Some beneficiaries of youth matching grant beneficiaries under the Resilience of Organizations for transformative smallholder agriculture Project (ROOTS) have debunked recent publications regarding the disbursement of equipment and funds to forty youth beneficiaries.
The Roots Project disclosed at a handing-over ceremony that forty young Gambian entrepreneurs in the agriculture sector received agricultural equipment from the project. Support of 7,500 dollars was used to purchase items, including twelve agricultural transport services, five Agro-Dealer shops, fourteen Agro-food processing, eight mechanized Agriculture services, and one ITC.
Some of these Beneficiaries spoke to TAT and described the publication as ‘false and misleading’ and meant to give an incorrect impression to the public by inflating the figures and number of beneficiaries who received the disbursement.
Less than thirty (30) youths across the country received an allocation from the project, all of which received less than D300 000, contrary to the publication of the project, according to some of the beneficiaries.
“I think there is a need to correct the publication of the Roots Project where they said forty youths received the matching grant; this is far from the truth because all of the beneficiaries belong to one Whatsapp group we created. The number of people in that group amount to twenty-eight, out of which only twenty-four (24) received the grant, so it is false for Roots Project to say 40 youths benefitted from the disbursement,” an anonymous beneficiary told TAT.
Another beneficiary said the beneficiaries were very surprised and disappointed with the publication of the Roots Project regarding the number of beneficiaries and the amount quoted as disbursed, arguing that the publication is false and does not reflect the accurate picture on the ground and is meant to mislead the public regarding the activities of the $80million project.
“The situation on the ground is very frustrating for the beneficiaries who are only twenty-eight (28) in number contrary to their figures. I can tell all of the beneficiaries received D300,000. It’s very disappointing that the beneficiaries who received tri-cycle were not even given helmets, spare parts or tox-boxes which are very important in safety and maintenance, instead of addressing these issues, they are there misinforming the public,” the beneficiary disclosed.
Two other beneficiaries expressed similar sentiments regarding the number of beneficiaries and the amount disbursed.
Mamour Alieu Jagne, Project Director ROOTS Project, dismissed the allegations against the institution, arguing that all forty beneficiaries whose project proposals were approved received their disbursement except for one who withdrew his application.
According to him, D450,000 highlighted during the handing over was a ceiling that none of the beneficiaries could get more than, observing that ROOTS Project has no desire to misinform the public and could have better explained the whole process of the disbursement, especially to the beneficiaries.
He said the entire process of disbursement was not an easy one as it was marked with delays in the procurement process because some beneficiaries were not able to give technical specifications for the equipment they needed or wanted to change after their business plan after been approved, or the equipment or materials simply not available in the country.
“I am saying only one or two received the equivalent of D450000; all the others received what was costed in their business plans, which was less than the D450,000. So some received the equivalent of D300, 000, some D150, 000, some D200, 000, etc., it varies from one applicant to another,” Mamour Alieu Jagne disclosed.
Jagne further told TAT: “The support is in various forms and goes through various stages, but we are almost at the end, and the D450,000 is a ceiling and not meant to be given in whole as cash. The cash part is for operational costs of the business, such as buying fuel for power tillers, hiring staff, buying raw materials for agricultural processing.”
He said after cash distribution, the forty beneficiaries would be trained in Entrepreneurship and Business Management and put on a mentorship program for 3-6 months, noting that the training will commence in two weeks and will mark the final stage of the support.
ROOTS was launched IN 2021 by President Adama Barrow to increase agricultural productivity and access to markets for enhanced food security and nutrition and resilience of family farms and farmer organizations.
The project aims to improve smallholder farmers’ food security, nutrition, and resilience to climate change in The Gambia. The objective is to increase agricultural productivity and access to markets for enhanced food security and nutrition and for the resilience of family farms and Farming Organizations.