„They made the best of it“. After heavy rainfalls destroyed almost 80 percent of the cultivation in mid of July, the gardens are in full bloom once again.
We would have liked to give you an update on the progress in the community gardens of the Baddibu district in The Gambia much earlier. But two incidents that we could not foresee, interrupted our plans.
Heavy rainfalls, the worst since many years, destroyed 80 percent of the recently planted cultivation. Fences were destroyed, some gardens completely flooded and some crops were completely covered by piles of sand brought by floods. In Jumansar three households had to be evacuated. Especially the lower and central river region of The Gambia was hit hard. It was a painful slap in the face, especially because the villagers had just dared to try something new. To be able to supply the hotels on time, they organized the best seedlings and dared to plant them outside the usual cultivation period. Three (Senegambia, Sunset and Kombo Beach) hotels on the coast had recently voiced their interest to buy the vegetables from the project gardens, but for that, they would need the vegetables soon. And now? Was all the trouble for nothing? They discussed how they could make the most of the disaster. Momodou made inquiries, talked to people of other gardens and training centers, hoping to still be able to deliver to the hotels on time. Then Momodou had a bad motorcycle accident and was incapacitated for several weeks.
On their own
Gambia has five state hospitals, two on the coast, three in provincial cities of Farafenni, Bansang and Bwiam. But you won’t always find a certified doctor there, especially not in the provincial hospitals. From time to time there are doctors from Cuba, India or Pakistan, some of whom are on short visits offering free medical services and minor operations at these hospitals. This situation is expected to change in the near future due to the large number of trained Gambian Doctors, most of whom are attached at the Medical Teaching Hospital in Banjul. But when Momodou went to the hospital in Farafenni with his injuries, there was only one nurse attending to his wounds. There was no doctor or antibiotic. “It’s a completely desolate situation here” Momodou wrote.
When even after a few weeks his wounds did not heal, Momodou had to go to Dakar in the neighboring Senegal, to find a hospital with trained doctors. Anyone who can’t afford the travel or the hospital bills risks blood poisoning, in the best case prevented by an amputation.
Under these difficult conditions Momodou was unable to work for several weeks, thus the gardeners left on their own.
“They made the best out of it”
After a long and painful healing process, Momodou went to see the gardens of Chamen, Dutabullu, Jumansar and Kalataba last week. With a little scepticism he started his inspection, fearing the worst, since he left them alone in the worst possible moment.
To Momodou’s pleasant surprise the vegetable gardens were in full bloom.
Together with their enthusiastic village coordinators, whose efforts are commendable, the farmers were determined not to give up – against all odds. They started to grow rice, bitter tomatoes, pumpkin, melon, okra, cassava, beans and hot pepper, and they raised the few remaining tomatoes. Falling back into old habits was not an option. „They really made the best out of it“, Momodou reported. He is relieved and also a bit proud. They will not be able to deliver the vegetables to the hotels on time anymore. But thanks to their fast reaction and initiative, they will be able to sell their vegetables for a good price on the local market – during a time where fresh vegetables are not usually available.
The difficult conditions – and there will come many more – seem to have strengthened the solidarity amongst the farmers. Self-pity turned into dynamic action. Great!
End of October we will travel to The Gambia and discuss the necessary next steps together. We will also evaluate the possibilities of afforestation and greenhouse gardening, to be better equipped for extreme weather situations like this summer. We are looking forward to it.
Stay tuned for more.