Trades in Baraka: the profession of the coal merchant

For us Africans and precisely the Senegalese, work is primarily a matter of duty and dignity. This is what motivates the people of Baraka; most of them work in the sale of coal to meet their daily needs, because all trade is good to make a living and to build one’s future and that of one’s family. We went to meet the good people of Baraka operating in this sector.

The wood and particularly the charcoal are some of the resources used the most by households in Senegal for preparing family meals. This makes it a high-priced commodity here. Thus it is the job of the charcoal merchant to make charcoal in a charcoal kiln or to sell it. At Baraka, charcoal merchants (women or men) buy coal wholesale and then resell it in detail in small plastic bags.

rps20160406_100930This is the case of Amadou Boye SOW, a modest family man still living with his parents, who have worked in that profession before him. The reason why he chose this profession is that his old father has no strength to lift too heavy bags or to deliver them to customers. He buys sacks of coal for an average of 6,000 FCFA per unit (ca. 9€) from distributors who bring them by truck from the tropical regions of Senegal. After that, he sells it in small quantities in bags to specific customers such as shops, neighboring houses, restaurants etc.

This is anything but an easy job. Since he does not have a lot of means, Mr. SOW only buys in small quantities. When his suppliers experience stock shortages because of licensing issues, farms, or forest services, it means huge problems for Mr. SOW’s business. Then he struggles to ensure even the bare minimum for his family, because the cash flow just stopped overnight. For an improvement in working conditions, Mr. SOW will need funding for a more extensive product inventory, means of storage and delivery, and means of protection, because coal is a toxic and very dusty product that can cause lung infections.

Work is one of the elements of an individual’s membership in society, and that is why it is considered a moral and social duty. At Baraka, in all sectors, men and women provide daily superhuman efforts with meager means to support themselves everyday and especially the members of their families.

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