Tenoghin is a small village in Burkina Faso in West Africa, with just over 1,000 inhabitants. The community members are mostly engaged in farming and small businesses, which are mainly run by women.
Nongtaaba, which means “love each other” in the local language, is the community’s first Savings Group, supported by Plan International USA’s Women & Youth Saving for Empowerment (WYSE) project. It was created in 2013 with 20 members. Today, the group has 24 members and is in its third cycle of saving.
The Nongtaaba Savings Group has received equipment and training on soap-making techniques through participation in the WYSE project.
“In the past, shea trees were producing a lot of fruit and we could easily find shea nuts in large quantities to make soap with the butter,” said Martine, the group’s secretary. “Nowadays, the shea trees are producing less and the price of the shea nuts is very high. This led us to choose soap-making because the demand is high.
“Until now, we had to go to either Koupela or to Dassoui (respectively 21 and 12 km from Tenoghin) to get our soap supply. Making soap in the village benefits us, as well as those who will buy our soap to resell it.
“The cohesion within the Savings Group and the group’s operating structure helps us with our soap-making. In fact, we share tasks. When some members are preparing the oil, the others are working on other tasks, and so on. After that, we all meet on the soap-making day to work together. We have picked a member to watch over the soap during the drying stage. When the soap dries, we meet again to distribute the balls of soap between the members who will take care of selling within the community. When a woman finishes selling her share, she helps the others to sell their soap. We think that with this structure and discipline within the Savings Group, the activity will continue to thrive.”
“Our group functions very well,” added Clariesse Tamalgo, another group member. “We understand each other and we carefully follow the advice of the field facilitator.
“Nevertheless, at the beginning it was not easy because we were hesitant about the idea of setting up a Savings Group. Other women in the village who had been robbed advised us against it. As time passed and with the perseverance of the field facilitator, we noticed that the approach was different from what we had known in the past.
“In fact, the Savings Group approach guarantees the principles of transparency and trust by using a box with three locks and the verification of the amount of saved funds during each meeting.
“Despite these measures, the first year we did the activity with the fear that we would lose our savings. At the end of the first cycle, we were more reassured due to its positive effects: certain women were able to buy clothes for themselves and support their husbands with the household’s expenses.
“We are grateful to Plan International because without their help, we would not know about this initiative that is helping us to get out of poverty.”