Bissap Infused Tea

In January 2008, the village of Kaymor was selected to pilot the rural satellite of 10,000 Girls.  Kaymor is an important village in its area, being the seat of its own Rural Community, thus being the central town in a larger interlinked collection of villages.  It has about 1800 inhabitants, electricity and running water, a health post with maternity ward, a small weekly market, an Arabic/Islamic school, and a French elementary and middle school.  Nevertheless, it is fairly remote, being about 18km (12 miles) from a paved road, and almost 100km (a 3.5 hour trip, at least) from the regional capital of Kaolack, where Internet, postal, and banking services are centered.  In addition, during the rainy season, the small river Babaolon floods the town’s single red dirt road, effectively halting transport to and from Kaymor for days at a time.  The majority of the population relies on agriculture, mainly peanut, as their main source of income.

The Rural Community officially allotted a 10 hectacres field to Kaymor’s girls’ group.  It was new land, which had never before used for farming, and thus could be classified as organic.  It was entirely fenced in thanks to a grant from Wula Nafaa (USAID), so crops are safe from wandering livestock.  The field is located about 2km from town, in between Kaymor and the neighboring village of Dialocounta.  These 2km are easily walkable, and are surrounded by other farmers’ land, so during the rainy season there are plenty of charettes (local horse carts) to help transport girls there and back.

During the 2008 rainy season, the girls farmed hibiscus – “bissap” in Wolof – which was then sold to a group of young women in Kaolack (all part of the 10,000 Girls program) to be transformed into tea for export to the United States.  Yet another group packaged the tea and prepared it for export.  Every group keeps and manages its own profits, which is an amazing accomplishment in Senegal, where women – and young unmarried women especially – rarely get to earn and keep money of their own.  The Kaymor girls hope to do even more than simply grow the bissap.  They want to transform it into tea as well, and continue to improve their program.

The young women of Kaymor have gained the confidence to stand up at meetings, speak before large groups and interact maturely with their parents and other adults.  These qualities are awe-inspiring in village girls!  The changes brought by 10,000 Girls are truly amazing.  In addition, the Kaymor girls have visited with their Kaolack counterparts, whose success in school, and especially with English, has inspired them to work even harder so that their skills equal those of the city girls.

The girls work in the fields during the planting and harvest seasons as well as being full-time students.