Income generation in Guinea Conakry (Special Supplement 3)
By Alexandros Yiannopoulos, ACF Spain (ACF-E)
Since the 1990s, Liberia, Sierra Leone and later on the Ivory Coast, have been embroiled in conflict. This has led to a mass exodus of refugees to neighbouring countries, particularly Guinea, which has received 150,000 people. More recently, the political and security situation has improved. At the end of May 2005, there were 2,111 Sierra Leonais, 4,024 Ivoirians and 63,062 Liberians in refugee camps in Guinea Conakry. Even though the security situation was stable, many of the refugees were still reluctant to leave, preferring to wait and see what happens with the elections planned in October 2005.
Income generation activities (IGAs)
ACF-E carries out food security monitoring, agricultural and environmental programmes and IGAs in Guinea. These activities are adapted to the needs of the refugees and the Guinean populations. The IGAs are a complement to the general food distribution, with a view to reducing dependence on the WFP food ration and increasing selfsufficiency. IGAs are highly flexible and can be implemented with very few resources. They target a wide range of social groups, from elderly to single parent families, and in a refugee context, where space and access to natural resources is limited or even prohibited, they provide one of the few sources of income.
The principal livelihoods of the refugees and the Guinean population are either agricultural based or commercial. The IGAs therefore build on the existing knowledge and experiences of the beneficiaries to assist them to start or improve an activity they would not normally be able to carry out due to the lack of resources. IGAs are small-scale activities that are run by groups of five people. Grouping the beneficiaries helps to reduce risk and improve co-operation in the villages. ACF-E has started four types of IGAs:
- Non-agricultural IGAs (e.g. bakeries, small restaurants, market stalls/small trading, soap making, etc.)
- Poultry raising for elderly women
- Market gardening
- Apiculture (honey production)
Groups to support were selected based on the following criteria:
- Not in receipt of assistance from other humanitarian agencies
- Acceptance of the activity by the population
- Vulnerable families (women headed households, widows, displaced and returnees from the local conflict)
- Demonstrable motivation and ability to implement the activity.
The IGAs were started through a one off grant. The amount varied according to the start up cost of the activity. The amount of the grant was discussed in advance with the group members and was based on the material needed to start the activity. Table 8 gives an overview of the different types of IGAs implemented with the Bureau of Populations, Refugees and Migration (BPRM) financing between 2004 and 2005. ACF-E provided training and support for the IGAs, which included management methods. However, many of the groups had experience and were able to establish their own systems quickly.
Funds were managed by the treasurer with the co-operation of the group members. Funds were apportioned in three different ways. A weekly contribution of 500 FG (Guinean franc) was put into a central kitty to cover either emergency needs (health) of a member, or as a donation or loan to cover other costs such as education, purchase of clothes or livestock. About one third of the income was used to cover the food needs of the families, while the remainder covered the running costs or expansion of the activity. The proportion of the funds distributed depended on the turnover and profit from the weeks activity and the priorities of the group.
In the well established refugee camps there were large markets both for the refugees and the Guineans. However, the purchase of raw material, goods and manufactured items used in IGAs had to be imported from Kissidougou or other neighbouring markets.
|Table 8 Example of IGAs, activities and grant size
|Type of activities
||No of groups
||No of members
||Start-up capital (FG*)
||No of beneficiary families
||Total grant given (FG*)
|Processing of agricultural produce
Visiting the IGAs after the first three months, the teams found all the IGAs running and making a profit. The variation in the profit depended on the initial investment costs and the running costs. Some activities, such as poultry raising and kniting which targeted elderly, provided a small supplementary income, whilst activities such as small trading proved to have a more long term benefit and provide a more regular income. The income was largely used to contribute to basic food needs and reinvested in the activity. A small amount was saved.
A number of strengths and weaknesses of the IGAs were identified:
Producing tools in a forge and milling in Gui, examples of IGAs
supported by ACF-E
- IGAs were quickly implemented and in a short period of time were able to provide an income (this compares favourably with agricultural activities which can take from 3 to 6 months to generate output).
- With on going training and support, the activities could be made more sustainable.
- The income from the IGAs provides a supplement to food aid.
- Skills learnt and equipment can be taken home following repatriation.
- The programme was too short-term to provide adequate support to all groups.
- The criteria used for identifying vulnerable groups were too general and did not necessarily take into consideration the socio-economic situation of the household.
- Due to repatriation, many groups were split up, resulting in a slowing down or cessation of some IGAs.
The IGAs developed during this protracted crisis helped to reduce the dependence of the refugees on the general distribution and improved self-sufficiency. However, there needed to be more support, advice and initial investment in order to promote a longer term approach resulting in sustainable activities.
Apiculture as one of the IGAs
The finished product
Honey has an important role in the customs and the
diet of rural Guineans. It is used in the preparation of
the meals during the month of Karem (Ramadan) and
events such as baptism or marriage. On a daily basis
it replaces sugar in the preparation of meals and
It was noted, however, that the traditional methods to extract honey were very inefficient and had a negative impact on environment and forest. To build the hives special trees were cut down. The hives were treated as disposable so that each time the beekeeper wanted to harvest the honey, he would burn the hive to kill the bees and extract the honey. The quality of the honey was poor since it has a burnt taste and has segments of the dead bees.
So ACF-E tried to improve the traditional method of honey production. In the region of Dabola, South East Guinea, there are a number of associations specialised in bee-keeping based on a Kenyan design. ACF-E joined with these associations to train and construct hives for the bee-keepers in Albadariah.
ACF-E provided proper protection equipment (including a mask, a smoker and gloves), an improved Kenyan hive, a honey filter, training on honey production and how to carry this out in a sustainable fashion without killing the bees.
The beneficiaries learnt how extraction is best done during the day and how to move the bees from one hive to another. At the moment, the groups are producing more honey of a higher quality. Before the ACF-E intervention, average production for a hive was between 3 to 4 litres whilst now it is about 25 litres.
Taken from Field Exchange Issue 103, March 2006