In 1979 One Village One Product (OVOP) movement started in Oita Prefecture, Japan. The goal was simple: to unite communities around the creation of a specific good and facilitate larger markets for those goods. The model was successful. From shitake mushrooms to tourist filled hot springs, OVOP fostered businesses and realized economic growth.

As OVOP’s success came to bear, the Japan International Cooperation Agency helped share the model across national boundaries. OVOP supports organizations in twelve countries around the world. In 2011 it looked to West Africa and Senegal became a focus.

At the edge of the Sahara, Senegal is a politically stable country, but does not have major agricultural or industrial production. The country imports the vast majority of its goods and prices run high. JICA OVOP Project is working to turn the tables and find export markets for Senegalese goods. After surveying dozens of businesses, the OVOP Project chose ten cooperatives that showed both promising products and governing systems. Taking these groups under their wing, the OVOP Project has begun to provide technical support and fund equipment purchase for the coops. Concerned with diversification, the OVOP Project sought to support the production of a wide range of goods.

A freshly painted, well-lit boutique provides respite from the smoggy, bustling Dakar streets. Products made throughout Senegal’s diverse landscapes fill shelves and coolers—yoghurt, soaps, oils, peanut butter, hats, pickled clams and tea, to name a few. These are the fruits of the OVOP cooperatives. As the boutique’s clientele expands, it is not uncommon to find the producers themselves in the back conference room. They travel in from remote regions to share advice about marketing and take workshops on business and production.

JICA OVOP Project plans to support more cooperatives each year. They hope that knowhow, networking and shiny new equipment will be enough to spur the growth for producers. But not just economic growth. The intangible effects of economic development, the strength in families, communities and individuals that comes from stability, interest OVOP the most. They hope to help the villages of Senegal make better lives as they unite in common goals.