Mandinaba womens' recycling group
The Mandinaba Womens' Recycling Group is a 14-member association recently started in the small West African village of Mandinaba located in the Western Region of The Gambia. The village has an estimated population of 2,500. There are eight different ethnic groups, the majority being the Mandinka, Jola and Fula tribes.
Farming is the most common occupation for the village residents. Farmers cultivate crops including groundnuts (peanuts), millet, bananas, mangos and oranges. The village women also do gardening and produce vegetable crops including cabbage, onions, peppers and okra. These crops are then sold at local market and are the main source of income for the women. Employment opportunities for women go little beyond this with the exception of small-scale business endeavors such as soap making, fish pie, and tie/dye making. It was under these circumstances that the recycling group was formed.
A Peace Corp volunteer Health and Community extension agent learned that several of the women in the community knew how to crochet but used it to no economic advantage. She then contacted Isatou Ceesay, Project coordinator of the Njau Women Recycling Group working for the Swedish NGO Future in Our Hands. She arranged a meeting and a training for the women of Mandinaba. Concerned with the overwhelming presence of plastic bags in the environment this group decided to use crochet to recycle plastic bags into purses and wallets. Isatou came to Mandinaba for two days and instructed the group of women on how to collect the bags from the environment, wash and dry them and cut them appropriately, and then crochet them into the purses and wallets. The group consists of both young and older women, predominately housewives, each required to pay a membership fee which is put towards a group fund. Meetings occur on the first and last Monday of each month, with every Friday being "clean-up" day where the group chooses a place in the village or surrounding area (i.e. the village market, police station, etc.) to do trash pick-up.
The group hopes to grow stronger through improvement of their skills and the training of other women. There is currently a waiting list for new members. They plan to resister and become recognized as an official association in The Gambia. They are currently trying to raise money to build a Mandinaba Womens' Recycling Group Skills Center, a place to meet, work and train others. Currently they meet in the village nursery school. Marketing is currently done informally, but as their group grows, they will seek outlets overseas. (See also a short video of interview with Isatou Ceesay.) Want to buy a purse? Check out World Goods (http://www.worldgoodsfairtrade.com/servlet/the-101/recycled-coin-purse-gambia/Detail ). They get their purses from Mandinaba and from Isatou's home village of Njau.
 The women of Mandinaba, The Gambia, west Africa generate income by crocheting coin purses from strips of recycled plastic bags. To a soundtrack of Baaba Maal (from the CD Missing You (Mi Yeewnii), track: Jamma Jenngii); if you like it, please buy and support Baaba Maal.)