US embassy signs SSH, JTRF grants

The embassy of the United States of America in Banjul, yesterday signed two grants, the Ambassador’s Special Self-Help (SSH) grant and Julia Taft Refugee Fund (JTRF), at the American Corner, Comium building. 14 communities throughout The Gambia were awarded these community-driven projects.

Officials say these grants are a small demonstration of the embassy and US government’s commitment to working with the people of The Gambia on community development issues and welfare of refugees in The Gambia.

Marc Shaw, US Charge d’ Affaires disclosed that the US embassy typically contributes around US$40,000 each year to the Ambassador’s Special Self-Help Fund. “In recent years, these funds have been used for several projects that have had a significant impact on the communities in which they are expected,” he said. One of such significant initiatives Shaw disclosed is in Sabi ‘Lumoo’ (weekly market) in the Upper River Region where they built eight-bedroom facility. The ‘Lumoo’ serves more than 3,000 traders coming from neighbouring villages in The Gambia and Senegal.

In Munyagen village in North Bank Region, he revealed they provided 10 donkeys and carts to help in agriculture production and transportation, while the Changai Lower Basic School in Sameh District in CRR benefitted from furniture for students and teachers through one of these projects.

Another project under these grants, Charge d’ Affaires Shaw informed, provided electricity and water supply for Kudang Health Centre, utilising a solar system.

In the past, he reported, they provided milling machines, clinics, wells and garden projects to several communities and women in particular have benefited immensely. “In 2014 US embassy and government allocated a total amount of US$40,000 or around D1, 600,000 to support 12 self-help projects in The Gambia,” he disclosed.

In 2015 Shaw went on, they allocated US$54,000, or around D2, 160,000 to support 14 self-help projects.

“The refugee commission of The Gambia has registered over 11,000 refugees in 81 communities along the border, and these are people who have survived primarily on subsistence farming,” he remarked.

The US diplomat said this year the US embassy and government will award a grant for US$25,000 equivalent to D1, 000,000 to The Gambia Food and Nutrition Association (GAFNA), which has committed to enhancing the lives of Gambians.

For his part, Lamin Sanneh, the deputy permanent secretary at the Ministry of Lands and Regional Government, said the programme motivated and assisted communities in terms of alleviating their poverty and also improving their economic status as farmers and women.

DPS Sanneh said community-driven programmes are essential in the sense that they allow the community to sit at their own level and think critically as to what programmes and supports are needed.

“The milling machines, gardens and wells given to them will last long and also give them support because they are community-driven projects that came from them,” he noted.