Tumu, a semi-urban town in the Upper West region of Ghana is known to be a home to the rosewood, Ghana’s golden forest resource. It is a border town to Burkina Faso. Located some 1000km from Accra, capital of Ghana, Tumu seems to be too far away from the development hotspot of the country. Hence, Tumu, like the entire Sissala East district, is plagued with several development challenges. Low literacy level, high poverty levels, high level of rural urban migration, gender-based violence, high levels of teenage pregnancy and child marriage, just to name a few.
Moses Dramani, a son of the soil, painfully explains that it takes about six hours to cover a 150km stretch from Tumu to Wa, regional capital of the Upper West region. As a development worker in the region, he says it is very challenging to work in the region. Yet, this has been a source of motivation that spurred him to establish a community-based organisation – Social Initiative for Literacy and Development Programme (SILDEP) – to eradicate poverty in the region. For Dramani, SILDEP has grown from a one man organisation to a forebearer of community development thanks to one training organised by WACSI on resource mobilisation in 2011 – the organisation’s first ever training.
“Over the past 12 years, WACSI has contributed to improve SILDEP … It is because of you that we exist in a rural community,” Dramani, founder of SILDEP says.
SILDEP was created in 2009 to mitigate rural poverty through advocacy and skills development. SILDEP was also keen on reducing the high illiteracy level which according to Dramani, 85 percent of men and women in the district were not literate.
He sought and he found
The founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of SILDEP knew he needed more than passion to achieve his goal. He knew that he needed the skills to define a feasible roadmap that would complement his passion to help improve on the living conditions of Tumu and its environs.
“As a new organisation, we were curious in getting partners and donors to work with in order to generate funds to enable us make contributions to communities within the Sissala District,” he says.
This drive pushed him to search and locate the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). “… We went to the internet where we chanced on WACSI’s website and sent an email through firstname.lastname@example.org to see the possible ways which we could partner,” Dramani admits.
This was in 2011. The year Dramani will never forget because his encounter with WACSI enabled SILDEP to acquire the knowledge that has contributed to transforming SILDEP into a pace setter for development in the entire Sissala district. The organisation is prominent, has gained
outstanding recognition in the communities they serve and is like a visible and unshakeable iroko tree in a dense tropical forest.
This was as a result of Dramani’s participation in a resource mobilisation training organised by WACSI in 2011.
Sparks of success
“I trace my successes and wellbeing as a founder of an organisation and a CEO of an organisation to that initial, first ever capacity building workshop I attended,” Dramani says.
“The resource mobilisation workshop that we did, capacitated SILDEP to put in the appropriate structures, … [and acquire] the necessary software resources that we need,” Dramani happily admits.
He explains that the training enabled him to identify one of SILDEP’s weak points at the time – communication. From the training, Dramani understood the importance of communication in resource mobilisation. As a result, SILDEP developed a website through which it shared updates on its work with the public. Dramani also learned about the importance of leveraging on both traditional and social media, establishing and utilising networks to fundraise, and the need to have an up-to-date and informative website. The spark that brought SILDEP into the limelight was the launching of the organisation’s activities – a tip he learned from the training. The CEO invited the then regional minister, Mr. Issaku Saliah, to launch the programme activities of SILDEP in 2011. The launch was covered widely by the media and the information was shared widely and on the organisation’s website.
Dramani also realised the importance of effective board governance in boosting organisational credibility and attracting the right partners. Hence, he transformed SILDEP’s board from a group of ‘handpicked’ individuals to a team of professionals who add value to the organisation’s mission.
“From that training, we got to know what donors need, what we need to put in place. From there, I had to constitute a vibrant board. My board was not strong. They were handpicked. So, I now knew the proper way of constituting a board and the role the board should play in fundraising,” he testifies.
Over the years, the board members have become indispensable assets for the organisation’s sustainable growth and impact. The passionate indigene of Sissala attributed these milestones to his participation in the WACSI-led resource mobilisation training in 2011.
The mustard seed effect
SILDEP, which Dramani describes as a one-man non-governmental organisation in 2011, can now boast of a remarkable staff strength of 21. The CEO is quite happy with this milestone. Most importantly, he is satisfied with the impact on the lives of a wider number of community dwellers in the Sissala district.
“So many people have benefitted from the services we have offered in the past years,” Dramani says. As a result of SILDEP’s interventions since 2011, over 8000 women are benefitting from a village savings and loan scheme, some 130 households benefitted from an acre of farmland each with maize and soya bean seedlings, some 50 girls have benefitted from scholarships to gain vocational training skills and over 4000 pupils have access to a conducive learning facility, among other accomplishments. In all, Dramani modestly notes that at least a third of the over 112,000 people that make up the entire population of Sissala district have benefitted from SILDEP’s interventions.
Although he attributes much of SILDEP’s exponential growth to the mustard seed of knowledge and skills planted by WACSI in the organisation, Dramani will never forget the phone call that brought the fruits of development to the communities in Sissala district.
“One day, in 2011, I got a call from the Dutch Ministry in Netherland that they wanted to start a project called Girl Power Project in Ghana,” he recalls. The partner learned about SILDEP’s work on mitigating rural poverty, reducing illiteracy and improving the lives of women and the downtrodden from the astonishing online presence SILDEP deliberately created after their participation in its first ever training at WACSI.
“The information [about SILDEP] was gotten from our website which we developed and applied based on the skills we acquired from our first ever training as a new NGO,” Dramani reiterates as he recalls how he applied practical and basic communication tips he gathered from the resource mobilisation training.
SILDEP was on boarded as a partner of the Girl Power Project to deliver interventions in the Upper West region.
“The project was a five-year project and we had a minimum budget of 100,000 United States Dollars per annum,” the CEO recollects. He explains that this enabled SILDEP to kickstart projects to realise his passion – to improve the living conditions of the people of Sissala district.
“This enabled us to put in place the structures, bought 15 motor bikes, recruited staff,” he explains.
Through this project, SILDEP was able to establish its first footprint in the community. It constructed two six-unit classroom blocks in Chawee and Lelensi communities in the Sissala district. These facilities contain 45 pupils each. Annually, these facilitate learning for over 540 pupils since 2012.
The CEO is proud of these accomplishments. He is particularly happy to be at the centre of poverty alleviation in one of the poorest districts in Ghana. But according to Dramani, these milestones cannot be celebrated without recognising the key role WACSI played behind the scenes.
“Over the past 12 years, WACSI has contributed to improve SILDEP … It is because of you that we exist in a rural community,” he firmly and happily states.