As part of their oversight functions, the select committee on the environment, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) affairs and sustainable development of the Gambia National Assembly engaged Wuli and Sandu Development Agency WASDA, Tostan and CHIGAMBAS in Basse.
As part of its mandate under section 109 of the constitution, the select committee on the environment, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) affairs, and sustainable development are assigned to assess the environmental activities and NGO activities to further make recommendations to the government.
In briefing the receiving official about the tour, the Deputy Chairman of the committee Demba Sow said that the committee is set out on a fact-finding mission and also assesses the level of progress and note down challenges of NGOs in the country. He said that the committee is not a witch hunt but a partner in all NGOs and related NGOs to ensure the development, sustainability, and partnership. NGOs activities Sowe noted are complementing government’s efforts in all sector of development.
The Director said WASDA is a membership-based Non-Governmental Organisation that works to alleviate the poor living conditions of marginalized rural farmers in the Upper River Region. He said that their Smallholder Irrigation for Livelihood Enhancement – Business (SMILE B) and Upper River Region Livelihood Improvement through Institutional Strengthening, Food Security and Environmental Management (URRLIFE) project ran for 5 years with the help of major partners United Purpose from the European Union.
The project he said had a big impact on the empowerment of 35 women’s groups to have a permanent source of income by establishing a vegetable garden, orchard, woodlots and a rice field in the region.
That they have trained 60 youths, 60% of whom were females on improved agricultural and livestock management techniques, metalwork and fabrication.
He said that they also provided loans to farmers to help them establish their own enterprises through a revolving loan scheme managed by WASDA.
WASDA implemented a rice irrigation project in Taibatu village under the Women Generating Income Project (WIGP). The project he said ran from 2004-2006 and was funded by both the EU and VSO (Voluntary Services Overseas).
The project he said consisted of 3 components; rice irrigation, fruit tree orchards and training women on the use of farm tools and six communities were targeted and 150 women directly benefitted from the training by agricultural experts.
WASDA with the funds and partnership of Future in Our Hands he said successfully trained 175 women on adult literacy and 42 on tie die to improve their livelihoods.
WASDA’s strategic plans he noted focus on horticultural endeavours, marketing, and value addition. They have also facilitated farmer to farmer networking to encourage more individuals and communal efforts so that farmers can share their different farming techniques and practices.
He noted that the center continues to face challenges in the areas of water, donor funding, human resource, environmental problems as a result of human activities and mobility. Khan called on the government to put into consideration the NGOs as they are here to complement their efforts. NGOs he said should be prioritized in giving them subvention and facilitating their access to project particularly the government-related projects. He also called on the NAMs to strongly advise the government on the government-NGO projects and reduce the tax levied on them through the promotion of government-NGO partnership.
The NAMs assembled their voices and commended WASDA for what they have archived despite faced with numerous challenges over the years. The NAMs, however, assured them that the issues raised will be tabled before the national assembly and the government for further considerations.
Meanwhile, the committees also paid a formal visit to Tostan and were received by a staff headed by Edrisa Keita National Coordinator Tostan Gambia. Keita commended the committee for the consultation, noting that this is the first time in the book of Tostan Gambia that a committee formed from the national assembly engages them. Keita said that Tostan came in the Gambia in 2006 to have an organized boy to respond effectively and efficiently to the needs of women and young people, particularly in vulnerable areas. He highlighted their areas of intervention including agriculture, civic education, human right health, education, reproductive health and harmful traditional practices, peace and security in two hundred and two clustered communities in the CRR and URR.
Despite all these achievements, Tostan official highlighted some of the challenges faced as an NGO. That taxation on cross and income tax remains to be a hindrance to their activities. This they cried is affecting them and called on the authorities to consider it. Tostan said highly depends on donor funding and that this cannot effectively sustain their activities. Access to the funding they said is difficult and required time with a lot of unfavorable donor conditions. That sustain their project at their level remains a big challenge and called on the authorities to establish a strong government-NGO relation. They, however, noted that the coming of the national assembly committee is timely and that they hope their issues will be highly noted for further consideration.
Members of the select committee and subject matter specialists’ Majority leader took, in turn, to comment and raised issues on the update from WASDA and Tostan highlighted. They both commended the two institutions’ leadership towards advancing the lives and welfare of women and young people. They all assembled that the issues raise is a concern which must be given the highest consideration from both the government and the private sector. They assured full engagement of national assembly members and government on the progress and process of the NGOs in the Gambia.
The committee also paid brief visite to CHIGAMBAS multipurpose skill training center where young people are freely engaged in agriculture, carpentry, woodwork, engineering, and tailoring.