The CREATE! Way: Improving sustainable food security in rural Senegal

CREATE! promotes nourishing food future in Senegal using sustainable, environmentally appropriate pathways

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Eligibility Criteria

  • I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria and terms of the Act for Biodiversity Challenge and that I am eligible to apply.
  • I am 18 years old or older.

Initiative's representative name

Paulomi Bhattacharyya

Initiative's representative date of birth

August 6, 1976

Initiative's representative gender

  • Woman

Headquarters location: country

  • United States

Headquarters location: city

Eugene, Oregon

Where are you making a difference?

Rural Senegal in the regions of Fatick, Kaolack and Louga

Website or social media url(s)

Date Started


Project Stage

  • Scaling (expanding impact to many new places or in many new ways)

Yearly Budget : What is your current yearly budget for the initiative?

  • €250k - €500k

Organization Type

  • Nonprofit/NGO

1. Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this project to succeed.

CREATE! is the brainchild of founder Barry Wheeler. Since 1984, Wheeler had been working with both villagers and refugees 
in Africa to help ameliorate the hardship in their 
lives. His work began with the Peace Corps in Togo, where he 
worked closely with women’s groups, teaching them to build 
the same improved cookstove model that is found in CREATE!’s
 communities today. These women were the inspiration for
 creating a non-governmental organization (NGO) that would
 employ the best practices he had learned to help rural African
 villages sustainably meet basic human needs. His daily interaction with women’s groups gave him insight into their lives and taught him that women are often the backbone of family and community development.

2. The problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

In the arid country of Senegal, the dry season is 9 months long and agriculture is carried out only during the short rainy season. Climate change has resulted in droughts and desertification, limiting access to water and food cultivation further. The World Food Program estimates that 17% of people in Senegal are food insecure and micro-nutrient deficiency is high. This is the problem CREATE! is trying to solve by improving perennial access to water leading to better and diverse food production.

3. Your solution: How are you working to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

CREATE!s vision is to transform the way rural Senegal perceives food cultivation from growing cash crops during the short rainy season to sustainably growing a variety of nutritious food for consumption and sale year round. In a region where water is scarce and sunlight is plentiful, CREATE! harnesses abundant solar energy to help improve water access leading to better production opportunities. The specific components of the project are: • Rehabilitation of a village well with proven capacity to produce 20,000-25,000 liters of water per day. • Installation of a submersible solar pump and solar panel array to pump water from the well without the use of batteries or fossil fuels. • Clearing and fencing of 1 hectare of land to establish a sustainable agriculture campus where communities will grow a diverse variety of vegetables. • Installation of an interconnected network of gravity-fed and drip irrigation system to distribute water from the well throughout the garden site for convenient watering of plants, seedlings and trees. • Providing community members with trainings on organic vegetable cultivation. • Providing daily supervision and technical support for garden activities.

4. Innovation: How are you innovating or using unique approaches to solve the problem?

Our approach is unique since we focus on both sustainability and accessibility to attain self-sufficiency. These two tactics ensure our program’s long-term impact on the communities we work with and has a greater chance for future success. To ensure sustainability, we use innovative environmentally relevant methods by using abundant solar power in place of fossil fuels to improve access to water. We also use compost as fertilizers and recycled mosquito nets to protect plants than pesticides. Our programs foster local ownership of the projects through our innovative four-year graduation program where we teach communities increasingly technical agriculture and income generation skills that they will be able to use throughout their lives.

5. Collaboration: How does your initiative seek to bring key players together to preserve biodiversity?

CREATE!s key stakeholder in Senegal are the 17 community-based women’s groups for whom the program is designed. CREATE! also works very closely with the Government of Senegal, particularly the Gossas, Linguere and Guinguineo branches of the Senegal Water and Forestry Department, who oversee CREATE!s work and shares its technical expertise with us. Moreover, we received a diploma of recognition in 2019 from the Governor of the Fatick region in Senegal for our reforestation program during the Journée de l’arbre (Tree Day) celebration. In the future, we hope to connect with the Governments’ Plan for Sustainable Reforestation of the National Territory to usher in a “green” revolution in Senegal. Our other collaborators are the various Foundations who financially support our agricultural program as well as NGO’s like CARITAS who help with the program sustainability by testing our well water for usage. All of them make CREATE!s work on food security and agricultural diversity a success.

6. Impact: how has your project made a difference so far — in terms of both business outputs and social impact? How do you plan on measuring progress?

Since 2010, about 1000 members in 17 rural Senegalese communities have partnered with CREATE! and increased their perennial supply of water. With 20,000 liters of water pumped out daily in each community, 7 different varieties of produce are grown leading to the communities producing nearly 20 tons of vegetables in 2019 for consumption and sale. This led to improved health and nutrition with the communities now able to consume their own fresh produce daily. As per the collected data, 97% of the women in active partner communities achieved Minimum Dietary Diversity (MDD-W), a nutritional indicator in 2019 while the baseline data for same indicator in new communities is only 51%. The incomes that they earn through sale of excess vegetables help ensure a stable and sustainable livelihood for them and opportunities to save. Beneficiaries saved $20-$25 each per month on an average in 2019, savings that help the community members access better health care and education for their families.

7. Growth strategies: what are your main strategies for scaling your impact?

While CREATE!s vision is showing results in 17 rural communities, its feasibility to expand depends on partnerships with the Government of Senegal and other stakeholders in this journey. In the next 5 years, our vision involves increasing the number of partner villages from 17 to 30, and then taking our model of development to other West African countries. To do that, we need to spread the word about our work. We are already in conversation with other NGOs in Senegal like Africare and Tostan for possible partnerships. We also presented at an international conference called “Cracking the Nut” that focused on topics like rural development, sustainable agriculture and nutrition. The connections made there are ones we want to explore.

8. Creating shared value: How does your initiative create value for society? Or different stakeholders?

Our initiative is about improving the health and wellbeing while empowering the women in our communities and making them self-sufficient. Many of these women never worked before CREATE!. Our programs teach them, many without any formal education, to process new knowledge and apply that to challenges faced. With this training, women are able to lead agricultural cooperative groups and their savings associations. Serving in such leadership roles, often for the first time, makes them feel empowered. The income that they earn also empowers them by making them economically independent. They are now equal partners in maintaining their households. This is the social value our program creates.

9. Financial sustainability plan: can you tell us about your plan to fund your project and how that plan will be sustainable in the short, medium, and long term?

To be financially sustainable, CREATE! has a mix of public and private philanthropic support through dedicated individual donors and foundations. In the short term, we hope to expand our financial sustainability through further partnerships with the Government of Senegal, other governments and our financial partners. Our long-term goal is to explore social marketing of our services to Senegalese communities and a Social Enterprise water supply venture through the purchase of a mini-hydraulic well drilling. This rig would allow us to serve our community needs and the Senegalese government and become a service provider for non-partner communities. Our social enterprise revenue will be re-invested into CREATE!’s development program.

10. Team: what is the current composition of your current team (types of roles, qualifications, full-time vs. part-time, board members, etc.), and how do you plan to evolve the team’s composition as the project grows?

Our team consists of 17 full time salaried employees in Senegal including agricultural technicians like Codou Gadji, Amadou Diouf, all with degrees or diplomas in horticulture. Mame Souka manages the financial transactions in Senegal. The team is led by Omar Seck, our Country Director, who oversees and manages CREATE!’s in-country operations. Our US team employs 2.5 full time salaried personnel who are responsible for fundraising. The board members support our programs and help in raising funds.

11. How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Search engine


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