Despite the lockdown in The Gambia, our trainees are developing into professional gardeners.
Since mid-March all teaching programs in The Gambia have been suspended due to the Corona pandemic – also affecting our classroom teaching. We were no longer allowed to teach at the GYP. However, as a systemically important production company, we were allowed to continue to work in the gardens. An incredible opportunity and so almost all students decided to stay in the camp and continue their education.
But how can they learn without official classroom lessons?
Lessons in the vegetable patch
Wherever and whenever possible, the trainers back up the practical work in the gardens with theoretical knowledge. Instead of teaching everyone in the classroom, the teachers take the time to teach each student individually while working in the garden patch. They explain why a soil pH test is important, how and why compost is prepared, what type of pest control must be carried out and when. What to plant when, what is necessary for successful animal breeding, and so much more.
We have furthermore revised the teaching materials and tried to make them self-explanatory in the best possible way. This enables the students to acquire some of the knowledge independently. But other expertise, for example how to create important databases and especially the business aspects of the education, require a more intensive classroom discussion.
They have learned a lot – despite the lockdown
If we look at what they have learned in practice, it is a great deal. They now know how to prepare compost in the right proportion of animal dung, soil, charcoal/ash, crop residues and kitchen waste. The know how to protect which plantations, how to grow niche crops and how to ensure a continuous supply of vegetables. They can now make fertilizer solution or a spray against pests attacking the garlic and various leaves and barks. They have learned how to create a resistant and high-yield banana plantation with modern tissue-culture technology. The students now know how to vaccinate chickens, build incubators and mix balanced feed. They all had to learn how to train cows and turn them into draft animals. And they learned all of this, despite the lockdown.
There is a saying stating that it takes at least 10,000 gardening hours to become a successful vegetable farmer. The students have already completed and entire cultivation cycle and have gained intensive experience in animal breeding, fruit growing and also in marketing. We can be proud of what we have achieved so far.
Nevertheless: After the recent second lockdown on August 5th, the uncertainty grew whether the students would still be able to complete the 2-year training under these circumstances. Teaching in the vegetable patch does not replace the comprehensive theory lessons in the classroom. Especially the entrepreneurial aspects of vegetable growing cannot be explained in passing. That is why we, together with RDO, have decided to extend the training by three to six months. The renewed lockdown will also affect the second group of trainees, who were supposed to start this September but will probably not be able to start until January 2021. We will however welcome them with open arms and a lot of lessons learned – literally.
You can read more about current developments and the impact of the pandemic on our project measures in our regular Corona Update: www.sabab-lou.de/coronavirus-update/