Women’s Cooperative Addresses Water and Food Needs in Mauritania

Mauritania cooperative garden
A cooperative garden in Mauritania
Kat Echeverria, USAID
Group doubles the size of its original garden
“Though we stop receiving money [after the program ends], we continue to profit from the infrastructure.”

June 2017—In Mauritania’s Guidimakha region—which faces recurrent drought, lack of water access, and persistent food and nutrition insecurity—a women’s cooperative called Dioubaye works to improve access to nutritious food, water and income for its members and community.

Dioubaye, which is the name of a local tree, maintained a garden long before receiving USAID assistance in 2014, but lack of reliable water, quality seeds and technical know-how often resulted in little to no yields, especially during drought years. Now, nearly three years later, the cooperative has doubled the size of the original garden using its own labor and financial resources.

The garden produces enough vegetables for its 37 members to both consume and sell, improving their dietary diversity and household income. Dioubaye has been so successful that another women’s cooperative has started to replicate its gardening activities since there is now sufficient water to expand crop production in the village.

USAID, through its partner Action Against Hunger-Spain, supports resilience-building activities throughout Guidimakha to improve long-term food security. USAID currently supports 14 cooperatives—comprising approximately 1,500 vulnerable men and women—to expand and rehabilitate water points, gardens, fishing ponds, irrigated cropland, and other productive community infrastructure that helps rural populations improve access to income, nutritious food and water.

In response to drought, USAID began supporting infrastructure rehabilitation in 2014 through cash-for-work activities. The assistance helps beneficiaries meet food needs by supplementing household income.

Ibrahima Thioye, mayor of one of the communes receiving USAID support, described the long-term benefit of the cash-for-work approach. “Though we stop receiving money [after the program ends], we continue to profit from the infrastructure.”

USAID also supports technical training on gardening, water resource management, and infrastructure; distributes agricultural inputs such as seeds and tools; and ensures that cooperatives are connected to local service providers who can repair infrastructure as needed. Other support includes helping cooperatives to better organize their finances so they can expand their businesses and maintain sufficient savings in case of shocks.

In Dioubaye’s village, the improved water point, which is a pump that relies on solar energy, provides enough safe drinking water to supply even neighboring villages throughout the dry season. As a result, the water point has improved the health of community members, especially children. It has also improved the relationship between Dioubaye’s village and neighboring villages since they now share—instead of compete over—water resources.

Households pay a fee each month, which goes into a community fund, to repair and maintain the water point. Cooperative members pay an additional fee into the fund for garden water, seeds and tools, and other business expenses.

Since December 2015, USAID’s Office of Food for Peace has provided nearly $9 million to programs dedicated to improving food and nutrition security in Mauritania.


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