In a conversation Harwood had with the Deputy Mayor of Guédé Chantier, Senegal, Amadou Sy, the Deputy Mayor talked about a recent meeting he had with the presidents of the various farmers' groups. In that meeting he learned that Farmer Group 5 had CFA 11.5 million (approximately US$ 24,000) in a savings account while the other groups had nothing approaching that amount.
A couple of days later, Harwood had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Abu Samba Sow, the President of Farmer Group 5. He explained that the current farmer groups were established in 1993 when the dike was constructed around the community, covering up some fields thus necessitating a reassignment of fields to members of the community. The community was divided into 2 sections with each deciding on their own organizational pattern.
During the cool season (January – April), farmers in Guédé Chantier, Senegal plant tomatoes, maize, cabbage, onions, and okra. The field in the foreground is tomatoes. The fields in the center and back of the picture contain maize inter-planted with various vegetable crops. Many of the trees in the background are mango trees which were in bloom during Harwood's February visit. They will bear fruit later in the year. Section 1 established 5 groups and Group 5 elected Sow as President. As he says, "In my vision, I structured the organization of the group into three levels: the General Assembly, the Executive Board, and the Advisory Board. The most important group is the General Assembly. I was the President from 1993 to 2002 and then wanted to retire. So I called a meeting of the General Assembly and told them I wanted to rest. That created a big stir in Group 5 and the General Assembly said, 'No, you cannot resign! What we will do is elect you as President and you choose the bureau members.' I tried to say no, no, no, but finally what you cannot resist, you must accept.
"As for the management of my group, I really had to do it, though it was beyond my strength. To help me, I appointed bureau members and these appointments were validated by the General Assembly. The General Assembly asked the people holding office to exercise a strict discipline. The Executive Board and the 5 sub-groups I established, each led by a chief, had a precise set of tasks they were to achieve.
"The other farmer groups in Guédé Chantier are dependent upon the bank, but this is not true for Group 5. After a couple of years, group 5 decided that they couldn't go without a savings account so they started one. The group expects each hectare to contribute to the financial security of the group. To accomplish their goal of financial security the group decided on their own set of rules.