In 2013, ActionAid started the Agro-Ecology and Resilience (AER) project in The Gambia and Senegal to enhance the livelihoods of people living in poverty and strengthen vulnerable communities. These communities had been devastated by the prolonged drought and famine that besieged the Sahel region in 2010.
In The Gambia, it affected many households, prompting ActionAid Gambia to deploy immediate response and later begin the AER project which, according to ActionAid Gambia, supports smallholder farmers in 18 villages in three districts.
Funded by the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation, the AER project was initially a two-year project that had three outcomes: Climate Resilient Sustainable Agriculture (CRSA), Disaster Risk Reduction and Documentation and Shared Learning.
As part of its third outcome of Documentation and Shared Learning, ActionAid Senegal and Gambia paid a 6-day working visit to ActionAid Ghana on Monday 24th October, 2016.
The 12-member team toured the Upper West, Upper East and Northern Regional Programmes of ActionAid Ghana and paid a visit to the Accra Compost and Recycling Plant (ACARP) in the Greater Accra region.
The team began their visit in the Sissala East district of the Upper West region where they were hosted by the District Chief Executive, Johnson Juasuglo Saborh. He provided an in-depth insight into Ghana’s School Feeding Programme, and its main objective of increasing enrolment in schools through the supply of meals to children through the use of home-grown foods. He underscored that the initiative helped to tackle poverty while providing a ready-market for smallholder farmers living in poverty.
In the Sakai community, smallholder farmers explained the concept of Grain Banks. The team interacted with the community members on the work of the Grain Bank and its effective enhancement of public-private partnerships, as well as community involvement.
At the Sakai Kindergarten School, the team witnessed caterers feeding children of the school and got a first-hand account and knowledge from caterers for the school feeding programme.
Widows and Orphans Movement
In the Upper East region, ActionAid’s partner, Widows and Orphans Movement (WOM) engaged with the team on some of the rights-abusing traditional rites that widows are made to undergo and some of the interventions being implemented by ActionAid and WOM to economically empower widows.
In the Ataampure community, widows, married and single smallholder women farmers have been mobilised and trained to weave baskets, which they sell to sustain their livelihoods during the lean seasons. They also work with the baobab, which is used to make oil, drinks, food and manure. The team visited the baobab oil-making factory operated by WOM in the Pusu-namongo community.
In Bolgatanga, the team joined a meeting organised by WOM consisting of leaders of five women’s groups from the Pwalugu, Kulpeliga, Gorogoro, Dapore and the Sheaga communities to highlight issues affecting their various communities. They presented them during a planned engagement with the aspiring Member of Parliament of the district.
In the Pwalugu community, they interacted with Esi Atindaa, chairlady of the Pwalugu Women’s Group, who recounted how a rice processing centre built by ActionAid has helped the women in the community to attain economic empowerment. The women in the community have benefited by other interventions by ActionAid in her community.
In the Northern Region, the team met with women of the Young Urban Women’s Movement (YUWM) at their centre in Tuutingli in Tamale, where the women shared success stories of the project and its transition into a movement. The campaign and advocacy skills of the young women have been enhanced through regular training. They are drivers of change and development activists in their various communities.
In the Greater Accra region, the Accra Compost and Recycling Plant (ACARP) took the team through their processes and strategies of effective waste disposal, use of landfill sites, production of organic manure and other environmentally-friendly alternatives which are deployed to counter the effects of climate change.
According to Garikai Magaya, International Project Manager for the Agro-Ecology Resilience Project at ActionAid International, the visit is a crucial part of safeguarding the success of ActionAid programmes and interventions.
School Feeding Programme
He added that the School Feeding Programme effectively shows how ActionAid Ghana has established a strong relationship with government and community members.
I think there have been a lot of lessons that we have learnt for the duration of our visit and a lot of the interventions we are seeing are similar to what we are doing but others will seem to be outside of our purview. What has really struck me has been the coordination, not just at implementation level, the strength of our stakeholder coordination that ActionAid Ghana has with the government, with the local leaders and with the communities. The School Feeding Programme really stuck out for me, not just in terms of it being useful with regards to food security within the community but what it does – which a lot of our projects do not do – is in terms of integrating various components.
The visit, Garikai Magaya noted, has re-enforced some of the issues that ActionAid Gambia and ActionAid Senegal are already working on.
The issue of strengthened coordination with the government and the communities, which is something that Ghana has been exemplary in and is something that we will again try to re-inforce when we go back.
He noted the School Feeding Programme as one of the major things that he has been most impressed with.
It is a model that I will not only seek to promote within Senegal and Gambia but also in my work in the International Secretariat. I hope to be able to take it up within the market access working group – which is something that we have already initiated discussions with the ActionAid Ghana team whether they can come up with a prototype that we can recommend at that level.
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