Alhassane Souare

The degree of illiteracy in the prefecture of Pita in Guinea, is considerable, particularly among women. Substandard levels of hygiene and lack of information about rampant diseases in the region combine to entrench the conditions of poverty. The environment is threatened by logging activities and slash-and-burn forms of cultivation. Responding to the challenges posed by these multi-layered problems, and in an effort to encourage women farmers to seize the initiative and organize themselves, the NGO “Jeunes Animateurs Communautaires et Incubateurs d’ Entreprises (AJACIE) has opted to work with the participatory methods of the “Reflect” approach.

Women and Rural Development – Impacts of REFLECT


A current project conducted for the Rural Community Development (RCD) of Timbi-Tounni and Timbi-Madina, in the Prefecture of Pita, Labé administrative region, Republic of Guinea/Conakry, has been the object of interesting testimony.

According to the diagnostic study made in the two RCDs in 2008, some socioeconomic characteristics have arisen which justified the reasons for implementing this project, namely: the high rate of illiteracy in the area, which is 72.98 % overall in the Prefecture of Pita and 79.27 % for women; low cash income of 116 USD per person per year in the area, i.e. less than $0.32 per day (ref doc PRSP 2008); the low organizational development of associations and farmers’ groups; inadequate involvement of women in decision-making for local development; the persistence of endemic diseases (malaria, diarrhea, etc..); the fragile development of carriers of income-generating activities; and the inadequacy in the management of funds from nationals based in Senegal, France and elsewhere.

However, it should be noted that the area of project intervention has major assets, like the area of excellence for the production of potatoes, the openness of the communities to social mobilization and community participation, the existence of farmers’ associations and agricultural workers’ groups, the openness of the community to innovation and creativity, plus the strong involvement of citizens’ associations in their local development, among others.

Issues and Challenges

The report of the baseline study conducted in the area has allowed the identification of five major challenges that need to be confronted, notably, reducing the illiteracy rate in general and for women in particular, the organizational and institutional development of community organizations at the grassroots, the increase of individual, family and community income, the promotion of a literate environment to establish a cultural influence in the project area and also the promotion of basic hygiene and health education around HIV/AIDS and diarrheal diseases.

To meet these major challenges, the Association of Young Community Leaders and Business Entrepreneurs (AJACIE), with the technical and financial support of DVV International, established and carried out the integrated project to support the self-reliability of the agrarian class in the rural development communities of Timbi-Tounni and Timbi-Madina. During its realization, the project has taken into account the needs and expectations of members of the community organizations at the grassroots in terms of social change and participatory development.

History of its Establishment

AJACIE Guinea was born from the impulse of PRIDE Training, Guinea, in its efforts to help young unemployed graduates to acquire marketable skills to better manage the process of self-employment on the one hand and, on the other hand, to address the deficit in the fight against poverty at the level of youth and women, which is an obvious reality of Guinea. Founded in September 2002, it was sponsored by PRIDE Training for its first experiences in the field of Adult Education through the Expanded Natural Resources Management Project, the Village Communities Support Program under the exploratory group of the DPC and elaboration of local development plans in 2003, as well as with the Support Project for Women’s Economic Activities and the Support Project for Women’s Activities in the Urban Communities of Ratoma and Matoto. It was finally approved in 2005.

Its strategy consists of using participatory approaches that take into account all aspects related to expectations of potential beneficiaries, especially of women’s groups, youth associations, and Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) in order to strengthen their capacities and develop their skills for greater ownership of development strategy at the grassroots.

Its vision is to make non-formal education a real tool in the fight against poverty in vulnerable sectors.

Its mission is to promote development through education, training and information to disadvantaged groups.

By inserting itself in the logic of the documented national strategy for poverty reduction, its objectives are the fight against poverty among women and young graduates by strengthening their institutional and organizational capacity, promoting and strengthening community organizations at the grassroots, as well as accompanying the process of good local governance in plans for local development based on participatory approaches.

The NGO’s area of intervention extends through the national territory where needs are felt in Lower Guinea and Middle Guinea, in the Boke and Pita prefectures respectively.

Its focus areas are non-formal education, such as functional literacy, the creation and development of the Literate Cultural Environment (LCE), civic education, democracy, good local governance and citizenship.

As regards health and hygiene, the goals are awareness on the subjects STD/ HIV/AIDS, nutrition, malaria, diarrheal diseases, family planning, and the fight against genital mutilation.

The goal of the AGR is the technical support for the promotion and development of income-generating activities.

Finally, in the environment it will have to organize a campaign against deforestation, bush fires, poor farming practices and reforestation.

This project, funded by DVV International West Africa and executed by AJACIE, effectively contributes to improving the lives of the members of seven farmers’ organizations.

Approach Used

Reflect has been used in its program of activities for literacy and capacity building. Reflect is a participatory approach of community development that takes into account integrated functional literacy and whose participants are the central actors in the development of their knowledge and their instrumental skills.

Reflect combines the theory of Paulo Freire and the practice of PAR (the method of Participatory Action Research) in the phase of development or use within the grassroots communities to address and support information campaigns, communication, education and training relative to individual and collective life to initiate an opening to participatory development.

The literacy language of the members of the seven groups supervised by the NGO is Pulaar, the language used by local communities in the area of project intervention. Literacy is not learning a language but rather the teaching of reading, writing and arithmetic written in the language spoken by the participants. This mastery of the literacy language has facilitated and promoted the development of the instrumental knowledge and skills of participants during the implementation of literacy sessions and thematic courses focused on the needs of the community.

