More recently, however, rather than just giving funds we have been considering, in consultation with sustainability experts, and existing Corporate Social Responsibility Programmes, ways to empower communities to help themselves.
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.
The ComAfrique InteliZon Initiative has achieved impressive results with their Light up a Village Initiative. They not only introduce the villagers to safer lights removing dangerous candles and kerosene lanterns from their lives, but address rural education, eyesight and health as well as socio-economic issues with a better, brighter SOLAR LED Light. The Initiative also builds up a Village Committee that actually collect and grow a Village Light Fund that the Villagers can use for sustainability of the lights and more importantly a Community Fund that can be used for other self-development projects. In 2013, we decided to support ComAfrique through their Light up a Village Initiative and sponsored the Village of Kanuma.
The Community Stove Initiative, which replaces traditional cooking methods with new cooking stoves, which save up to 60% of the cost of wood and charcoal, already has shown excellent results with villagers adopting the new Stoves and also agreeing to develop a sustainability fund for the stoves as well. The Initiative delivers the stoves to the Villagers who will use Bio Mass Briquettes to fire the Stoves. In return recipient families ‘pay back’ a small part of their savings each day to a village committee set up to administer social and educational benefits.
We are delighted to announce that through Com Afrique’s Light Up A Village project in partnership with the Community Stove Initiative, we, The Gambia Experience have donated 100 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 socially responsibility goals.
With these villages already benefitting 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.