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Building a Stronger Community

Community Projects

Since 2005 Ojoba Collective has funded social development projects in the villages where we operate. To date, we have funded or co-funded a community library, microcredit fund, adult literacy classes, free health care, malaria education and nets, and famine relief. Click on these links to read more:

Community Library l Microcredit Fund l Literacy Classes l Free Health Care l Malaria Education l Famine Relief

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COMMUNITY LIBRARY

One of our corporate partners, Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics, offered to partially fund a community project in the village where our Ojoba Women’s Shea Cooperative is located. After a number of meetings, the cooperative members voted to use the funds to build a community library for their village.

Many of the 400 women in the cooperative have been attending adult literacy classes. This exposure has sparked their passion for knowledge and the power of learning. When asked why they chose to use the fund to build a community library, one woman answered, “Imagine, if our parents had been able to build a library for us, how much farther along we would be today!”

Communal land adjacent to the village school was donated for the library by the village elders. The Ojoba Women’s Shea Cooperative has voted to oversee financial responsibility of the library once the work is completed. An architectural plan was approved, and the building work commenced in April, 2012. Completion of the building was in September, 2012. Most of the labor was provided by local community members.

Nearly 300 high quality books on a variety of subjects shipped to the library from the USA in January 2013 and another shipment of books is scheduled for the Fall of 2014. A community committee was assembled in the village to organize and run the library on a volunteer basis.  We held a series of training workshops both for the library committee and for the community at large on how a library works, how to properly care for, and how to make use of a community library.

This is the first community library in the region, and will be a huge benefit to the entire community for generations to come. (back to top)

 

MICROCREDIT FUND

We started a micro-credit fund for the cooperative in 2011. With the help of a German NGO, we created a micro-credit fund and trained the cooperative on its use.  After receiving training on how a microcredit fund works, cooperative members voted to save a percentage of their profits for use in the fund. We provided additional training in accounting and recordkeeping, and now the microcredit fund is completely controlled by the cooperative.

Cooperative members now have easy access to extremely low interest loans monitored by their peers. Often microcredit funds fail in poor countries because the banks and institutions creating the funds still charge very high interest rates (up to 20% apr!) which can easily dwarf the modest income rural villagers can make on micro-enterprises. By keeping interest rates low, and control of the fund under the cooperative members themselves, we have been able to avoid the common dangers of microcredit funds.

This easy access to capital has allowed members to start micro-enterprises to supplement their income. To date, we have seen cooperative members start animal husbandry projects, local skin care products, grow supplemental food for a marketplace stall, and even start sewing enterprises. All of this contributes to a more diversified, stronger, and more sustainable local economy. (back to top)

 

literacy-class.jpgADULT LITERACY CLASSES

Ojoba Collective has offered free adult literacy and math classes since 2007 to our cooperative members, many of whom are illiterate. With the help of a local school teacher, we have had wonderful success offering literacy courses twice per week at our production facility. They are receiving training in reading and writing in their local language, Gruene, English (which is the official language of Ghana), and math skills. We are amazed each time we visit them how much more English they can speak, write and read.

We've also noticed that as the cooperative members become more proficient in basic literacy, they place even more importance on their children's education, and are proud and determined to provide educational opportunities for their children that they never had access to in their youth.  (back to top)

 

FREE HEALTH CARE

All cooperative members and their families are insured under the Ghana National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) a few years after its inception in 2003. With free health care available at local clinics, members and their families are much healthier, and sickness has decreased dramatically. Before having health care, villagers had to travel far and many could not afford any sort of care.

When we first arrived in the village in the winter of 2003, many were ill and had bad coughs or malaria. Now, the cooperative and their families are in far better health and most sickness is easily remedied. (back to top)

 

mosquito-net.jpgMALARIA PREVENTION

Its estimated that over half a million people die each year in Africa from malaria. In fact, 90% of all deaths in the world today from malaria occur in sub-Saharan Africa. Most of these deaths are children under 5 years old.

Infection is caused by the female Anopheles gambiae mosquito, which is very widespread and difficult to control. Research has shown that the most cost-effective way to curb infection is simply to sleep under an Insecticide Treated Net (ITN).

