Nafa Program: Beneficiary opens shop

By Cherno Omar Bobb

Kalipha Sillah, a native of Jaka Madina in Wuli West District, Upper River Region has opened a shop after benefiting from the ‘Nafa’ Program.

The ‘Nafa’ Program component of The GambiaSocial Safety Net Project (SSNP) (a US$ 31 million project) isjointly funded by the World Bank and the Government of The Gambia.The ‘Nafa’ Program is designed to promote continuity and harmonization with other programs, by expanding an existing package of cash transfers with Social and Behavioural Change Communication (SBCC) managed by NaNA and partners.

The National Nutrition Agency (NaNA), Directorateof Social Welfare and Department of Community Development are the implementing partners of the ‘Nafa’ Program.The Gambia SSNP is implemented in West Coast Region (WCR), Central River Region (CRR), North Bank Region (NBR), Lower River Region (LRR)and Upper River Region (URR) targeting 15,60 extremely poor households, this equates to approximately 40 percent of the extremely poor households in The Gambia.For a start, it wasbeing piloted in Foni Bintang, Nainija and Wuli West Districts.

The Project Development Objective (PDO) is to improve the coordination of social assistance activities, provide temporary social assistance support to rural households in the wake of COVID-19, and increase inclusion of the extreme poor in the ‘Nafa’ Program.

The beneficiary selection was done using a Proxy-Means Test (PMT) which was followed by a community validation exercise in the poorest 20 districts of The Gambia. The regular revenue provided to extremelypoor households is aimed at increasing both short-term consumption of essential goods, and enabling longer-term investments in human and productive capital.

Tailored SBCC provides information to beneficiaries and non-beneficiaries to encourage investments that can bolster human capital especially maternal and child health and nutrition, adolescence education and family planning; parenting and prevention of gender-based violence; and productive capital especially savings, entrepreneurship and agriculture to break the inter-generational cycle of poverty.In the three piloted districts, a total of Two Thousand, Seven Hundred and Seventy (2,770) beneficiary households each received D3000 every two months during the sevenrounds of payment.

Mr. Sillah, a farmer explained that prior to him benefiting from the ‘Nafa’ Program, survival was a challenge for me and my family.

However, he said since he started benefiting from the project (three thousand dalasi every two months) his life and that of his family has changed positively.

“I used to buy cups of rice daily any time my wife had to cook but with the ‘Nafa’ Program I am able to buy bags of rice and other basic needs in bulk for my family,” he said.

He added that he was also able to save part of the money he received and started a shop.

He noted that the SBCC training he benefited from contributed in motivating him to start the business to ensure he is able to sustain himself and his family when the project phases out.

“Even if the project ends now with what I have saved and invested I will be able to sustain myself and my family,” he stated.

The ‘Nafa’ Program has ended my suffering and brought me and my family several benefits,” he further said while thanking the World Bank and The Gambia Government for funding the project. He also thanked implementing partners.

Samba Bah, Governor of Upper River Region expressed satisfaction with the way the Cash Transfer is carried out by implementing partners, saying this is because an assessment was done to identify extremely poor households.

He observed that the Cash Transfer has positively impacted the lives and livelihoods of beneficiaries.

He pointed out that beneficiaries not only stop at receiving the money but are putting it into good use, with some investing in businesses and other ventures.

Governor Bah noted that the project has transformed the lives of many in his region and other parts of the country and therefore appealed to the World Bank and The Gambia Government to expand the project to other districts across the country and increase the duration of the project so that the poverty alleviation the country is yearning for is achieved.
Abdou Aziz Ceesay, Director of Social and Behavioral Change Communication at the National Nutrition Agency said as a nutrition agency responsible for all nutrition and nutrition-related activities in the country the success registered by the project is a dream come true for them.
He highlighted that, if you uplift the extremely poor from poverty, lifting households from poverty and building their resilience, will undoubtedly improve their health and nutritional status.
Mr. Ceesay pointed out that if the trend of success registered by beneficiaries continues, we will drastically reduce malnutrition in the country and contribute to the socio-economic development of the country.
He said, the reason why the cash transfer is accompanied with Social and Behavioral Change Communication is to ensure beneficiaries invest part of the money in productive capital for resilient building and most importantly break the inter-generational cycle of poverty.
He called on other beneficiaries to emulate those that are already successful or have started micro-finance businesses.
“If some beneficiaries can do it, I believe any other beneficiary from any district can do the same thing,” he said.
Director Ceesay expounded that the monies being given are not the ends and means of everything and therefore attending SBCC sessions is the most important activity to build beneficiary’s capacities to be able to use their resources in things that will increase their resource base. This he said will uplift them from poverty or even move from where they are to another level when the project phases out.
Ceesay said that the Project Coordinator and his team started discussions with the World Bank and The Gambia Government about the possibility to increase the coverage, resource envelope and duration of the project.
According to him, in The Gambia almost everybody is poor, it is just that our level of poverty defer.
He, therefore, appealed to funders to extend the project to other districts across the country and increase its duration to possibly 36 months.
He also appealed to the UN System, European Union, and other donor agencies to support The Gambia Government in trying to increase the number of beneficiaries supported by the Cash Transfer. The Director also promised that the intervention will have a direct impact on households in the country and thereby improve the health and nutrition of the population.
“No Social Safety Net or Social Assistance activity will last forever and I, therefore, urge beneficiaries to use the opportunity to increase their revenue base and get into other micro-finance activities to support their households so that when the project phases out they can turn around and get money from other avenues to support their households,” he concluded.

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