Communities that participate in Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program (CEP) develop several skills during the final phase of the program—the Aawde—which includes sessions on literacy, numeracy, project and financial management. At the end of the program, Community Management Committees (CMCs) receive community development grants. These grants enable them to put their skills into practice through then managing projects and running small businesses. 

Tostan supervisors Mohammad Ceesay and Bilal Susso held multiple three-day training on project and financial management between July 18, 2014 and August 6, 2014 throughout Upper River Region (URR), The Gambia. Participants included each president, secretary, and treasurer from 40 CMC’s in Serahule communities who had completed the CEP in December 2013. The training covered the importance of business plans, feasibility studies, market costs, division of labor, budgeting, and carrying out a cost-benefit analysis to estimate profits. Interested participants also learned how to write grant proposals to receive external funding from nongovernmental organizations.

​During the interactive training, participants put their new skills to the test through group work exercises. They had to choose a project—gardening, selling cakes, raising hens, or making pottery—and calculate the feasibility of the project.  At the end of the activity, each participant was able to discuss the four income generating steps needed for proper implementation: financial resources, material resources, human resources, and timeframe.

Upon completion of the training, each CMC is given 26,888 Dalasi ($672 dollars) from which they will set up a community-run microcredit program. Decisions about how to use the money are made collectively. Many CMCs already had ideas of the projects they would like to propose to their communities. One community considered buying a car because transportation to and from their village is very difficult. Susso said, “Some are talking about milk machines to put in their village, and others are talking about gardening.”

When asked about what she thought of the training, Haja Gerew, CMC secretary in Sabi Kasseh, said, “It is wonderful to acquire new knowledge I’ve never had in terms of business.” At 29 years old and having only completed the ninth grade, Haja said even now as a married woman, she is still looking to continue her education.

By Beth Roseman, Regional Project Assistant in The Gambia, Tostan