In my last post, I was writing from a shea butter tech exchange in Kita (see pictures here), which wrapped up on Sunday.  Saturday – the soap-making half of the formation – was a great success, as the women walked away knowing how to make a new product for market.  The funding I received to do this tech exchange also helped purchase start-up materials needed for soap-making.  So, this shea season, each village in my association will have all of the materials necessary to make and sell soap!

Speaking of shea season…it is almost here.  The fallen shea fruits are picked from the ground during rainy season and dried for processing in the late-rainy to early-dry season.  I’m planning to head out to the fields with some of the women in my association to si tomo (pick up shea).  I’m sure this will provide some great photos, so I’ll be sure to share.

After we finished the shea butter tech exchange in Kita, I, along with the president of my women’s association, traveled through Bamako to Koutiala, Mali for a formation regarding marketing (see photos here).  One of my fellow small enterprise development (SED) volunteers is posted in Koutiala and works with a women’s cooperative that makes a traditional, mud-dyed, Malian fabric called bogolan.  This volunteer arranged the formation on marketing for all of the SED volunteers and our counterparts to learn about the basic principles of marketing, customer service and business expansion.

Although we as SED volunteers are fairly well-versed in marketing, it was fantastic for our counterparts, who have little to no knowledge of these concepts, to attend the training.  The training was conducted in Bambara and led by a Malian formatuer, which certainly helped the president of Si Teriw (my association) understand the material.  I felt like I could see the wheels turning!  My hope is that this training will help strengthen her business leadership skills and can be put to good use when we have our action planning session in mid-July!

If you can believe it, I actually have one more formation to complete this month.  My “month of formations” will come to an end on June 28.  This formation on Tuesday will take place back in my village and its goal will be to pass along the information learned in both Kita and Koutiala to more members of the association.  The nine women who attended the formation in Kita will serve as trainers for an additional 50 women in the association.  This “training the trainer” model will  empower the nine women serving as trainers, will take the pressure off of me to give a full formation in Bambara, and will equip the association members with tools to diversify their line of products.  Wish us luck!

Although all of these formations have been wonderful, I will certainly be ready for a bit of a break in early July.  I’m planning to join a group of PCVs that will be heading to Manintali, Mali to celebrate the 4th of July and mark our one-year anniversary in-country.  It is supposed to be a beautiful part of the country, so I’m looking forward to seeing what all of the hype is about!

I hope you all are enjoying summer vacations and the warmer months in the West.  It is certainly still hot here, but the rains are starting and giving us a bit of relief.

Stay tuned for more updates from Mali soon!