New Internationalist

Paper profits in The Gambia

March 2006
Richard Human
Richard Human

‘We wanted to do something for our environment as well as introduce the traditional skill of paper-making to the country,’ Saffie Joof (pictured) explains as she tears, pounds and soaks waste paper. Here, in a five-metre-square room covered with a creaking tin roof, Saffie and five others make paper that profits their entire country. While Saffie works on the waste paper, others in her team will go to the busy streets surrounding the nearby capital, Banjul, in order to collect shredded documents from the various embassies, hotels and businesses that regularly donate waste paper to them. Yet others will visit the city’s tailors to collect their off-cut material. Then they will return to the tiny family compound in the village of Faji Kunda, where the team runs a remarkable charity – The Paper Recycling Skills Project (PRSP). Their small-scale mill produces between 50 to 100 sheets of A3 paper a day, which are then bound in covers made from recycled cardboard and material before being distributed as photo albums and notebooks to the various retail outlets frequented by tourists throughout The Gambia. With the profits made from tourist sales, PRSP supports schools throughout the country. It has donated 60,000 exercise books, as well as extra stationery items including pencils, pens and reading books to schoolchildren during the four years it has been operating.

Richard Human

This column was published in the March 2006 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

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