- On April 6, 2015
Listen To The Story
Over the years we have used every challenge as an opportunity to innovate and empower the people of the eastern corridor to drive and own the development of their communities, Siapha Kamara, Chief Executive Officer of SEND-WEST AFRICA has said.
Speaking at the launch of SEND-GHANA’s Food security through Co-operatives in Northern Ghana (FOSTERING) project a few days ago at Salaga, Siapha recounted the difficult conditions of human suffering coupled with the lack of voice for the weak that stare them in face during a visit to the region. This unfortunate situation was the result of conflict.
According to him, this inspired the formation of Social Enterprise Development Foundation for West Africa which gave birth to SEND’s first project-Food Security through Co-operatives Project in 2000 to help to empower the people of the Eastern Corridor to turn their communities around.
Read full speech by Siapha Kamara below:
Address by CEO, SEND Foundation of West Africa
Senior Director, Development Cooperation, Department of Foreign Affairs Trade and Development Commissioner
Director for Engineering MOFA
Hon. Regional Minister, Rep
District Chief executives and Coordinating Directors
Chiefs, Project principals
Invited Guest, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen
It is with great joy on behalf of SEND Ghana to add to the words of welcome already extended to our august guest. We are grateful that you accepted our invitation to participate in the launching ceremony of Food Security through Co-operatives in Northern Ghana (FOSTERING).
More than a decade ago, the Social Enterprise Development Foundation of West Africa (parent body of SEND-GHANA), Canadian Co-operative Association and Credit Union Association of Ghana and people of the Eastern Corridor supported by the Department for Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD) of Canada embarked on a development journey. As the booklet “Sustainable Livelihood Development Through Co-operatives : Strengthening Economies to Build Peace in Northern Ghana, SEND Ghana Development Success Story “to be launched during this program highlights, over the years we have used every challenge as an opportunity to innovate and empower the people of the eastern corridor to drive and own the development of their communities.
In the mid 1990’s, hundreds of communities across the eastern corridor were lying in ruins with burned homes. Thousands of people fled their towns and villages to southern Ghana. Teachers and nurses who were not native to the eastern corridor abandoned schools and clinics to be assigned to secured parts of Ghana. Interactions among ethnic groups were virtually non-existent. Economic activities were at a standstill.
Relief and faith based organizations were the only visible non state actors working with the people of the eastern corridor. Development projects operated by government and NGOs were stopped and their funding converted to support the of delivery relief services. Hundreds of women were without help because the relief organizations targeted only households headed by men.
I remember visiting a village and standing before me were more than 20 children and, all with red hairs, big stomach, dry arms and tiny legs that they could barely stand on. They were all undernourished!! As I lifted up my eyes, there was a breastfeeding mother trying hard to squeeze her tiny breast to get a drop of milk into the month of a few months old crying baby without success. I simply could not continue looking and so I walked away with my face down!
These conditions of human suffering coupled with the lack of voice for the weak inspired the formation of Social Enterprise Development Foundation for West Africa. It gave birth to SEND’s first project-Food Security through Co-operatives Project in 2000. The Canadian Co-operative Association and Department for Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development heard from SEND the devastation and human misery in the Eastern Corridor. They accepted our proposal to join us to empower the people of the Eastern Corridor to turn their communities around. Thankfully, they have remained with the people of the Eastern Corridor since we signed that first partnership agreement in 2001. Indeed today’s ceremony is a renewal for the next five years of our joint commitment to the people of the Eastern Corridor.
Over the past 14 years with Canadian financial support, SEND led development initiatives have underpinned peace building with inclusive economic development opportunities for each and every ethnic group throughout the Eastern Corridor. Our programs have sown seeds of social empowerment that are enabling thousands of households in the Eastern Corridor to triumph over poverty and conflicts.
In 1998 there was only a credit union with less than 4000 members who were mainly salaried workers. By the end of 2014, we have established 11 credit unions with close to 15,000 members. These credit unions have mobilized more than $3 million in savings which they are using to lend to their members: farmers, small scale entrepreneurs and rural commercial women. Indeed, the Eastern Corridor is the only part of rural Ghana that is conflict prone and resource poor, where the credit union movement has taken roots. For almost every 30 kilometers one will come across a credit union facility. The development dividend of promoting credit unions is not only increased economic activities, but it has included underwriting and consolidating ethic tolerance, harmony and peace building across the Eastern Corridor.
Also in 2000 there was no formal financial service for women. Today, a Women’s Trust Fund managed by SENDFINGO is reaching more than 14,000 rural commercial women. The seed fund for this Trust Fund was made possible by a $30,000 grant SEND received in 2003 from the Canadian Co-operative Association and Department for Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development. Over the years SEND successful attracted other donors to contribute to the Women Trust fund. Madam chair, in 2010 the Women Trust Funds was worth more than $250,000.
The SEND led development initiatives in the Eastern Corridor have established financial services that are enabling women to graduate from micro to credit union loans. Credit Union loans are bigger and determined by size of savings of the members. Since 2006 when the scheme was introduced more than 3000 women have graduated from micro loan to credit unions.
Madam chair, distinguished guest, a good example of how the financial services established by SEND are transforming the fortune of women is that of Martha, a retired school teacher in Kpandai. She was a founding member of the Kpandai Community Credit Union in 2004. In 2008, Martha took a loan and established a successful transport business. When the credit union in Kpandai became distressed Martha came forward with funds to bail it out. Martha response, is a testimony to SEND’s believe that investing in women in the Eastern Corridor will bring about sustainable local development. Hundreds of women are using different ICT devices including SMS messaging and platforms to transact businesses thousands of kilometers away from the Eastern Corridor. The incomes they generate are being invested into improved housing, children health, education and expansion of local economic activities.
SEND’s promotion of soya bean is combating malnutrition among the under-fives. The baseline study for FOSTERING in 2014 confirmed that communities participating in SEND’s soya bean production and consumption project were less malnourished than non-participating communities. It is not uncommon to hear a woman in the Eastern Corridor, say ”SEND has opened my eyes; SEND has empowered me, etc.” Through the Gender Model Family training, husbands and wives are sharing domestic chores, devoting family resources to the welfare needs of the members; boys and girls are being raised by their parents as equals, and family decisions making are inclusive of the women’s views.
Even more importantly SEND’s programs are enabling people of the Eastern Corridor to expose and fight the misuse of development resources. We have used the law court to prosecute beneficiaries of the different financial services who borrowed from the revolving loan funds but refused to repay as agreed with SEND. In 2006 for example 100 women and youth participating in SEND’s revolving loan scheme were taken to court and in matters of weeks almost every pesewas was repaid. Within SEND we have taken similar stance against staff members involved in financial misappropriation.
In FOSTERING we are mainstreaming downward accountability purposely to empower beneficiaries and stakeholders to hold SEND accountable. SEND accountability notice boards will carry FOSTERING financial and program information followed by community forums to discuss it with SEND staff. SEND is partnering two community radio stations to host SEND Accountability Hour to serve as platforms for any member of the public to query SEND staff on the use of FOSTERING resources and development results. SEND is convinced that mainstreaming downward accountability will build skills and inspire confidence among the beneficiaries to hold those who come to their communities in the “name of development” accountable for results and resources.
In conclusion, I want to once again thank our implementing partners, the district assemblies, family based farmers’ co-operatives, chiefs and community leaders, women and youth groups and community based credit unions. Without your handwork and dedication to the various projects, the successes I have outlined would not have being possible. Madame Chair, I have no doubt that each of our implementing partners will deliver on their roles and responsibilities to maximize the impact of FOSTERING on our communities.