The women of Kansongho, like many Dogon women, buy raw cotton grown in other parts of Mali and transform it to earn income. They pick out the seeds, card, and spin it, then hire men to weave it into strips of cloth. Then, they sew the strips together into wider cloths and sell it to a neighboring village for indigo dying. Tired of sporadic availability in the nearby market, exorbitant prices and credit policies, and vagaries in quality, the women of Kansongho decided to create their own cotton bank in their village. With the help of The Tandana Foundation, they purchased a large stock of cotton in 2010 and created a committee to manage it. After receiving training in how to manage the stock and keep records, the committee divided the stock among all the women who wanted to work with cotton, noting how much each woman would owe for the cotton once she had sold the cloth made from it. With help from the village men and our 2011 Mali Volunteer Vacation volunteers, they also built a storehouse to keep the cotton safe. Each year, they use proceeds from the previous year's sales to restock the cotton bank.
Cotton is a vital resource for many women in the village of Sal-Dimi. They transform raw cotton into cloth, which they sell to indigo dyers in neighboring villages to earn income. However, for a number of reasons cotton is not always available. Women from small villages must travel to larger market towns to buy cotton. When it is available, they are often forced to buy it at high prices and can't be sure of its quality.
Tired of these struggles, women in Sal-Dimi decided to set up their own cotton bank and asked Tandana to help. Tandana purchased a large stock of cotton for each cotton bank. A committee of women, selected by the assembly of all women in each village, manages the stock and keeps records. Any woman in the village can purchase the cotton she needs on credit, and the committee records how much each woman owes. Once the participants have sold the cloth, they repay the money they owe to the cotton bank. The committee uses this fund to buy the cotton stock for the following year. This process continues year after year. Having the cotton banks in their villages means women have access to cotton year-round at an affordable price.
Each cotton bank also has a storehouse, which serves as a secure place to store cotton as well as a gathering place where women can come together to work their cotton, share ideas, have meetings, and organize other activities. In Sal-Dimi, community members and a local contractor built a storehouse and shade hangar for the cotton bank with Tandana support.
The management committee is made up of 8 members, including a president, a vice president, an accounts secretary, a treasurer, a sales secretary, a credit secretary, a dispute secretary, and an honorary President. The president presides over all meetings, especially meetings concerning requests for cotton. Both the accounts secretary and the treasurer are in charge of the cotton bank's funds. The accounts secretary and the sales secretary keep records on the days the cotton is distributed. They keep records of the bank's inventory, the amount of cotton distributed to each participant, and how much money each participant owes the bank. Each village has also chosen a manager with strong numeracy skills to double check records and support the secretaries in their work.
Yarou Plateau, Mali
In Yarou Plateau, likewise, women wanted control over their own stock of cotton. So, Tandana also supported them in creating a cotton bank. There, the cotton bank is making use of a storehouse that the village previously built with Tandana support for a school lunch program that is no longer functioning.
“We are now considered as women capable of generating income, thanks to Anna and our partnership with The Tandana Foundation, which helped us start the Savings for Change Groups. This is the first organization that has supported projects designed particularly for women, with, first the Savings for Change Groups, and today, the cotton bank. Long live The Tandana Foundation and its partners! It was my dream to see the implementation of the cotton bank, which was so desired by all the women of Yarou-Plateau. Now, thanks to The Tandana Foundation and its donors, all the women have access to good quality cotton at a good price anytime in our village.”
-- Kadia Samakan, Yarou Plateau