This week, Fee Gilfeather, Head of Marketing for Oxfam’s Trading Division has gone to Senegal with Marks & Spencer and Shwopping ambassador Joanna Lumley to see the sort of projects that Oxfam has been able to support thanks to the money raised through Shwopping. On the first day, they visited a rice farming cooperative in the north of Senegal.

Day 1 – Saint Louis rice project

The area surrounding Saint Louis has a good supply of fresh water from the Senegal River, making it ideal land for rice growing. Rice is a staple food and most families in Senegal eat rice at least once a day. However, 80% of the rice eaten here is imported from Asia. When we arrived at the project we sat down to a delicious meal of locally grown rice.

M&S Senegal Shwop trip

Oxfam started working with farmers in this region in 2009 after a period of severe flooding and cold weather. More than 100,000 people were affected; their homes damaged by the torrential rains, their crops, livestock and seed stores lost. Oxfam worked with a local cooperative to bring farmers together, helping them set up rice processing and packaging facilities, safe places to store their seeds and preparing them to cope better with extreme weather.

Ibrahima Ly (below with Joanna) from Pinord, Oxfam’s partner organisation, took us to visit a rice processing group.

M&S Shwop trip

Ibrahima demonstrated the sewing machine used to seal the rice sacks.

M&S Senegal Shwop trip

This rice processing group employs 11 women who sift the grains into different sizes.  Each woman who works at the cooperative helps at least five others in her family, providing food and money for schooling. They’re also able to keep some rice which they can sell to raise money in emergencies, such as to get hospital treatment if their children are ill.

M&S Senegal shwop trip

Ndaye Gaye (in the photo, below, on the left with Joanna), one of the rice producers  used to do unpaid work at the local council offices, now she’s got her own business and can afford to feed her family and send her children to school.

M&S Senegal Shwop trip

The group sell their rice from new roadside kiosks such as this one below.

M&S Senegal Shwop trip

The cooperative now has 3000 members, helping to change the lives of over 85,000 people.

You can find out more information about the projects that we’re visiting this week on the Marks & Spencer blog. The Shwopping donations that you have given so far are helping projects such as these and we thank you for each and every old t-shirt to once worn pair of trousers you have given.

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