Bejaia: My Village, My Success!

January 19, 2018
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Three words are all it takes to describe the Bejaia province: sea, mountains, and forests. This region in north-eastern Algeria is also known for its numerous small villages built on mountainous inland terrain. With the support of the Eu­ropean Union, the Association for Culture and Community Development (in French, the Association pour la culture et le développement communautaire, or ACDC) and its part­ner, the Tudert Association, launched a project designed to “increase the power of associations to manage their community involvement projects in accordance with their own associative projects”.

It didn’t take long for Lounis Benatsou, born in Tachouaft, to realise that his Master’s degree in economics would not be of very much use in his village. At age 30, he chose to become a beekeeper. He is part of “the young men and women who have decided to take charge of their own destiny” and to be “useful to the community”. He does not want to see his village, which numbers 800 inhabitants, as “isolated and closed-off”. “Tachouaft is located on the edge of a magnifi­cent forest at an altitude of 600 metres. In addition to pro­ducing honey, inhabitants grow olives and figs.” As a mem­ber of the Ikhoulaf Association, Lounis firmly believes in promoting the development of his village. “We really have the power to create wealth and to improve the inhabitants’ living conditions.”

But Lounis Benatsou remains realistic: implementing sus­tainable development takes a certain expertise. With this in mind, he and his friends decided to sign Ikhoulaf up for the project “Promoting Guidance and Training to Get Lo­cal Economic Stakeholders Involved”. This project, created and coordinated by the Association for Culture and Community Development, with the help of European Union funding, aims to develop community leadership projects through “participa­tive approaches” in the Bejaia province.

“Putting People Before Projects”

The project started with a series of training sessions. The first session took place from 3 October to 7 October 2017 in Tichy, a seaside town. Gathered in the youth centre, repre­sentatives from nearly a dozen village associations received training on the theme “associative projects and communi­ty involvement projects”. In charge of ACDC, Samyla Amir­ouche and her husband, Nazim Salhi, led the training ses­sion. “These young men and women have a lot of ideas. We just have to make sure they get the tools they need to carry out concrete projects. By the end of the first training cycle, they will be able to identify the challenges and possibilities involved. The focus is on people. That’s why we put people before projects,” Samyla said.


As part of this educational guidance and training, ACDC has given itself a year to train the members of these as­sociations. At the same time, the participants will have to develop a micro-project between June and August 2018. Chanez Kournane, 29 years old, is a member of SID – an association for Sensitisation, Integration, and Development in Akbou – and already has an idea of the type of project she plans to launch with the other members. “SID’s actions are centred around supporting disabled persons. I myself am a caretaker and we plan to propose a project aiming to ensure better social integration for these people.” According to Chanez, some disabled persons in the region of Akbou never leave their houses. “For a variety of rea­sons, often related to family, they live as recluses, shuttered away in their homes. We want to purchase a vehicle to help them go shopping for groceries, or just go out, have hobbies, and study. We want to ac­tively participate in their socialisation,” Chanez said.

Networking and Teaching

To further their project, Samyla and Nazim can rely on their nearly twenty years of expertise in managing associative ac­tivities throughout Algeria. “ACDC was created in Algiers in 1999. Our goal was to offer guidance to associations and to create ties between them. In 2004, we launched the website (“we are here”), which has allowed Algerian as­sociations, some of which were isolated, to access reliable and up-to-date information.” ACDC then decided to pursue its objectives in Beni Abbes, located 1,200 kilometres south­west of Algiers in the Bechar province. Samyla and Nazim founded Souk Ennachtine, an inter-association centre that aims to ensure that local community associations continue to flourish and to broaden its role in the development of the Saoura region. Since its creation, the Association for Culture and Community Development has received European Union funding on five separate occasions. “Throughout all these years, the EU has been our main financial contributor. Its participation has been essential for us to carry out our proj­ects,” Samyla acknowledged. All of this experience in proj­ect building is something Samyla and Nazim would also like to pass on. This is precisely the case for the current project in the villages of the Bejaia province. The Tudert Association in the village of Chellata, whose activities aim to encourage mutual assistance between local villages, was selected as a local partner.

From Chellata to Toudja, Sedouk, Tudert, Seddouk, and Ta­chouaft, young members of village associations in the Be­jaia province know that they can rely on the extremely rich values and heritage that characterise the Kabylie region. “Money is not the only path to success. Above all, success is about willpower and knowledge,” said Louis Benatsou, the beekeeper from Tachouaft.