Fighting food insecurity through financial literacy: Solidaridad programme in Ivory Coast empowers women

“If you had known me before, and came to see me today, you would undoubtedly have noticed a change.” Ardjouma Biago is 52 years old and her family owns and resides on a one-hectare cocoa farm located in the Koupella village of Ivory Coast. Their farm supplies the Bouaflé cooperative SOCOOFEM. Not so long ago Biago did not have the money to properly feed her family of seven, without resorting to borrowing. Biago joined 164 other women aiming to contribute more to their families’ financial and nutritional decision-making. They joined a programme with the goal of achieving financial literacy, fighting food insecurity, and preventing malnutrition in children. Coordinated by Solidaridad West Africa and supported by Sucden, the programme tackled Financial Education, Income Generating Activity and Nutrition.

Fighting food insecurity through financial literacy

“This programme has already improved my family’s quality of life.” The programme’s aim was empowering women to take part in generating income for their families. It offered training on Income Generating Activities (IGAs) aimed at diversifying their incomes. Biago has gained skills in calculating profit margins, evaluating market potentials and computing cashflow analyses. Following this programme, Biago decided to jump into the livestock breeding business. Currently she is looking forward to securing “a three-month loan from a Village Savings and Loans Association” (VSLA). This VSLA was built by Solidaridad as part of the Cocoa Rehabilitation and Intensification Program (CORIP II), with funding from the Dutch embassy in Ghana. To support these women on their new entrepreneurial ventures, the programme has been followed up with coaching.

“Since I started budgeting for my family’s needs and for our savings, I have noticed I have more money left over, as well as peace of mind.”

The financial lessons learnt are helping participants to improve their position in the household. This allows them to contribute to their families’ decision-making on financial goals. Biago can now create time-adjusted budgets, and short to long term savings goals based on annual income. Biago describes how crop diversification was crucial to meeting her daily savings objectives. Since her training she regularly gives “some of (her) savings to (her) son so that he could start a small farm”.

Preventing Malnutrition

Being a mother of five, the programme’s nutrition component particularly resonates with Biago. 20-30% of children raised in financially insecure cocoa communities are at risk of stunted growth due to malnutrition. Participants were guided on identifying and combating malnutrition in children, adjusting for differences in age and gender.

Biago now optimizes her family’s spending on food stuffs, providing high nutritional value within her family’s financial means. Her family enjoys recipes she learned to prepare during the training, utilizing ingredients that now grow on her plantation such as bananas, peanuts and nutritious non-perishables like corn and rice.

Biago tries to be an uplifting voice in her community. “I try to tell the women in my community that budgeting and crop diversification is life-changing. I also tell them to make sure that their children stay well hydrated!”