By Olimatou Coker
Ousman Bah, governor of the Central River Region, has appealed to the World Bank to expand its funding so that other communities can benefit.
Governor Bah made these remarks recently at Brikamaba during a visit by the NaNA officials and the World Bank delegation together with governors from the 5 regions to the nafa cash transfer center.
The ‘Nafa’ program of the project was piloted in three (3) districts (Foni Bintang, Nianija and Wuli West) and was subsequently rolled out to the remaining 17 districts. A bi-monthly cash transfers of D3000 and behavioral change activities are provided to approximately 17,000 extreme poor households (beneficiary households) for a period of 18 months.
He said the project is good and has improved the lives and livelihoods of the people. The beneficiaries are not only given money but as well engaged in good practices and changing their behavior through the SBCC program.
“What we have seen is impressive because some households have started utilizing the funds by expanding their economic gains. Some are engaged in poultry, small ruminants, gardening and more. They also use the money to buy food items in order to get nutritious food. We are appealing to the World Bank to expand the funding so that other communities can benefit,” he said.
Cordu Jabang-Senghore, Permanent Secretary at the Office of the Vice President, said the social protection is fundamental in the lives of citizens. The project ensures that the vulnerable groups within society are not left behind and there is inclusiveness. Beneficiaries are women and for a very long time, women are left out of the development aspirations of their countries.
“The government of The Gambia has seen it as a priority that not only the extremely poor are included but also the marginalized groups within society. The social safety net is fundamental in all development agendas around the world. We are thankful to the donors and register our appreciation for the government’s continued support.”
Christabel Dadzie, World Bank Senior Social Protection Specialist, commended the team for mobilizing women.
“If you give cash to a woman, the likelihood that her family will benefit is very high. The project does a lot of safeguards around the data collection to make sure that the money goes to the right people. When the woman takes the money, we need to do something extra for them to understand that the money is for them.”
The social protection specialist said NaNA and the national social protection secretary are doing a phenomenal job. “The team has worked very well on the SBCC and I have seen improvement. Every part of the SBCC is teaching them what to use the money for, like making investments, savings and farming. By the time the project gets to three years, they are already investing in a business and that money can multiply.
“Through the request from the government of The Gambia, we are designing a human capital development project together with education. It will take things to the next level because we are looking at the synergies in social protection and education,” she said.
Dr. Amat Bah, NaNA Executive Director, explained that the project is designed to get the poorest out of poverty by giving cash and educating them to be able to have the resilience to continue. He said the strength of the project is sustainability.
“Cash is given but they are given an education which includes nutrition, adolescent, health, child care, agriculture, water sanitation etc. After receiving the money for three years, they should be able to do something to maintain them out of poverty.
“We have implemented other World Bank projects and have been very successful. We also want to make sure that this project is successful. We are urging the government to take social protection seriously. Other countries are investing in social protection and social safety nets by putting on some resources to help the poor out of poverty. I think our government can do that. In this project, the government contributed one million dollars but we want to see a situation where the government will actually invest in social protection.”