By: Sainabou Gassama
With agriculture being the backbone of The Gambia, the sector supports livelihoods with food, habitat, and employment, while also bolstering the economy through trade. Many Gambians are dependent on agriculture as the main source of their livelihood.
Vegetable gardeners and rice cultivators in Lamin Daranka and Subutu Faro demand support to build proper garden fences and surface barriers to stop saltwater intrusion.
Speaking to The Fatou Network, Fatou Ceesay, a gardener, said that the lack of proper garden fences and the salt water intrusion cause lots of damages in their garden. According to Fatou, the salt water damage is due to the accumulation of chloride and sodium irons in the salt water, which can be toxic to plants. Additionally, some animals from nearby surroundings tend to invade and eat their crops due to lack of proper fences. “We suffer a lot,” Fatou said. “We sometimes use our old bed nets, wrappers, and iron sheets to fence our garden in other to protect our plants from being eaten by the animals.” Gardening is Fatou’s main source of income, through which she is able to sustain her family’s needs, but this prevalent issue has become a serious challenge for her and her family.
Ousman Jatta, who is also a gardener and rice cultivator, threw some light on how they suffer while attempting, unsuccessfully, to make surface barriers with their hands to prevent the intrusion of the salt water: “the barrier we made was very short as it was done by man power. When the high tide comes, the salt water overlays our garden because of the height of the barrier. We tried to order a power tiller to make the barrier ourselves but to no success, so I and my two neighbors decided to make it using our hands.”
Jatta also reveals that many donors have come to their garden to query them on their challenges, even taking photos, but none have come to their aid. “On several occasions we receive visitors from even NGOs who we believe could help us but ‘till now we’ve not heard back from any of them.”
Jatta pointed to an area he believes could be better for rice cultivation, but even such area was covered by salt water. According to him, officials from the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) came and took photos of the said potion of land filled with salt water but they never heard back from them either.
“Hundreds of people used to survive from this garden. Up to two hectares is wasted because crops cannot grow in the salt water. We always seek help from the Ministry and from other donors but no one has showed up,” Jatta added.
Jatta appeals to the relevant authorities to come to their aid because their livelihood depends on gardening, and because most of the gardeners are women and mainly the breadwinners of their families.
Jatta Njie, another vegetable gardener and rice cultivator, narrates that her nursery rice bedding was all eaten up by animals last year due to a poor garden fence. According her, they used to pay some men in the village to make garden fences for them in other to prevent animals from entering. “One of our neighbors passed away and I cannot go because I am afraid that I might lose all my crops to the animals. We invest a lot money into our garden but we are unable to get a profit at the end,” she says.