The story of Mustafa Nyang
As part of a series of photo journals on how the TeleFood programme helps needy families, a resident of rural Gambia, West Africa, talks about his daily life.
My name is Mustafa Nyang. I am 15 and live in the village of Nyangen in the Central River District of Gambia.
My daily life is good now. I help my family, study the Koran and work in the garden to make some money.. [All photos: ©Djibril Sy/FAO]
I have the run of the countryside but it hasn't always been like that, as I will explain.Like many poor families in the region my father Momodou sent me, when I was only seven, to the capital city Banjul to become an almudo under a marabout or Islamic teacher.
Almudos are Muslim street boys. In exchange for Koran lessons and to help the marabout feed them, they are sent out to beg for food and money. It's a hard life.
This is my family in our compound. I'm standing next to my sister Beike. That's my father sitting in the middle. He has two wives and ten children.
I was away from home for several years when I was an almudo in Banjul. I didn't like being separated from my family.
How I came home
Thanks to these two people, Yama Njai and Alhagie Kebe, I came back to my village and my family when I was about ten.My aunt Yama pushed for the almudos from our village to be sent back to their families. The Islamic Relief Association organized our resettlement.Mr Kebe, the president of the association, shown here visiting our village, wanted to make sure we had better nutrition and an opportunity to earn some money so we wouldn't go back to the city.He helped us get assistance from FAO's TeleFood campaign.
Our TeleFood garden
This is the key to our new lives — the garden. My aunt managed to get a plot for me in the communal garden area on the banks of the Gambia River.
With funds provided by TeleFood we bought tools and seeds and dug a well. Now we grow all sorts of vegetables and fruit such as tomatoes, carrots, watermelons, aubergines and peppers.
We even grow trees to replace those damaged by bush fires.
The peppers do really well. Last year my mother and aunt earned 15 000 dalasis (about 500 US dollars) each from the sale of the peppers alone.
On Saturdays, buyers from nearby Senegal come looking for them.
Every morning I go off to my garden to water the plants. I get water from the nearby Gambia River.
We grow vegetables all year round. In the dry season, when the river water becomes too salty, we get water from the well.
After watering the garden, I go to Koran class. Marabouts now come to the villages in our area to teach the Koran.
Most of the children in our village, both boys and girls, study with a marabout. Very few go to school. There isn't a school in our village anyway.
Here I am on the right helping harvest my father's groundnuts. They grow deep in the ground and it's hard work pulling them out, then threshing them. That's a friend working with me.My father grows groundnuts to sell. We also grow millet, sorghum and maize to eat ourselves.
When everything goes right, we sell around 10 bags of groundnuts at 3 750 dalasis (about 125 US dollars) each. That's my father's main income for the year.
Plans for the future
When I get married I will inherit my father's land. But the TeleFood garden has given me new opportunities to earn extra cash in the meantime. Soon I will harvest my very first peppers and my mother Hawa will help me negotiate with the Senegalese middlemen.
With the money I will be able to buy a calf, then sell it later when it's fattened at double the price.I might even be able to buy some new clothes for myself and my mother, shown here with my little brother Keba.