Savanes Bakery

  • Business
  • Community Growth
  • Togo
This project is led by Alexandra Weber, a Volunteer from Michigan

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The village in the Savanes region is rather unique in its income and education diversity. While many are subsistence farmers, we also house a Catholic mission as well as a large church, serve as a thoroughfare between our town and the Ghanaian border, have a fully-staffed clinic, a micro-finance company, and a high school. Most of the people staffing these establishments are from large cities and therefore used to the availability of goods that urban life brings. A complaint among many, especially the aforementioned group, is the lacking availability of fresh bread in the surrounding areas, with the closest vending point being 24k away. This project is to design a bakery and food transformation space run by a fairly small group of women in Logotou. After surveying members of the community, the demand is there, but the supply does not exist. The bread sold from the bakery will fund other parts of the space such as tomato canning and fruit drying. The goals of this space are to generate income, supply bread to the area, expose people to different types of food transformation and empower women through business training and money management courses. An income generating project like this doesn’t come along often in developing villages, and with an already-committed group of women to work in the bakery, it would be quite the missed opportunity to not capitalize on this market.

Many women in the community have come to me asking for new and different ways to make money, to teach them a trade unique enough to have it earn them a steady income. I’ve done soap trainings and tomato canning workshops and moringa formations and fruit tree grafting field days. Doing follow-up on these formations was often times disheartening, as people explained barriers such as being unable to afford start-up costs, find materials in village, or sacrifice the time when they could be working on something else. Not all of these formations had an outcome such as this, but with this, I realized this project needed to be carefully laid out and have the ability to earn the participants enough money to make it worth their time. 

The Catholic sisters from our Parish were the catalyst for this idea as they are probably the largest consumers of goods in the area. They were complaining one day about not being able to buy bread in the village, how they had to make the trek to do so. This got me thinking, and after some investigation, I found all the bread in my village comes from a village in Ghana. In fact, in the neighboring 50 villages, not a single person makes bread. I began asking around if people would buy bread in village and the response was a general “There isn’t any.” Apparently a woman here used to make the bread, but eventually the oven broke and she was unable to repair it, because she didn’t sell her bread for enough money and therefore had a low profit margin. 

I’ve begun working with a small group of very dedicated women, meeting with them every other week or so to check in on the current work they are doing as well as their continued desire to work on the project. The widows group in my village donated the building I plan on using to better their community and be an income generating outlet. It was originally built by a Swiss woman who lived in here and married someone from the village. I have spoken to her about the project, and she is thrilled the building is being repurposed considering it was not used for very long before the equipment for the mill broke. The widow’s group has been incredibly helpful in clearing out the space and spreading the word about the project. I have since gotten a written agreement from the man who donated the land originally. He lives directly next door and is supportive of the project. He, the chief, a woman from the cooperative and I have signed a contract stating the land he donated will remain in the hands of the cooperative and the community without an expiration date. The women in my cooperative were slightly concerned as to what would happen to the land after I, the volunteer, leave, so I have made sure to include them in the land procurement process. 

 During the meetings with both the widows as well as the women’s group, we have discussed general layouts of the space as well as shared contacts who will be able to help with any small-scale construction or carpentry work. The chief of my village has been included in nearly every step of the project, and gives his full support for the endeavor. He has met with me multiple times to discuss land use, the widows’ group twice to discuss the building donation, as well as my homologues to make sure the project is something in the community’s best interest.  The land is included in the donation, and I have documentation that it is donated for the community and specifically for this project.

A common pitfall in commerce ventures is assuming the consumer and producer are the same person. My village has a unique demographic, comprised of many people from the area but also quite a few people from neighboring villages, Burkina, and Ghana who are here on long-term contract work. They are the market for this venture. They have a more disposable income that many others in the village and are accustomed to luxuries not readily available here. While I do hope others in the village are encouraged to begin eating bread and purchasing or making other types of transformed food, the initial audience, the group that will help keep the business afloat in its infancy are the priests and sisters of the Catholic church and mission here, the USMEC agents in village, the social workers , the Catholic mission (about 7k away), teachers at the high school, the clinic staff, and others who pass through our town as a thoroughfare to Ghana. 

I’ve spoken at length to these groups, asking exact amounts of bread they buy per week in Dapaong, and the estimates are about half a baguette per person every day if they had access to it.  That alone, according to conservative estimates is around 50 loaves per week. Taste and preferences also play a role in this equation, and because of that the cooperative and I have been making different types of bread and having members of the community taste them and say how much they would be willing to pay for a loaf. Basically, there is a strong market with committed buyers who already buy and eat bread. While it will take time to get the rest of the community on board with changing their taste for bread, a market will already exist. When I asked those from the community why they don’t eat bread, the general response is they have no means of attaining it. That right there is another market ready to be tapped, albeit potentially not as ripe as those afore mentioned. 

With the money gained for the bread making, other types of food transformation can commence and potentially serve as another means of generating income or simply for personal use. With the business training I plan on having with these women, I do believe they are more than capable of running and sustaining a successful business. I will be here for about a year after the project is off the ground, and in that time hope to irradiate any new-business problems that arise during that time. 

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