TRY continues to thrive. Numerous activities have taken place and we are happy to say that all members are pleased with the operations and performance of the TRY CENTER.
Opening of the 2011 Oyster Season
The Oyster Season opened on 1st March 20011. With the extension of the off-season, the oysters had more time to grow and were therefore much larger in size. Both processors and consumers were happy about this. Vendors charged more for the oysters and were happy to pay. The harvesters’ efforts yielded dividends thus proving that the was worth the while
We gained national recognition, for the Festival event was well attended and fully covered by the government-owned TV as well as State and local newspapers and radio. The TRY students prepared various new oyster dishes that were previously unknown to the public. There were several TV programmes showcasing these dishes, thus providing an excellent promotional and marketing opportunity for the industry. The president delegated four senior ministers to attend including the Minister for Basic and Secondary Education who pledged twenty scholarships for the children of TRY members. The offer was warmly welcomed. Attendance at the fund raiser would have been even higher had the date not coincided with the opening of the National Assembly. Still, we were happy with the turnout and the outcomes.
School starts in September and at the moment the scholarships offered are being distributed according to performance of the children from the various member communities.
The Gambia Radio and Television Service (GRTS) cooking program had oyster cooking for a period of three weeks and the feedback from the public was very positive and this has created more demand for oysters.
Acquisition of Loans
A loan of seventy thousand dalasi was acquired from the BANESTO FOUNDATION, Spain through the Association of Small Scale Enterprise in Tourism (ASSET). Loan repayment commences in March 2012 over a period of twenty-four months, at monthly installments of two thousand two hundred dalasis. The loan was used to purchase two new freezers and one generator.
To raise funds, the office took a loan of twenty five thousand dalasis from the savings of the TRY women to purchase oysters at the beginning of the season when big-sized oysters were available. The oysters were processed and frozen for sale to customers during the off-season, especially the Gambians that travel in the summer and need to take along frozen oysters. So far sales have been good. The TRY girls will use the freezers will be used during the off-season for the sale of iced water and local juices.
The Micro-finance Credit Scheme
The six-month microfinance credit pilot scheme will finish at the end of July. It has been very successful and almost 99% of the loans given out have been retrieved. In general, the micro finance programme was a success; however, I believe that some more training needs to be done again so that the women will understand that it is more a matter of savings than of simply being able to pay off the loans. Each woman was given a loan of one thousand dalasi to be paid over a six-month period. At the same time, they are required to save so that in future, loans will not be needed. From the results achieved so far, it was observed that either there is still a lack of understanding of the value of saving in spite of the training given, or the habit of saving is still to be developed. At the end of September when the National Association of Cooperative Credit Unions in The Gambia (NACCUG) completes the audit of the scheme, the loan that was given by the Women’s Bureau will be repaid, and the President’s donation of one hundred thousand Dalasis will be paid into the micro-finance fund and used to provide loans to eligible members. We believe this will encourage those who failed to save, or saved little, to change their behaviors. Another training programme will then be organized by NACCUG for participating members.
Safety at Sea
In order to increase safety at sea and during harvesting, life jackets and boots were given to TRY members for a token fee. Members have agreed to a penalty fine on any member that does not wear her safety jacket while at sea.
The Skills Centre
The TRY centre skills training programme has been very active. The purpose of the program is to train the girls in basic cookery skills for eventual self-employment. The idea is that upon graduation after a year’s training, these girls would have been equipped with the skills to strike out on their own and establish small businesses preparing and selling food or clothes to earn a living to help their families. The girls have been taught how to do basic knitting and crocheting and cooking lessons have also been given. So far we are proud to say that each of the students have learned how to bake bread, cakes and pies. They have also learned how to use the hand sewing machines and can sew quite well. Donation of sewing machines were made by friends of TRY, one of whom was the Treasurer of TRY Mrs Kumba Jassey of Lamin. I must say that the girls have been very punctual and lessons are taken seriously. We try to encourage the girls by involving them in all activities of TRY.
The Federation of Gambian Women Educationists (FAWEGAM) has chosen TRY as a model association which they will use to promote girls’ empowerment initiatives. They therefore selected twenty girls from across the country to be trained at TRY under a programme entitled “Bring my Girl Child to Work." They spent the day at the Centre, observing the activities being undertaken and interacting with the students.
Attendance at Workshop
An invitation was extended to the coordinator of TRY to attend a training workshop on women’s rights. The aim was to empower women’s rights promoters for effective advocacy and sensitization to popularize and enhance people’s understanding about the legal frameworks that protect women’s right in the Gambia.
TRY sent one of the girls to attend this workshop and upon return she gave a detailed lecture on what she heard and learnt from the two-day workshop.
The TRY center closes down for the rainy season holidays and reopens in September.
Meetings have been held in all communities to discuss ways of improving oyster production by: smoking and packaging; adult literacy; micro finance; and the scholarship program.
The women expressed their interest in smoking oysters but had concerns about their health and their eyes, but will be ready to meet the public demand if there is help on local ovens and protective equipment.