Empowering communities to help themselves in a more sustainable manner
The Gambia Experience has been involved in various charitable and socially responsible projects over the years, including our School Development Fund, which to date has made donations to over 120 school projects. More recently, however, rather than just giving funds we have been considering, in consultation with sustainability experts and corporate social responsibility programmes, ways to empower communities to help themselves in a more sustainable manner.
The ComAfrique InteliZon Initiative and Community Stove Initiative are two tried and tested, functional projects that share our sustainability vision. We are pleased to be working with both of these initiatives to help empower villages in The Gambia; helping villagers to better their lives, become self-reliant and at the same time address environmental issues. Last year I was lucky enough to visit a village that had recently received solar-powered lights, thanks to a ComAfrique’s Light Up A Village project sponsored by The Gambia Experience. The chef and all the villagers were really enthusiastic about the project and were delighted with the lights. I was really impressed with how the project was designed to, not only be self-sustaining, but to also generate a fund for the village to use, however they may wish.
Kanuma village, who received solar-powered lights last year
One of the solar powered lights being powered up during the day
I have also seen first-hand how efficient the new design of stoves are, through the Community Stove Initiative. They save up to 60% of the cost of wood and charcoal, as well as offering health benefits as they produce less smoke. Combining these projects is a really great idea and a step in the right direction, moving away from the currently common culture of giving, towards a culture of empowering. The Gambia Experience was recently delighted to donate through Com Afrique’s Light Up A Village project in partnership with the Community Stove Initiative, a further 100 of these lights and 100 stoves to the village of Niggi, in Kombo East and a further 50 lights and 50 stoves to Sitta, in Foni Bintang-Karenai, both in the Western Division.
Sustainable tourism expert Dick Sisman remarked that “The figures are very impressive. Not only do the families in the programme achieve better and healthier lighting and cooking methods but they save a significant sum in their daily costs. As the stoves and lights have a minimum expected life of 5 years the ‘payback’ over this period is up to four times the initial programme cost.” This will enable these two Gambian communities to not only replace worn-out stoves and lights but it will also generate a disposable fund for the cost of non-income-generating consumables, such as building repairs, medicines and so forth.
Alternatively the villages may choose to invest the excess funds in further income generating projects such as rice cultivation equipment so that the village can sell their own rice, buying a solar-powered TV so the village can sell tickets to watch football matches (a very popular past time) or perhaps, buying an ice machine so the village can sell ice. The villagers also agree to use a part of their surplus village fund to support education projects, meeting another one of The Gambia Experience’s development and social responsibility goals. With these villages already benefiting from these initiatives, we are delighted that this has in effect eliminated 200 candles a day from their lives; that’s 200 fire risks removed every day. In addition, at least 200 kilos of firewood have been saved every day.
The Gambia Experience thanks the Community Stove Initiative, the ComAfrique InteliZon Initiative and Dick Sisman for partnering in this quest to continue to promote Sustainable and Responsible Tourism.