To put into practice what they had learned in trainings on health and hygiene, and to get around the high cost of soap that stood in the way of fully adopting the measures, participants in FRB’s West Africa 1 program are making their own soap, saving money, and earning income for their groups.
Community members understood how their health and food security are connected to hygiene. However, they were not putting into practice what they had learned about the importance of washing their hands, because soap was just too expensive. The program responded to people’s request for more knowledge by organizing a training on soap making, and invited each community to send a delegate to learn the process and teach others back home.
Hands-on learning is an important part of ensuring comprehension, so all of the women present participated actively, preparing the work area, measuring ingredients, stirring, holding the mold, and pouring the soap mixture into it.“When our group's delegate returned from the training, she called a meeting and explained to us the ingredients and equipment that we needed. Then she explained step by step how to make the soap,” Louta explained. “In the meeting we decided that we would use $30 from the savings we had in our group cashbox to make a soap mold and buy what we needed to get started.”
Since then the group works together to make soap, picking a day when the men and women from the group can work together. The first time, the group made 50 bars, which members purchased for roughly 25 cents each. The profit (about $3 a batch) goes back to their group’s savings. “We are going to start making more than 50 bars of soap at a time,” Louta said. “People are starting to come to our village to buy our high quality soap. We’d like to make enough that we can start going to the market to sell it”
“My family uses much more soap now than we did before. Before, in a month we would buy five balls of soap in the market at 50 cents each, but it was expensive and not very good quality, and our clothes didn’t come clean. Now we buy seven bars that we made ourselves,” Louta explained. “It lasts a long time, and really cleans!"
The increased hygiene promises to have a major impact on the health statistics in these communities. “Now we wash our hands with soap before we eat. We have already noticed that we are healthier now,” said another group member. “Our children have diarrhea less often. We are cleaner … and so are our clothes.”
Foods Resource Bank’s West Africa 1 - Program is led by World Renew and local partner Showing Everyone Love (SEL). West Africa 1 encompasses 55 communities, 2000 households, and 14,000. (For security reasons, identifiers of country and local partner are withheld ,and all names are changed.)