Empowering Women in Agriculture

Marie's Journey with UNIRICE

December 11, 2023

In the heart of West Africa, Marie Rassoul Niang stands at the forefront of a transformative initiative. As the President of the Women's Association for Active and Inclusive Solidarity and the manager of UNIRICE, a Semi-Industrial Rice Hulling Unit, Marie is reshaping the landscape of rice production. In this blog story, we delve into Marie's experiences, the challenges faced by UNIRICE, and the strides taken toward empowerment. 

UNIRICE's Unique Role:

UNIRICE is not just a rice transformation unit; it is a testament to the strength and resilience of women in agriculture. Marie explains the unit's exclusive management by women and their pivotal role in the entire rice value chain.

Overcoming Adversity with Support:

Marie shares the challenges UNIRICE faced, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Loss of funds and shuttered businesses threatened their progress. However, with the support of the Swiss operation, OUM, and ARD, UNIRICE not only survived but thrived, creating jobs in a community burdened by unemployment

Navigating Complexities in a Border Region:

UNIRICE operates in a unique location, straddling the border between Mauritania and Senegal. Marie sheds light on the specific challenges faced in a region where cultural dynamics and the physical demands of the work present hurdles.

“People attempt to provide us with low-quality rice. Additionally, there are men who resist being subjected to the authority of a woman.”
Marie Rassoul Niang, President of the Women's Association for Active and Inclusive Solidarity and Manager of UNIRICE

Striving for Self-Sufficiency:

The heart of UNIRICE's mission lies in overcoming financial challenges. Marie details their journey, starting with 200 bags and the unforeseen costs that arose. With only two rice seasons annually, storage limitations became a significant hurdle. Marie underscores the need for a robust fund to extend their working period. "We do not have a year-round rice campaign. It is just two seasons. If we do not have enough stock, it is challenging. Even with good storage, we only have 5 months of work in a year."

Future Aspirations and Challenges:

As a seasoned agricultural technician, Marie envisions a future where UNIRICE receives the necessary training in management, capacity building, and marketing. She shares the hurdles they face in gaining trust from banks and accessing financing to market their products to larger distributors. "We face challenges in gaining the trust of banks. We do not have access to funds. Legally, we do not have access to that. Without it, we cannot formalize ourselves and sell our products to specialized services such as Auchan."

"I am an agronomist, but we seek training in management and capacity building for rice hulling. We also require commercialization training to enhance our sales capabilities."
Marie Rassoul Niang, President of the Women's Association for Active and Inclusive Solidarity and Manager of UNIRICE

Marie Rassoul Niang's journey with UNIRICE reflects the profound impact women can have in agriculture. Through her leadership, UNIRICE is not only addressing the challenges in the rice value chain but also creating a blueprint for empowerment. As we witness Marie's efforts, we celebrate the resilience, strength, and determination that women bring to the forefront of sustainable agriculture. 

Marie's story and the launch of the "Empowering West African Small and Medium Enterprises in Rice Value Chains" (EWASME) project underscore the critical need to support and uplift women-led enterprises in the local rice value chains of Guinea, Niger, Senegal, and Sierra Leone. The success of this initiative relies on collective action and engagement.