Reporting by Ya Sainey Gaye, ChildFund The Gambia
Over the course of January’s 31 days, we’re making a blog stop in each country where we serve children, thanks to the generous support of our sponsors and donors. Today we visit a ChildFund-supported community in The Gambia that is moving toward self-sufficiency.
Positive change has come to the Kololi community in the last two decades. Much of the credit is due to the Kololi Cluster, an industrious group of women supported in their entrepreneurial endeavors by the Kombo North Federation and ChildFund The Gambia. After an unsuccessful try with a tie-dye operation in the early 1990s, the women of Kololi Cluster settled on making soap and detergent to generate income for their families’ basic needs. The group enjoyed a moderate level of success, yet they were not making great strides forward economically.
In 1999, a ChildFund supporter donated a milling machine for the community’s use, under the direction of the Kololi Cluster. In turn, the community Alkalo (village chief) gave a portion of his land to house the machine.
Although the Kololi Cluster members did not know how to operate the mill, they were organized and had experience working together to run businesses. They were up for the task of operating a prized piece of heavy equipment for the benefit of the entire village.
In most cases, a milling machine equates food security for the community it serves. Dried crops, such as maize, millet, rice and couscous, are a principal part of the African diet and are needed year-round. The availability of a mill at the village level reduces household expenses (fewer trips to market) and provides a source of steady income.
Before the arrival of the milling machine, women in the village bore the burden of pounding the dried crops into meal. The work was time-consuming and physically demanding.
The Kololi Cluster organized a team to run the mill. In return for their time and labor, each cluster member receives incentives and a portion of the profits to pay their children’s school fees or to purchase other necessities. When a cluster member was in urgent need of a medical checkup, proceeds from the mill paid the cost. A community child with disabilities, whose family previously could not afford to educate him, is now going to school. When a community member’s house was damaged by torrential rains, the Kololi Cluster helped her rebuild.
The women of the Kololi Cluster have opened a bank account to save and manage the profits earned from operating the mill. With money in the bank, they are able to respond to the everyday and the urgent needs of cluster members, all the while increasing the community’s self-sufficiency.