Is it possible to make an impact on the agricultural production system of countries such as Senegal? With the support of Vitality Onlus, Macoumba Thiam, co-founder of Mobique and Vitality onlus Senegal, is trying to do exactly that. For Thiam it is the conclusion of a complete migratory circle, the successful return to his home country, to the city of Thiès – where the first Mobique was born – after seven years in Italy.
Mobique is a monoblock equipped to produce dried mango, a container that has an entire production cycle inside, and, most importantly, that is mobile. It can be transported from one village to another, stimulating the creation of a rural microeconomy, far from the big cities, which usually drain the workers from rural areas
Mobique’s design was born within a co-design group, the result of a multicultural brainstorming and, specifically, the intuition of the Kurdish entrepreneur Yahya Cete. An ambitious fair and sustainable trade project, an agricultural revolution for the twenty-first century, but one that is facing economic difficulties after a year cursed by the pandemic. Vitality onlus has launched a crowdfunding campaign, which will last from 3 May to 3 June, to finance its second phase. “The funds will be used for the specialist training of agricultural operators and to obtain quality marks, such as the organic and fairtrade certificates”, explains president Matteo Matteini.
NRW interviewed Macoumba Thiam, the co-founder of Mobique.
Is Mobique the final stage of your migration journey?
“Mobique is a model of return, a way to tell young migrants that they can choose to go home and make things better. It goes to show that once expats have become intergrated, they should absorb the host culture, learn and store as much as possible. Otherwise it is not a formative migration. I also founded Vitality onlus Senegal, together with thirty young men who also returned to the country”.
I want to promote the community to community model, enhance the importance of creating relational networks both in Italy and in the country of origin, building innovative networks. Without this Mobique would not have been born
What is Mobique’s mission?
“Modernising Senegal’s agricultural system. To date, about 60% of the high-quality fruit is wasted, left to rot or fed to cows. There is no adequate logistics for large-scale trade, there are no facilities and warehouses to store products. Mobique is part of this context to improve territorial communication, speed up logistics and reduce processing and sales times for products. The idea is to easily transport the factory to those rural areas from which young people flee to work in the city or abroad, and to stimulate local microeconomies of subsistence”.
Starting with dried mango…
“It is our starting product. In Senegal, Mango is produced in huge quantities, especially in the Casamance region, which alone accounts for 80% of Senegalese agricultural production. Yet it is difficult to grasp its revenue potential, often because you do not have the means to preserve it. For example, we have focused on drying, to make it tasty and easy to trade. We want to advertise this product abroad but also internally. It is the Senegalese themselves who do not know the most cultivated product in the country”.
How do you offer a fairtrade model?
“When you pay five euros for a mango in Italy, much of that proceeds do not return to Senegal. I met large-scale producers who can’t survive, crushed by competition. We aim for a fairtrade certificate that also safeguards our producers, with a percentage of the guaranteed revenue. In addition, we organise training courses on European labour regulations”.
We’re building an ecosystem with more affordable and safe working conditions for workers, and almost all the income remains in the community. If there is a need for an ambulance or prevention against the whitefly that destroys crops, we can provide them
It’s a project that can change the fortunes of an entire economy on a large scale, how have you realised it?
“We worked hard, studying and creating a network of support and knowledge that turned out to be fundamental. Yahya Cete and I trained for two years in the engineering industry. I want to be able to fix the technical snags in our container whenever possible, so as not to have to block production pending assistance”.
Have you ever thought about giving it all up?
“Last year I lost my mother and I was one step away from closing everything. For a few months I stood still, but then life forces you to move on. I owe it to her, I owe it to my country and I also owe it to Italy, which welcomed me and put the means to construct our future in my hands”.
Translated by Adam Clark