (during the dry season) and potatoes and beans (during the rainy season).
Community members strategically chose these three major activities to maintain financial sustainability. Despite a lower financial return, soap and bread can be made and sold at all times of the year, while the ability to lead agricultural activities varies between the dry and rainy seasons.
The profits made through these income-generating activities have contributed to various community development projects in Pellelmodiyadhé and have also benefited villages in the surrounding areas. Between 2005 and 2014 the largest projects resulting from the funds generated from these activities include: the repair and maintenance of the Tostan center as well as the construction of a primary school, a French/Arabic school, a bread stove, and a water pump. All of these projects were spearheaded by the Community Management Committee (CMC), a fully functional governing body originally put in place as part of the Tostan program over ten years ago and led by elected village members.
When asked what their hopes and aspirations were for the year to come, the women expressed their desire to receive project management training to enable them to better lead and manage their resources. In addition, they plan on applying for local and national funding to expand their activities. They also plan to write to the regional government requesting more land to expand their agricultural output.
These results could not have been achieved without the motivation and ingenuity of Pellelmodiyadhé’s residents. When asked about their opinion of Tostan’s program, Fatoumata Binta Ba, who participated in the three-year CEP, shared that prior to the program, she did not know how to read or write and spoke with uncertainly in front of her peers. In the room full of people, Fatoumata emanated confidence. She said, “Tostan has provided us with economic opportunities in order to improve the health, education, and financial means of my brothers, sisters, and parents; however, its impact goes beyond this. As a whole community we have grown. We come together in times of hardship and we understand the importance of human rights which will allow us to teach this to our children for years to come.”