Food Heroes | World Food Day | Zeinabou Mint Smail

“We women are progressively more involved in all the sectors of animal production, and this is more and more accepted by men,” says Zeinabou.

Zeinabou works with other members of the regional transhumance committee of Assaba, gathering state authorities, pastoralists, farmers as well as women and youth organisations. @ FAO

Zeinabou Mint Smail comes from the traditionally pastoral region of Assaba in Mauritania. Her family members were herders, but years of great drought chased them off the land and towards Nouakchott, the capital, like many others.   

It was only after she became a schoolteacher and was posted back to her hometown, Kiffa, that she reconnected with her roots. There, she married into an agropastoral family, which revived her passion for herding and raising livestock, a sector traditionally dominated by men.   

Today, Zeinabou is part of several pastoral associations, where she makes a particular effort to get more women involved in the old nomadic way of life.  

Together with other women herders, Zeinabou set up a transformation unit for dairy products on the outskirts of the city, where they collect milk from pastoralists and transforms it into yoghurt and other long-life products. The unit, which boosts the incomes of about 20 women, also produces salt-licks for camels that they sell to herders.

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