The town of Cesson-Sévigné signed a decentralised cooperation agreement with Dankassari in Niger, and its implementation was entrusted to the association: Solidarity Exchanges Cesson-Dankassari. The following article aims at answering the Cesson citizens’ frequent questions.
1 Why is it important to contribute to the development of Niger? The country is often by-passed (aid goes mainly to Mali, Burkina and Senegal).Our main goals: maintain the population in the country in reasonable living conditions, help a young democracy to go ahead, train people toward self-reliance.
2 What is the political situation in Niger? Niger is a secular republic, the president, parliament and local authorities are elected. 2016 is an election year, which presently creates some tension.
What about safety? Niger suffered attacks before France did. Insecurity prevails in several neighboring countries (Libya, Nigeria, Mali). Niger hosts many refugees fleeing Boko Haram.
What about the religious situation? Most of the population is Moslem, but freedom of religion is respected. For example, there is an active protestant parish in Dankassari.
Are there ethnical problems? No, several ethnic groups co-exist in Niger: sedentary Haoussa or Zarma-speaking groups, nomads (Fulah, Targui), they often inter-marry and maintain all sorts of relationships. The state takes great care that the country remains united.
What language is spoken in Niger ? French is the official language, but several African languages are spoken.
3. Why does Cesson-Sévigné maintain close links with Dankassari ? The reason was a request from the first elected mayor of Dankassari. The town Council then decided that it was essential to help a new-born town in Niger to get organized. The presence of an efficient Nigerien association, RAEDD, a partner of AESCD within Tarbiyya-Tatali, was a decisive point.
4. How many people live in Dankassari? Nearly 80,000 people, in some thirty villages.
How many schools? Over a hundred
How many doctors? Only one
How many health centers? Four
5. What is a decentralised cooperation? It is a cooperation agreement between two local authorities in two different countries, and is part and parcel of France’s foreign policy. The projects can be implemented either directly by the local government or by an association.
6. Is it different from town twinning? Not really, it springs from the same law passed on February 6th 1992, which defines both. Decentralized cooperation mainly means financial support to a developing country. Another law was passed on February 2nd 2007, so as to protect decentralized cooperation actions conducted by local authorities, by explicitly allowing them to conduct development aid actions without being bounded by their competence field.
7. What is the role of AESCD? AESCD has been entrusted by the Cesson town council with conducting the decentralized cooperation with Dankassari. It also conducts its own actions to inform schools in particular about Niger and Dankassari, and organizes exhibitions, debates, films. We draft requests for financing projects, as well as assessments of activities and financial balance.
8. Since 2011, it has been impossible to go to Dankassari, how do you manage to monitor activities over there? We have set up a system of monthly reports and financial reports drafted by the person in charge of the decentralized cooperation and by the RAEDD accountant, and we keep in touch through e-mails and phone calls. We cannot go to Dankassari but we do go to Niamey every year and meet the persons in charge of the different activities for in-depth reports.
9. Who defines the activities to be carried out in the field? The Dankassari local council has adopted its plan of communal development on which the activities are based, within the frame of the main goals of the Nigerien state. The actions are defined by the Dankassari town authorities, RAEDD and AESCD. Then they are proposed to the Cesson Town Council and the various bodies likely to finance them.
10. What are the sectors of activity? They concern access to water, access to electricity for health centers and schools, support to women, the environment, upgrading municipal services etc… and always include projects on management and technical training. Gender parity is always maintained in training sessions. Women feel deeply involved in the actions that are carried out. To identify the needs and define the priorities, surveys are carried out (water scheme, grain bank, agriculture).
11. Which organisations finance projects in Dankassari, and to what extent? Cesson-Sévigné’s contribution (12 000 euros in 2015-16-17) is the starting point. It is doubled by a grant from the French Foreign Affairs Ministry (on Cesson-Sévigné’s request). Grants have been obtained from other local authorities (region, department). As concerns the water project, grants come from the Loire-Bretagne Water Agency and from CEBR (Rennes Water Catchment Area Authority). The energy project is supported by Departmental Energy 35 authority. We also have our own financing (memberships, donations, craftwork sale). In 2015 our budget amounted to approximately 90 000 euros.
12. How do funds circulate between donators and Dankassari? AESCD’s work is totally voluntary. The grants received are immediately sent to RAEDD in Niamey, which deducts 10% for its expenses (office rent, accountant and decentralized cooperation manager’s salaries, vehicle maintenance). When an activity is launched in Dankassari, the funds are sent to the local branch of RAEDD. According to circumstances, expenses are attributed to RAEDD or to the Dankassari Town Services. We subsequently receive detailed financial documents.
13. Do Nigeriens contribute to financing the projects? Systematically, in various manners, (financial participation or in kind). Two examples: for access to water, the State provides 40% of the budget; for the matron’s carts , the project is now funded by the matrons paying back their loans, thus providing for the purchase of new carts.
14. Does the State of Niger tax the funds sent? No. For example, the energy equipment sent was exempted from customs duty.
15. Why does Cesson-Sévigné‘s financial support matter? Cesson-Sévigné’s unflinching support is a determining factor in the case statement we present to other partners. Our partners always require co-funding, they carefully examine Cesson-Sévigné’s contributions. We can say that 1000 euros donated by Cesson-Sévigné enable us to obtain 8000 euros in donations and adding Niger’s funding it reaches to 12 000 euros spent on activities over there.
16. The Decentralised cooperation has been operating since 2009. What about its progress and difficulties? There has been huge progress. This is obvious in the reports we receive, which are more and more accurate and detailed. One example is that the town of Dankassari has created a municipal water service, has engaged a supervisor, has improved tax recovery. The difficulties spring mainly from the high increase of population which entails a constant need for new services ( water access, schools, health service
17. What goals have the decentralised cooperation actions achieved? As far as access to water is concerned, a town water-plan has been drafted, a mini drinking-water supply has been created and two more have been repaired, nine drills have been repaired, 200 COGES members and 100 repairers have been trained. Access to water has been improved for some 15000 persons living in the areas concerned. AESCD will present further detailed assessments of actions at the SSI 2016.
18. How long will the Decentralised Cooperation have to be maintained? A decentralized cooperation is a long-term involvement. The fields of activities evolve as time goes by, according to requests. The allocated funds are determined for 3 years (next town council discussion on coming allocations due in 2017).
19. For the town of Cesson-Sévigné, what advantage does the Decentralised Cooperation with Dankassari offer? It plays a part in various fields: information and education (an opening on the world) for children and all the population; culture (exhibitions, film shows), visibility on several websites: of two ministries, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and National Education, of the Brittany Region, of ps-eau , as well as the websides of Cesson-Sévigné and Tarbiyya Tatali.
20. What are your projects in 2016 ? In Dankassari we are going ahead in the actions planned and we hope that the newly elected mayor will be as active as the previous one. In Cesson-Sévigné we are in charge of the International Solidarity Week, we will prepare an exhibition and show a short film ‘At Last Water has come to Lougou’, made by Nigerien professional film makers who accepted to work for as at special terms. We will host one or two visitors from Niger.