The activities conducted under the auspices of this project are supported technically and financially by DVV International, the main technical and financial partner, by administrative authorities and local governments, the decentralized technical services of the state, leaders of grassroots community organizations and the AJACIE NGO which is responsible for executing the project.

A series of studies was conducted on the need for the project and its submission, on its presentation, the selection of villages, the appropriate personnel to perform work for both intellectual and physical organization of Reflect circles. The profitability of activities has been the subject of a report. Staff training and the corresponding instruction on craft and medical fields and their administration have been planned. And finally, of course, the project was evaluated.

It should be known that before the implementation of project activities to support self-reliance of these grassroots organizations, especially of women farmers in this area, women were involved in large part in the household, in the raising of backyard poultry, as well as small gardening activities to meet daily needs. Women were subject to the decisions of men because of the prevalent culture, tradition, habits, customs, morals and principles of Islam. Not to mention the lack of women in decision-making within their families and communities on the one hand and on the other, the management of the small family income.

How the Reflect Circles Were Created

The NGO staff responsible for supervision in collaboration with local elected officials, leaders of community organizations and the teams from the devolved technical government services implemented a participatory approach to promote and facilitate the creation of Reflect circles or Adult Education centers, including, among others: The study of the needs and problems of literacy and training; making contact with local authorities to organize and distribute powers and responsibilities; the making aware of, the information of, and in respect of the training of assets according to the principles of Reflect circles; meetings on the ground for the formal establishment of management committees. Naturally, implementing the plans demanded the monitoring of the functioning of Reflect circles and their interaction, not to mention the evaluation of results obtained by the participants.

Effect and Impact of the Project on Grassroots Women’s Organizations

After three years of project implementation, the results and impact observed in the field and the beneficiaries themselves are significant.

a) On the individual level

The number of neo-literates has increased in the intervention area of the project by the acquisition of instrumental knowledge (reading, writing and arithmetic) in the literacy language.

Attitudes have changed positively vis-a-vis the recurring themes related to environmental protection through the limitation of burn cultivation and traditional honey harvesting and reforestation of public spaces, health and basic sanitation through the use of impregnated mosquito nets as a preventive against malaria, the use of condoms and other modern means of prevention and protection against HIV/AIDS, the monitoring of children’s education, the occupation of positions of responsibility within grassroots communities and participation in decision-making, development and maintenance of simplified accounts management of individual income-generating activities, etc..

“I’m Mrs. Koumba Barry, a neo-literate from the Pellel Modiyabhé group. Thanks to the achievements of the project, I was able to participate in all the activities of community interest in my area as a resource person to support the development of legal documents for the Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) in the national languages and keep the minutes of village meetings. Also I run awareness sessions on environmental
protection and protection against HIV/AIDS. The acquisition and use of skills on saponification allowed
me to produce and sell local soap called Kabakoudou. I am also able to increase my income in my small
business through the use of management tools and, finally, I manage to keep track of the regular attendance
of my children at school.”

 

“I’m Mrs. Kadiatou Diallo, neo-literate from the Ninguelandé circle, proud of my status as a neo-literate woman, which gives me privileges and consideration that I didn’t have when I was illiterate. This is due to my participation in the decision forums at the Rural Community Development level and my new responsibilities as President of my grassroots community organization, as well as the basic skills I learned that allow me to manage my small business and make it profitable and to be able to track the education of my children, not to mention the renunciation of circumcision of my girls.”

 

“I’m Mrs. Adama Oury SOW, facilitator of the Ley Tolin circle. Thanks to literacy, I am now a facilitator of a Reflect circle in my village. It confers great respect on me and consideration in my locality because I facilitate literacy sessions and Adult Education for the benefit of my parents. This activity gives me a cash income which contributes to support my family expenses in order to positively improve living conditions for my family. I am also invited to all the public awareness campaigns and various community meetings in my RCD.”

 

b) At the community level

The literacy and Adult Education activities implemented in this community project helped raise awareness in the beneficiary population on the roles and importance of literacy in socioeconomic development. This materializes through the active participation of the neo-literates in the awareness outreach campaigns, the emergence of new literacy advocates, the provision of services by the neo-literates in the translation and preparation of legal documents of grassroots groups, the existence of a network of literacy advocates, the reenforcement of the dynamics of participation in development initiated in the affected communities.

A local politician (President of the RCD) says: “I am Mr. Souleymane BAH, President of the RCD Ninguelandé. This project has brought great happiness to our community because we never had a literacy center before. Today the neo-literate people are much more motivated to participate in development activities in my RCD through:
● Participation in awareness campaigns, especially the presidential election, 2010
● The support for the emergence of and management of new agricultural workers’ organizations
● Participation in improving the quality of monitoring of education for students by some members of the Parent Teachers Association and Friends of the School.”

 

Decentralized State Technical Service means: “I’m Mamadou Saliou Diallo, chief service officer of Rural Development for Timbi-Tounni. Thanks to this AJACIE project we were able to popularize new knowledge on crop management of the potato and some gardening produce through our personal involvement in the various capacity building sessions organized by the NGO for farmers’ organizations on the one hand, and sharing experiences with households in the literate environment on the other.”

 

A view on the outlook: “I’m Mrs. BAH Mariama Djello, group president of the village of Wansan. We neo-literates, members of grassroots community organizations with the support of a locally elected council and citizens, the support of decentralized state technical services and the AJACIE NGO through its office staff located near Timbi-Tounni, the intervention area of the project, have put in place strategies for the continuation and sustainability of the project’s achievements.”

 

To summarize: Future strategies include the need for close relationships between the active members of the project and state and economic structures of the country, financial means in favor of the formation of communities based on the model of Timbi-Tounni and support in all their activities, as described above.