Sounkalo (35) lives in Kayes, with his wife and two children. He started farming poultry in 2009, but after a few years his chickens died due to illnesses and he had insufficient funds to start again. He decided to grow vegetables on a small family plot and it developed into a real passion. Now, he wakes up every day at sunrise and after the morning-prayer and breakfast, he leaves to work on the plot, which is a 10 minute walk away.
His plot is conveniently located near a river so it can be irrigated throughout the year and the local market is nearby so it easy to sell the harvest. Truly a prime location.
Despite this, Sounkalo is not satisfied "I can’t grow my production as the plot is small (it is 20 by 30 metres). My water receiving basin and equipment are in disrepair and I don’t have sufficient funds to renovate them. I struggle to main a steady income. This has consequences for my family for example. I send my daughter to a private school, but now I’m late in paying for her school fees. As a result, she’s falling behind and she might have to drop out.” A friend who works at the local town hall gave him information about the OYEM project and the opportunities it could provide. To improve his family’s situation, he decided join the project.
The project starts with a ten day basic training that focuses on personal, leadership and business skills. "The training taught me that a farm is not only a business that generates income but that it allows us to make a profit and grow. I had never considered my horticultural farm as a business until then. I also learned business skills, for example accounting and how to separate private and business funds. We also talked about how to keep customers satisfied, and the need for honesty. I believe that now I have the skill to properly manage my farm as a business.”
During the basic training, Sounkalo expressed his desire to grow his horticulture farm as a business. Luckily, another project participant was leasing a big plot in the same area, but he was looking to develop a waste management business and not a horticulture business. Sounkalo seized on the opportunity and started renting the plot for FCFA100,000 (€150) per year.
The basic training was followed by a five day training on horticulture practices. “During the horticulture training we learned about good agricultural practices and how to make a good planning for planting the crops. For example, the okra season is now coming to an end and I just planted some of this vegetable. It will sell very well when the supply on the local market is low in one to two months.” SNV will continue to train Sounkalo on horticulture techniques now that he has completed his basic and technical training. SNV will also support him to create an irrigation system on his new plot.
By joining the project Sounkalo’s prospects have improved considerably. “I look at my children and like any father, I want to offer them a better life. Despite my attempts to succeed, sometimes I barely saw the end of the tunnel. Now, thanks to the OYEM project, gradually I am becoming hopeful again and I am beginning to have a vision for my life".