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Solidarity Notebooks: A Solidarity Banker in Senegal

By Haoly Basse, Project Manager, Crédit Agricole CIB

Launched by the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation and Crédit Agricole S.A. in  2018, Solidarity Bankers is a skills volunteering programme open to all Crédit Agricole Group employees for microfinance institutions or impact companies supported by the Foundation. Discover the platform of Haoly Basse, a CACIB Solidarity Banker who went to Senegal in July to provide guidance and support to KOSSAM, a social business supported by the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation.

When I discovered the Solidarity Bankers programme, I felt an affinity with the values of commitment, solidarity and sharing embodied by the assignments offered. I became aware that the values conveyed by Crédit Agricole were not just “pretty words” but were backed by inspiring, visible and concrete actions. 

I therefore decided to apply for a “digital” assignment in favour of KOSSAM Société de développement de l’élevage (KSDE) in Senegal --  an assignment even closer to my heart as I stem from the North of Senegal. KOSSAM is a social business, a subsidiary of the Laiterie du Berger, which works with nearly 450 local dairy farmers and aims to develop a sustainable dairy industry in the North of the country. The aim of the assignment was to provide guidance and support for the company in deploying the digital application “Com care” which will help improve the collecting conditions and the company’s knowledge of its farmers – suppliers.

After a series of talks with the Foundation’s team, I was confirmed as a Solidarity Banker.  I also had the support of my employer, Crédit Agricole CIB, which covered 50% of the assignment time by way of skills-based sponsorship. The adventure had started.

Morning visits, meetings and learning

The discussions leading up to the assignment with the team of the Foundation and KOSSAM enabled me to prepare for the intense task that lay ahead. I arrived in Dakar on Saturday, 29 June, and was met at the airport by Jonathan Michaud, one of the first Solidarity Bankers stemming from Crédit Agricole Franche Comté, who was posted on a two-year assignment as General Manager of KOSSAM.

The next day I attended the annual Convention of supplying farmers held in Saly by the Laiterie du Berger. It was a sterling opportunity for me to take part in a key moment during which I was able to observe the strong cohesion of the dairy farmers and teams of the Laiterie du Berger and KOSSAM in facing the challenges of the dairy industry.

The following Monday was my first day at work in Richard Toll. As it happened to be payday, I was able to meet most of the farmers who worked with KOSSAM. On the days which followed, I paid several field visits which started at 5:00 AM to help the teams of KOSSAM with the deployment of the digital application “Com Care” to collect milk from the dairy farmers and to feed the company’s database. The needs of the users vary: save time when performing their work, have reliable data that can be shared in real time, automate repetitive tasks, implement procedures and have a reliable information system. The discussions with the farmers were rich and instructive, particularly concerning the establishment of mini farms – one of the development pillars of KOSSAM.

In addition to visiting several farms, I also visited the plant of the Laiterie du Berger. I found the shop foreman’s description of the industrial processes for the design of dairy products captivating.  I was impressed by his professionalism and technical acumen. I also took part in the inauguration of the water fountains in one of the stores selling food in the bush – a fine moment of sharing and celebration.

10 days after – the next steps

I drew on all the data collected to analyse the existing situation and to make recommendations on how to accelerate the company’s digitization. The subsequent steps will consist of putting in place a reliable information system for KOSSAM so as to have access to shared data in real time to manage the work on a day-to-day basis and to develop the company’s business.

This assignment was very eye-opening for me, because I would have never imagined that being close to the farming world would have pleased me so much. I enjoyed being close to the dairy farmers and the local teams, sharing their everyday lives, listening to them and seeing the impact their actions and collective work had in the field.  There is an African saying: “we are broke but not brazen.”  I find it most telling of the mutual assistance and solidarity that I witnessed throughout my assignment. These values are deeply rooted in Senegal and it is invigorating to share them.

I returned to Paris transformed with a desire to go back to Senegal, because the country has enormous potential for development. I have come away with a rich professional experience and a fine human adventure which has reinforced my ties with the Crédit Agricole Group.

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Acknowledgements: I wish to thank Eric Campos, Céline Hyon-Naudin and Carolina Herrera of the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation and Jonathan Michaud and the teams of KOSSAM for having shared this great adventure with me.  I would also like to thank Martine Boutinet, Gwenael Le Rosec, Vanessa Ferreira and Marion Longchambon of the Human Resources Department  as well as Pierre-Yves Bollard, Aude Richard, Stéphanie Prigent and Sylvain Lefebvre of the GIT Department of Crédit Agricole CIB for their support.