Women’s empowerment is at the heart of Atacora’s Fair Partnership model. The Atacora product transformation Cooperative consists of more than 30 women during the peak season, as they hold the traditional knowledge of processing whole Baobab fruit into delicious and nutritious Superfruit powder and shelling and cleaning the seeds for oil pressing. These are virtually the only Fair Trade wage jobs for women in the region, and the Co-op is supervised by our intrepid field agent, Véronique Natta.
THE CHALLENGEGirls have been under represented on school benches for generations, and very few have achieved an educational level appropriate for a high level position in an organization such as Atacora, and the precious few in the isolated, rural region are quickly snatched up by heavily funded NGOs, or they move to the city to find better jobs.
It seems now that we are close to identifying a female candidate to manage all field work and our organic production system. This position requires that the person be indigenous to the region, have a high level of literacy, be computer savvy, and have significant experience in organizing rural population around common goal. Hiring a strong woman like this would represent a milestone in the evolution of Fair Partnership.
Thankfully, women’s and girls’ literacy is on the rise, and girls’ education is both a national priority and a dominant theme in Atacora’s interactions within our communities. We often work in partnership with the mayor’s office and community members to make improvements to school infrastructure. We donated soccer balls to a couple of rural schools and were delighted to receive letters from the Directors saying how much they had encouraged attendance!
The money that Atacora pays the women in our Fair Partnership Co-op for their traditional work of making Baobab Superfruit Powder, Baobab Body Oil and African Neem Oil provides supplemental income to the women’s meager earnings from agriculture and beer brewing. The Atacora region is dominated by subsistence agriculture activities, and therefore there is a weak cash economy. Vital services such as health care and education require people to have money, and the prices and wages we pay the tree-growers and Co-op ladies opens access to these services, that they might not otherwise have.