Guinea-Bissau: Programme Overview and Projects
SWISSAID has worked in the West African country of Guinea-Bissau since 1980. Despite the continuing uncertainty and political instability since independence, SWISSAID is one of the few NGOs that remain committed to supporting impoverished people in this small Portuguese-speaking country. Today the SWISSAID programme focuses on the country’s northern regions of Bafatá, Cacheu and Oio and the capital city, Bissau. Photo: Canchungo village square in the Cacheu region.
SWISSAID’s programme in Guinea-Bissau is particularly aimed at the rural population, who lack sufficient supplies of good-quality food. SWISSAID supports farmer organisations that decide to adopt organic farming. The farmers attend courses to learn innovative methods for cultivating vegetables or maize, for example. Organic rice cultivation using local seed promotes biodiversity and supports the battle against deforestation: the rice thrives in the brackish water of the mangrove forests along the country’s coastline.Read more about organic farming in Guinea-Bissau
Food is not everything. Health and the children’s education are important. To cover these costs the farmers must earn additional income. With SWISSAID’s support they develop and improve various activities to supplement their income: they make honey from beekeeping or produce salt, oil, soap and textiles. Women’s groups give micro-credit and the recipients rapidly set up independently and are able to fund their activities.
Photo: Artisan products are sold in the community shop in Tchur Brick village.
In Guinea-Bissau the villages can acquire ownership rights to their community forests. The forest offers fruits, honey, medicinal plants or firewood and timber for construction and caters for most daily needs. Therefore it is essential to support the rural communities with their initiatives for more rights to their forests and sustainable cultivation. As the government often overlooks illegal forest clearing by foreign companies, SWISSAID and its partner organisations campaign to protect the forests!
In Guinea-Bissau drinking water is also a valuable and scarce commodity. SWISSAID supports the construction of wells in the country’s remote regions. As many families as possible should have access to clean drinking water, which improves their health. Thanks to the well, the women and girls have lighter work and no longer have to carry the water for miles. The families’ well-being is additionally improved with information about hygiene and the construction of latrines.
Like many African countries, Guinea-Bissau also has rich reserves of natural minerals: phosphate, bauxite, crude oil and ilmenite attract the interest of major mining and crude oil companies. SWISSAID supports civil society organisations that are committed to the sustainable and responsible use of resources that is detrimental neither to humans nor to the environment. These organisations also fight for fairer and more transparent distribution of revenue from natural resources. Instead of benefitting the powerful elite, the resources should help the local population.
Photo: Phosphate mining near Farim village in the Oio region.
The political situation in Guinea-Bissau is unstable and uncertain. Since the introduction of the multi-party system in the 1990s, not a single president has completed his official term of office – they have all fallen victim to a coup or assassination. SWISSAID therefore supports civil society organisations like the “Ligue des droits de l’homme de la Guinée-Bissau”, which campaign for the protection of human rights. It is also important to raise the population’s awareness about their rights and duties as citizens. SWISSAID supports youth groups who appeal to the entire population at election times to cast their votes. Their success rate is good.
Photo: A public democracy event arranged by civil society organisations in Guinea-Bissau.
In a country where the majority of the population considers female circumcision to be normal, defending equal rights for women and men and campaigning against domestic violence seem an impossible task. But not quite! SWISSAID supports organisations that campaign for women’s rights and give women the opportunity to learn to read and write. SWISSAID contributes to improving the position of women in Guinea-Bissau society and participates in the latest achievements in this area: new legislation passed in 2011 that prohibits genital mutilation, and another law that came into force in 2013 which condemns domestic violence. Photo: Women’s football in the streets of Canchungo in the Cacheu region.
Foto: Frauenfussball in den Strassen von Canchungo in der Region Cacheu.
SWISSAID invests about 900 million Swiss francs annually in its programme in Guinea-Bissau. Alfredo Handem is the director of its office in Bissau. The team is made up exclusively of local people. This has various advantages: better knowledge of the socio-cultural and geopolitical background, fluency in local languages and the benefit of local expertise.