Our target country, Ghana has a population of 22.4 million people with about 31.4% of the population below the poverty line, earning less than $2 per day. Malaria is endemic throughout the country with over 90% of the population at risk of endemic malaria.

Ojoba Collective focused on curbing malaria transmission in poor Fra Fra (ethnic group) villages in the Upper East Region of northern Ghana, West Africa. The Fra Fra are traditional subsistence farmers who live in small villages rife with malaria. We have seen some of the worst suffering due to malaria here first-hand and decided it was a good target location for our first pilot malaria education and free ITN program in 2007.  Since the Fra Fra people are remote, almost 800 kilometers north of the capital; Accra; larger Ghanaian aid organizations with offices in the capital have largely “forgotten” to have their “fight malaria” campaigns arrive in the Fra Fra villages.

In September 2007 and again in October 2009 we delivered almost 2000 free ITN’s to the Fra Fra and our aim is to provide as many ITN’s to as many villagers as possible for free with our focus being young children and pregnant women. We hand delivered these nets and set up village malaria education forums with the assistance of local Fra Fra volunteers. The project was a stunning success. We rented a truck and drove across the Sahel (there are no roads where we worked) and stopped at villages and held “village meetings.”

With our translator (the Fra Fra speak Gruene, a local tribal language in northern Ghana), we explained malaria transmission and how to use ITN’s properly. In our educational meetings, we demonstrated how to set up the nets to the assembled villagers and then asked a few women with young children if we could set the nets up in their homes as a model for other villagers to see. This proved to be a valuable lesson for the village, as many villagers had never seen a mosquito net used properly.

We now have an infrastructure in northern Ghana to effectively distribute ITN’s to the population. We have trained local volunteers and a truck to get out to the villages and deliver nets and offer easy-to-undestand village meetings about malaria transmission. (back to top)

 

FAMINE RELIEF

In the spring and summer of 2007, the northeastern Savannah region of Ghana experienced a severe drought. This is the only farming season of the year for the subsistence farming communities of this area. They do not have any form of irrigation, and rely 100% on the rains to nourish their staple crops of millet and ground nuts.

When the rains finally arrived in August and September 2007, they received more rain in a few weeks than they had received in the previous 10 years combined!

This resulted in widespread flooding and devastation in the region. In fact, the flooding was so severe that government estimates showed more than 275,000 people affected in northern Ghana, more than all other West African countries combined!

The combination of drought and flooding created a very serious humanitarian situation. As subsistence farming villagers, they rely nearly entirely on what they grow to sustain themselves through the long dry season, locally known as “the hungry season.” With most of their food crops, food stores and houses destroyed, and livestock washed away; they were simply unable to support themselves without help.

This region is the poorest and most neglected part of Ghana. Many of the villages are not on any road system and lack modern telecommunications. Populations are scattered across the Savannah, often connected only by walking paths, and news is passed through word-of-mouth. The famine affected most of the remote villages in the region, yet most residents that we interviewed had not seen any aid from local government agencies or international aid groups!

Because of the scale of the problem, and the many logistical hurdles involved; the few organizations even addressing this disaster concentrated their relief efforts in the larger villages and towns on the road system. Rumors of food aid in these towns caused many tragic instances where desperate villagers walked long distances in the hopes of receiving some assistance. Often they were awarded with a mere handful of millet for their efforts, if they managed to receive anything at all. Meanwhile, villagers situated more than a long day’s walk from a larger town were left completely isolated with their great need.

Community members living in the famine hit area alerted us to these disastrous problems of distribution and organization, and we were confidant we could get a truck to go off-road to some of the more remote areas. We chose five geographically distinct sub-regions to concentrate on, and delivered food. Our hands-on distribution was very effective during the famine, and our volunteers physically distributed food rations to the remotest villages.

The goal of our famine relief was to supply as many villages as possible with enough of their staple grain; millet, to help them survive until the next farming season. Our goal was "preventative intervention," preventing starvation before it happens. We supplied over 10 tons of food aid and our food aid project reached over 10,000 villagers. (back to top)

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