In the rural areas of Guinea-Bissau, the best way to provide sustainable and effective aid is to work directly with the farmers, grouped together in associations. But bringing these smallholder farmers together is only the first step; it is then necessary to train, structure and strengthen them in order to make them true partners for the future.
This project aims to strengthen the organisational and technical capacities of partner CBOs in the regions of Cachéu and Bissau. Through capacity building and the generation of their own funds, the CBOs are better able to respond to the needs of their members and become more autonomous. Also, the target CBOs are recognised and consulted as representatives of the community and defend their interests against other actors.
In Guinea-Bissau, particularly in the northwest region of Cachéu and on the outskirts of Bissau, farmers receive little support to improve their living conditions. In general, the financial support obtained from some NGOs and from the Catholic Church is injected into infrastructure and field activities. Little is invested in human capital.
And yet this is the key to sustainable development aid: giving people the means to improve their living conditions by themselves. Providing this sustainable aid is at the heart of SWISSAID’s strategy. “There is no point in telling people what to do and how. Those concerned must be actors of their own change, otherwise the process of change will not continue”, explains Aissé Barry, Gender Officer at SWISSAID Guinea-Bissau.
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United for better rule
SWISSAID is determined to win these battles in order to help the farmers. Tchur Brick, Bachil, Granja Pessube, Ponta Rocha, Tchada and Manel Iagu are just some of the associations that the Foundation has managed to bring together since its beginnings in the country 40 years ago. Also known as grassroots community organisations (CBOs), they offer many advantages to rural populations: they enable them to share goods, tools and land, exchange advice, fight legal battles for land and fight for the needs of rural communities.
Women spearheading change
The majority of CBO members are women. However, in this coastal West African country, 73.5% of women over the age of 15 are illiterate. “Only boys go to school in rural areas. Girls are taken out of school very early to help their mothers with family chores or to get married,” says Aissé Barry. Literacy classes are therefore the first step towards independence. They are also a way for women to gain self-confidence, share their knowledge and assert their rights. “Women who have taken the literacy classes now vote, which they could not do before without their husbands. They are proud to be independent,” says Felizberto Semedo, who is in charge of the project.
“Women who have taken the literacy classes now vote, which they could not do before without their husbands. They are proud to be independent,” says Felizberto Semedo, who is in charge of the project.
Since 2019, strengthening goes further, with gender awareness workshops and training in advocacy, administrative and financial management and communication. The CBOs are given a long-term strategy and vision, a budget and become essential partners in SWISSAID projects in agroecology and business development. This is exactly what sustainable aid is all about: gaining enough weight to move from being a beneficiary to a partner.