Interview with Jamu Cessay, Chief Executive Officer of the Rural Development Organization (RDO) in The Gambia working on sustainability within the project
This project in the Baddibu District, located on the north bank of the Gambia River, was entirely implemented in 2014. Roundabout 400 women from the women’s groups of 4 villages are participating in the project, which is intended to support them with the cultivation of vegetables.The total area of the vegetable gardens is irrigated by solar pumping and irrigation systems. The systems also provide clean drinking water for households. There is a total of 2,000 people living in the participating villages who benefit from this project. By cultivating and selling vegetables, the women are able to earn their own income and thus to sustain a healthy livelihood. This is a huge step in the right direction; in the dry season, a period during which opportunities to earn an income were almost completely absent, women are now able to bring money home. On the other hand they have to build up savings in order to maintain and renew the system after a certain period of time. In November 2014 we meet Jamu Cessay, CEO of the Rural Development Organization (RDO), a NGO founded by Sabab Lou and based in The Gambia to support the Baddibu Project.
SL: Jamu, tell us something about yourself.
JC: My name is Jamu Cessay. I originally come from Serekunda the biggest city of The Gambia. I am now living in Farafenni and I am the CEO of the Rural Development Organization. I studied finance management and accounting.
SL: You quit you former job to join Sabab Lou. What encouraged you to take that step?
JC: On the one hand it had financial reasons. On the other hand I wanted to contribute my work to the development of my country. This is the most important part of it.
SL: What are the the biggest challenges you are facing in you work?
JC: Community mobilization. Making reliable agreements can be a real challenge. One day we agree on something with the communities and the next day they have changed their minds. This has to do with the fact that many people are not educated. So we have to find a common language for mutual understanding. This is one of the key elements of my work. After all promoting change is not easy. But we are working on it. And slowly we are moving forward.
SL: When you started working on the project did people accept and trust you right away or was it difficult?
JC: In the beginning people were skeptical about the project. They did not feel like it was their own. In the course of the 12 months that I have spend here, we have seen many changes taking place. The communities do now feel like they own the project. People are working in their gardens. They are building up their own savings with their own accounts. And so on.
SL: Which are your everyday duties?
JC: The administration of RDO. I visit all the gardens twice a week. I do the reporting and communicate my reports to Sabab Lou in Germany. I also keep record of the cashbook of each village. Because at the moment we (RDO) are still responsible for their savings. So whenever a community has a problem, they come to me, we talk about it and find a solution together. Twice a week we hold a meeting with the particular committees of each village. The garden committee is very important. Very regularly I have meetings with them. I also do the communication between RDO and other institutions in The Gambia.
SL: You have mentioned the committees. Could you tell us more about their duties?
JC: We have formed three committees in each village: a garden committee, a financial committee and a technical committee. I train them on their duties and responsibilities regarding the project.The garden committee is responsible for the production plan of the garden, they are responsible for producing, selling and keeping record of the produce. The technical committee’s duty is to repair, maintain and renew the systems as needed. And the financial committee is responsible for the finances. The members of this committee are trained on how to make savings. This is important. We encourage them to come up with a savings plan and to build up resources. So at any time, if a particular component of the system is not functioning, they can easily replace it. We want the communities to be independent from Sabab Lou. They should be able to do this without assistance.
SL: Thank you Jamu for the interview.