Crowning iodization achievement with Senegal’s Queen of Iodized Salt

senegal-iodized-salt-queen-nov-2014“They call me the Queen of Iodized Salt,” says Marie Diouf as she surveys her salt pond. A salt harvester from Fatick in Senegal, Marie used to harvest salt from a commonly-owned salt flat.

She and a few other women would work together but their salt was not iodized and of very poor quality, earning them very little money and putting newborns at risk of iodine deficiency disorders, the leading cause of preventable brain damage.

Fatick is one of the largest salt harvesting areas in Senegal where MI has been concentrating its efforts in improving iodization. Small producers are the norm here, like Marie, who don’t have access to larger markets across West Africa.

MI’s approach to iodization here has been to encourage the creation of “Groups d’Interet Economique” or GIEs. Small processors join together to share costs and increase market share. Included is support for iodization, as well as a revolving loan fund for potassium iodate.

Marie joined the local GIE and was identified as someone with skill and drive. She received training on improved salt harvesting techniques and worked with MI to develop a business plan so she could buy a salt flat herself. MI supported her application for a small business loan and worked with her as she implemented her plan, including salt iodization. As part of MI’s South-to-South training project, Marie traveled with a group of salt producers to Ghana to learn improved business models from salt processors there. Marie’s business has grown – she now employs about 20 women and has hired her husband to work for her.

Marie has spoken to other GIEs in the country about how she built her business and about how important adequate iodization is to her business and the country. She’s also shared her experiences with students at local schools, demonstrating that there’s a good living to be made close to home. This is why they call her the “Queen of Iodized Salt”.

With MI’s support, Marie has improved her family’s well-being, the livelihoods of the women who work for her and the future for the children who are now protected against iodine deficiency disorders.