Author: Musa Gangha, Senior Community Projects Coordinator
OneVillage Partners continues its partnership with the community of Mamboma as it transitions into its second cycle of the Community Action Program. At this stage, we begin to see more impact, as communities address their second priority need. The Community Action Program is cyclical; once the community’s capacity has been built to identify five ‘priority challenges’, one by one, they develop projects to address these challenges. At the end of each cycle, communities have the opportunity to modify the next priority based on changing needs. As we continue through the cycles, community knowledge about development increases, and our work becomes increasingly complex. This year, the community of Mamboma gained tremendous local development experience, as they designed and implemented a skills training project to respond to their challenges. This has made Mamboma, like many other communities we partner with, better strategically positioned to identify and harness local ideas and resources to address their critical needs.
Mamboma decided to keep its second priority challenge; to address the lack of skills training for youths. Early research and planning by OneVillage Partners and the community revealed, that more than half of the village’s population are young people who have not had any informal skills training opportunities.
This lack of skills training was an important reason why youths have not been seen as productive in the community. Thus, a large proportion of the community was lacking skills and rapidly losing motivation. Consequently, we were able to understand why so many projects in the past had failed. During the DESIGN phase of Community Action, where the community members begin to develop project ideas, the community realized they could harness their existing resources in order to support the development of the youths. As the community became more aware of how OneVillage Partners could support them in their own development, they identified an existing, but unfinished, cassava processing center. Together we decided to revive and reactivate the center and train motivated youths. This center is now functioning and benefiting the youths and the community at large.
With the support of OneVillage Partners, Mamboma has now proudly become a center in the chiefdom for cassava food processing. Why is this change significant for OneVillage Partners and the community? In Sierra Leone, cassava is a major food source consumed in households. It is also crucial to the local economy, the trade of which provides income for many households. Cassava grows in abundance in this region and there is a high demand for goods processed from cassava. Therefore, the processing of cassava within the community serves as a win-win; providing a regular market for local cassava producers, and stimulating the village economy by attracting outsiders to purchase these processed goods.
“If people can actually now make better profit from cassava and its products, then the local economy has improved and many youths and households will also support their homes and will contribute to the development of the community and chiefdom at large.” – Alfred Momoh
Today we celebrate the successes of this exciting journey of change with Mamboma as it has proudly turned the lives of 10 young women and 6 young men around, seeing them become Cassava Processors. They now possess valuable knowledge and skills in the production of four cassava products, including: Gari, Foo-foo Flour, Coconut-Gari and Starch.
To understand the magnitude of the change that this project has made in improving the overall quality of life for these young people, we asked them how they felt. Many of the trainees say this training has changed their lives, stating that they feel they have dramatically changed, becoming something socially worthy and helping the local economy thrive.
Most of the women who took part in the training also expressed that previously, they have just been kept at home doing domestic and hard farms jobs but now feel relieved that they can actually work closer to their homes and earn money from their skills. The men who took part in the training stated that after farm work, larger portions of their time have been spent in the entertainment spots like local bars. Here they were doing nothing but lavishing the small sums of money they had, rather than supporting their homes. Now this time will be spent productively; in the cassava processing center increasing their income and supporting their households.
The cassava processing center will continue to function, with the trainees providing training to anyone from their community, or indeed other communities. In this way, Mamboma is kick-starting the process of using the skills and knowledge that already exist within its community to train the new generation. Meanwhile, the construction of the Skills Training Center continues where a second training for youths is planned, on making local soap.