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In Gambia, Empowering the Rural Poor through Community-Driven Development

October 13, 2010

  • Donor funding enables rural communities to design and implement micro-projects that meet their immediate development needs
  • The project’s participatory model empowers beneficiaries, who are often poor
  • Each project entails mechanisms to ensure sustainability beyond initial donor contributions

KAIAF, The Gambia, October 13, 2010 – The village of Kaiaf, located 170 kilometers from Banjul, Gambia’s capital, differs little in appearance from that of other villages on this rainy morning. But the excitement and enthusiasm of the women dancing and reciting poetry in the local language reveal a great deal about this group’s opinion of the community-driven development project, known by everyone here as “the CDDP.”

The project is funded through grants from the Government of Japan (US$4,800,000) and the International Development Association (IDA), the branch of the World Bank Group that helps low-income countries (US$12,315,000). To date the CDDP has financed 737 projects in 391 villages and 42 rural communities (or “wards”), and an additional 361 projects are planned by completion of the CDDP in 2012.

“Community-driven development” is an approach under which donors provide seed money for small-scale investments identified by local populations – based on a participatory process – and implemented by them. These investments are made in a variety of sectors, including agriculture, roads, water, sanitation, health, education, fisheries and commerce.

Kaiaf is the capital of a ward comprised of eight villages, two of which, Ganiere and Madina Sancha, have partnered in order to benefit from a CDDP grant of US$28,350.

The two villages, with a total population of 1,715 inhabitants, decided to start a project to build and manage a community store in Kaiaf. Not an easy task.

“When we asked community members to select three priority projects to receive financing from the CDDP, we received a dozen different proposals,” recalled Madioula Diouf, chairwoman of the Ward Development Committee (WDC) in Kaiaf. “In the end, we had to vote to narrow the list down to three projects: a community store, buying fertilizers, or acquiring a tractor.”

After agreement was reached, the CDDP began its disbursements to the ward, and today Kaiaf's villagers proudly show off their well-supplied store built by the community.

“The store has made quite an impact,” said Lamine Sané, a member of the development committee, which is composed of an equal number of men and women. “The CDDP scored big by funding one of the poorest communities in the country.” Nearly all the goods sold in Kaiaf cost less than they do elsewhere. In this village, poor people actually set the prices, and to remain competitive, other merchants align theirs with the community store. “A bag of rice used to cost 900 dalasi (US$36). In our store, we decided to sell a bag for 600 dalasi (US$30), and all the other merchants had to lower their prices in order to sell. The same has been true for sugar, tea and other products during the nine months since our store opened,” said ward residents Fodé Danfa and Malick Sané.

“We don't want to make an exorbitant profit that would make the goods unaffordable,” Lamine Sané said.

To meet their goals, the villagers have found ingenious ways of buying supplies and managing their store. The store is subject to a monthly community review carried out by four people from different villages, who report to the WDC meeting held every other month.

According to members of the WDC, the store meets the expectations of the people and has its own bank account, with a credit of 90,000 dalasi (US$3,300).

“The entire community is watching out to ensure that our store is there to help people, not speculators,” says Lamine Sané.

Making It Last

Farther away in Jalanbang (26 kilometers from Banjul), representatives of the community’s 680 inhabitants attend their own VDC meeting under the roofs of a brand-new market built with funds from the CDDP.

Every day women used to spend 14 dalasi (US$0.50) out of their family's meager income to travel to nearest market in the city of Brikama, 10 kilometers away, to buy food.

“Building a market was clearly the top priority for us,” noted Adama Nyassy, chairwoman of the local VDC. The CDDP provided US$13,475 of the US$14,000 needed to make it a reality.

“The community made a large contribution in kind, by providing all the labor, with the men making the bricks and the women carrying water for the masonry,” said Aladji Bah, secretary of the VDC.

Here as in Kaiaf, VDC leaders were anxious to find a management formula that would ensure that the project lives on beyond CDDP funding. In the end, it was agreed that the stalls would be up for rental, and the income generated by rent will be used to maintain the market and to finance other community projects.

“Our market will attract women from surrounding villages who will no longer have to spend money traveling to Brikama,” said Binta Ba, one of the women attending the meeting. “By saving 14 dalasi a day, we can spend more on food for our families.”

“Our ambition is to become an example of community-driven development in the Gambia,” said Lamine Diatta, the Alkali (headman of the village). The men and women of Jalanbang believe they are up to this ambitious challenge.