This social entrepreneur is educating villages on the importance of nutritious diets and providing better access to clean water.
Tucked in the corner of Aissata Thilogme’s small store is her best-selling product — clean water.
Thilogme is a community-based solution provider, or local social entrepreneur, in the Matam region of Senegal. Nominated by her community as part of a Feed the Future project, she provides access to essential items that support good nutrition, such as seeds, enriched flour and clean water.
The community nominated Thilogme as a social entrepreneur because she was already working to improve nutrition in her community. Thilogme is a volunteer, leading mothers’ groups to improve household nutrition. After receiving support from Feed the Future, she now not only provides her mothers’ groups with counseling and knowledge on best nutrition practices, but also with access to products through her small shop that support nutrition and health, empowering them to better integrate healthy practices into their daily lives.
Thilogme saw an opportunity to help mothers access clean water. Through Feed the Future, she learned about how drinking and using unclean water can cause people, especially children, to become ill and often leads to diarrhea, which can contribute to malnutrition. The project reached community members through radio programs, local village fairs and curriculums for the mothers’ group.
“The [radio] campaign told people the importance of drinking clean water,” Thilogme said. “It was important because now diarrhea is decreasing.”
With clean water, families are healthier and children miss school less often. Having access to clean water also allows families to wash dirt and bacteria off fruits and vegetables, making nutritious and healthy food options safer and more appealing. And yet bottled water — the only clean water in her village — was too expensive for many families.
To overcome this barrier, Thilogme was able to procure a large LifeStraw water filter for her store. She uses it to filter gallons of water each day. She sells this clean water at a fraction of the cost of bottled water sold in other shops. It quickly became her most popular product.
She also sells bleach and teaches customers how to use it to safely purify their water at home.
Feed the Future trains social entrepreneurs, like Thilogme, and connects them to other community leaders and mothers groups, as well as private firms and research institutions, to improve the nutrition and health of their communities. By connecting motivated community leaders and the private sector, the community-based solution provider model provides entrepreneurs access to high-quality, profit-generating products, such as the LifeStraw, that solve critical health and nutrition problems in their communities.
Following in the same footsteps as Thilogme, many other social entrepreneurs have brought agriculture, nutrition and clean water products to their villages in Senegal. With training and support from Feed the Future’s Yaajeende and Kawolor projects, nearly 630 such entrepreneurs have linked up with 27 firms that supply quality products, from seeds to soaps, to the most remote areas.
The Feed the Future Yaajeende project was a first of its kind initiative to use a fully integrated approach to enhance the nutrition of targeted populations in Senegal. Its follow-on, the Feed the Future Kawolor project, builds on that work and supports local communities to create networks and systems to support best practices and expanded access to healthy and nutritious foods with the goal of reaching more than 500,000 children under 5 years old. Both projects are led by NCBA CLUSA and its partners Helen Keller International, JSI Research & Training Institute, Sheladia Associates, Inc. and Dimagi Inc.