Learning from each other

Knowledge transfer within the Baddibu Project in Gambia

Knowledge transfer plays an important role in each of our projects. To us, development work doesn’t mean just handing out money, for money alone doesn’t help maintain stability or sustainability. Our aim is enable the beneficiaries to manage the projects on their own after a given time. To provide the required know-how, we cooperate with some German universities. Every year these universities send a batch of students to one of our projects in Africa. For the last three months the Baddibu Project in Gambia has been supported by Aleksandra Pavlovska, originating from Macedonia and at present a master student in Organic Agriculture and Food Systems at the University of Hohenheim. During her stay in Gambia, Aleksandra has worked together closely with the Baddibu Women, accompanying them to their homes and gardens. In the following interview Aleksandra talks about her work in the Baddibu Project, and shares her personal insights into the Gambian culture.

Aleksandra and the Baddibu Women.

Sabab Lou: In order to better understand the women’s needs you have organized workshops. How did these workshops go?
Aleksandra: In the beginning of January, it was deemed important by me and Jamu, head of RDO (Rural Development Organization – Sabab Lou’s NGO in Gambia) that workshops should be held in each village so as to understand the obstacles and issues the different villages are facing. In addition, we wanted to better understand the decision making process behind choosing the vegetables for the upcoming growing season. The workshops took place from the 18th of January until the 21st. Three different exercises, as part of the so-called Participatory Rural Appraisal approach – widely used in development projects – were employed to achieve the above noted objectives. 15 women and 5 men from each village participated in the workshops. Divided in two groups, they successfully conducted the 3 exercises. In such exercises, the process is much more important than the result. In other words, throughout the workshops, there was a successful interaction between the participants and we could finally see that they understood that this project is in their hands. The workshops were extremely important for women’s empowerment.

Sabab Lou: How did you communicate with the women?
Aleksandra: Although the women do not speak English, the language was not an obstacle for me. I always made sure that I visit the garden with an employee of the RDO or a person from the village that speaks English. However, considering the fact that all agricultural activities are highly practical, and if I wanted to teach the women how to properly irrigate for instance, I had to do it myself. In other words, teaching through doing was the proper strategy.

Sabab Lou: After having spent three month in the Baddibu Project, where do you see its greatest challenges and potential?
Aleksandra: Because of its hierachical structure the role of women in society is degraded and this is more of a cultural issue that cannot be solely tackled by Sabab Lou. Therefore, the foundation needed to adjust to the local culture and hierarchies. The greatest potential lies in expanding the project in other villages. Sabab Lou has done an incredible job in all four village by alleviating over 350 women out of poverty. If the political situation allows for the project to enter other villages, there should be no single doubt about it.

Knowledge transfer plays an important role in sustainable development.

Sabab Lou: Are you content with the impact you had on the project?
Aleksandra: I am extremely happy with the impact I have had on the project and the people themselves in the past three months. This is especially evident in the village of Kalataba where the men took initiative and cleared out space for their own garden; a field where also other women have created additional plots to the garden. In addition, the tears shed in the last days by the women made us feel that we have indeed done something good and positive for them. Vise versa, they have touched our hearts forever.

Sabab Lou: From a personal point of view, what has marked you most?
Aleksandra: Being a young woman myself, I was inspired by the hard work women put towards being good mothers and wives. They wake up in the morning, prepare breakfast for their children, go to the market to sell the produce, cook for their families and work in the gardens. After seeing their daily struggles, I understood how blessed I am by the life I have been given by my family. Also, I have managed to better cope with stress by observing their daily lives which are much simpler, though harder, than ours. But most of all, the hospitality, kindness and generosity I have experienced has touched my heart forever. Being in Gambia for three months resulted in many friendships with the local people from the villages. Besides Jamu and Musa, I have become a good friend with Mbelly, now an employee of the RDO. Also, Binta, the garden committee president of the village of Jumansar reminded me of my grandmother and I developed a strong bond with her. Women like Ramata from Dutabullu, Kumba from Kalataba, and Nene from Chamen will be in my memories forever. The Gambia is a wonderful country with generous people. Even though these people face daily struggles related to the lack of water and food, they still manage to share their last bite with the foreigners. Being from South-Eastern Europe myself, the Gambian culture is very close to my Macedonian culture in terms of hospitality and friendliness of people. There is a reason why Gambia is called the smiling coast of Africa. The local dishes like benechin and naturally made peanut butter were not enough to satisfy my taste buds. Overall, an unforgettable experience. I will be forever indebted to Sabab Lou, Dr. Keller-Bauer and his wife Edith, Martina Herzog, Jamu, Musa, my three boys as I call them (Max, Simon and Jonas), Jurgen Werner and the people of Dutabullu, Kalataba, Chamen and Jumansar.

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