In most villages in The Gambia, women are associated in groups called kafo’s. A kafo is some kind of club in which women can bundle their powers. These women are connected through age, hobbies or something else. One woman can be part of more than one kafo.
The origin of these kafo’s is in the way the Gambian society is built. Traditionally the roles of men and women are separated. This is deeply rooted in the Gambian traditions. Men work mainly in the agricultural sector on land that is used for commercial sales, for example of ground nuts. Women look after their many children and the household and they take care of the community garden, which is mostly used for their own consumption. Thus, the women mostly make sure there is food and an organised household. Of course, this is a generalized view of the society but it is helpful to explain the origin of kafo’s.
This distribution of responsibilities often means that when a woman is sick or has other difficulties, no one is around to take care of the children or the food. This simply isn’t done by the men. On such a moment the women have to support each other and take over each other’s tasks. By forming groups the women have more social security and they stand stronger. Besides this, the kafo helps with large events such as weddings and naming ceremonies. Every kafo has a president, a secretary, a teacher and many other functions, dependent on the size of the kafo. It has a strong hierarchy and the longer a woman is part of a kafo, the more respect they earn.
Many kafo’s have some sort of money saving system. Every week, women put in a small amount of money and when a women from the kafo wants to organize a special event like a wedding or if someone has a good idea from the village, an appeal can be made to the money savings. This shows that people have some small sense of planning ahead, something that does not happen a lot in The Gambia. Most of the time, people live from day to day. This could be very interesting for our project since a long term plan has to be made when conserving fresh products. On the other hand, saving money for future investments often has a lower priority than direct expenses such as disease or ceremony costs that are done from the kafo’s money savings. Because of this the savings are often not very large and expended fast.
The kafo that we are going to work with is called Yampi. This is a very large kafo in Jakaba with about 100 members. The women of Yampi have in common that they want to generate income together and support each other both financially and with labour.
This information is obtained by interviewing Barbara Somers, our supervisor, and based on our own experiences.