Seventy-five percent of the world’s poorest people live in rural areas as subsistence farmers. This means there can be no release from the cycle of poverty without addressing agriculture. The Global Fairness Initiative (GFI)’s ‘Guinea-Bissau Livelihood Initiative’ is doing just that. They are working to improve agricultural production, market access, and farming regulations in Guinea-Bissau.
In the region of Bafatá, GFI partners with a local women’s cooperative called APALCOF (Association of Female Producers and the Self-Promotion for the Fight Against Hunger). The cooperative is comprised of 3,500 female smallholder farmers in 29 communities in the region. They work to improve their members’ livelihood through enhancing nutrition, using technology to reduce required manual labor, promoting access to healthcare, and encouraging literacy.
With the bikes provided from the partnership with Bikes for the World, APALCOF will be able to sell bikes at affordable prices to its women members and their families, most of whom work on rice and onion farms. In West Africa, women are often given last choice of fields after their male relatives, typically meaning the fields furthest from their homes. They travel miles on foot every day, often with a baby on their back.
Women not only work to produce on their farms, but are also generally responsible for nearly all domestic chores. They need to find time in their day to cook, clean, collect water, and care for their children and husband, all while still working long days in their fields to produce food for their families. Moreover, many spend hours every week to carry their goods (often on their heads) to markets to earn a little money for their families.
These are some of the strongest women around, but the enormous amounts of time and physical labor required can reduce their efficiency and make it hard for them to escape poverty. Access to a bike can make a world of difference. A bike can mean less time on chores, more time with family, a smaller toll on the body, and the ability to generate more income.
Not only will this project help women and their families access affordable transportation, but the revenues generated will be reinvested into APALCOF’s micro-finance program and given out as loans to members to establish or strengthen entrepreneurial activities, helping the women improve even further the well-being of themselves and their families.