FAO in the Gambia

FAO Success Stories

Gambian Farmers Laud Agroforestry’s Potential to Improve livelihood

Gambian Farmers Laud Agroforestry’s Potential to Improve livelihood

In a small village of Aljamdou in the North Bank Region of the Gambia, crop fields look slightly unusual with different shades of colour and vegetation. However, a closer look reveals that the farms are dotted with trees integrated and grown with crops. At first glance, it might look odd, but this practice can potentially improve livelihoods, economic viability and agricultural production significantly. 

Known as “Agroforestry”, the practice involves integrating trees or shrubs with annual or perennial crops or livestock on the same land, usually at the same time and complementing each other. Through a project supported by the Global Environment Facility called the “Community-based sustainable dryland forest management project,” FAO has assisted in the introduction of tree plantation on over 329 hectares of farmland in the Gambia in the past 3 years. Results from some farms are encouraging, with reasonable seeding survival rates and many farmers already reporting potential contribution of the practice to increase crop yields, even though agroforestry has just been adopted as part of their farming systems. 

“We had no idea that planting trees and crops together was beneficial,” says Bukary Manneh, the village headman of Demba Wondu community in the Upper River Region, where over 50 households are benefiting from agroforestry. “Trees that we have planted add nutrition to the farm and protect our fields from erosion while improving our productivity. We are grateful for this help”. 

Trees in the fields can be helpful for the growing crops beneath as they can improve soil fertility through the litter that falls from the trees and ultimately decompose in the soil. In addition, farmers can also use the trees for livestock feed, timber, fuelwood and other medicinal purposes. At the same time, the presence of trees can also control and protect the crops from wind and water erosion. The principle behind agroforestry is that it uses the complementary relationship between trees and crops so that they can help each other. 

“We used to spend a lot of money to buy fertilizers for our fields, but something is interesting in the idea that trees can serve as fertilizers,” Bunana Hydara, a farmer in the village, said. “Since we planted trees and integrated them into our fields, we have saved money while protecting our farms from erosion”. 

Agroforestry is known to enhance the value of agro-ecosystems as the practice can help in carbon storage while mitigating the adverse effects of deforestation and land degradation. It can also help in water purification, erosion control and soil improvement. In general, agroforestry can make agricultural lands more resilient to climate change and help farmers withstand events such as floods, heavy winds and drought. FAO has supplied mostly Leucaena lecocephala, Cassia siamea, Gliricidia sepium, Moringa oleifera and Faidherbia albida trees as they usually add more nutrients to the field and protect them against erosion. 

The project started supporting agroforestry practice on a large scale in 2019 through sensitization, identification of farmers interested in agroforestry trials, capacity-building support and the supply of seedlings and planting on farms. The project targets to put 500 hectares of farmland in the Gambia under agroforestry practice with the involvement of over 400 households before it phases out.  

 

 

No ordinary irrigation in the Gambia

No ordinary irrigation in the Gambia

Innovative solar-powered technologies are securing access to water for rural communities

Across many parts of rural Gambia, women farmers often start their days before dawn to ensure that they have enough water to irrigate their gardens and to cook, clean and bathe at home.

“Some of us would wake up as early as 3.00 a.m. to 4.00 a.m. just to get water. Hyenas attacked us on three different occasions,” said Salla Bah, a vegetable farmer in the Central River Region in the north of the Gambia. “We had to endure all these challenges to be able to water our crops and find time for chores at home.”

Like most residents in her village, Salla depends on one of three deep water wells in her village. You can never be too early, and arriving at the wrong time could cost you an entire morning and the day’s wages. The vegetable farms are vital sources of income, allowing the community members to support their households with food and income.

Read More: https://www.fao.org/fao-stories/article/en/c/1542923/ 

No sweeter business

No sweeter business

Embracing beekeeping as a livelihood in the Gambia’s dryland forests

They are dotted with riverine vegetation, palm and hardwood trees. They are speckled with salt flats, savanna and mangrove creeks. At the first glance, the forests and the woodlands of the Gambia, tinged in different shades of green, look menacing and breathtaking in equal measure.

Adorned with an array of prominent baobabs, striking silk-cotton trees and jades of mangrove forests found both far inland and along the humid banks of the river Gambia, the country holds 480 000 hectares of forests with unseen promise.

Read more: https://www.fao.org/fao-stories/article/en/c/1500032/ 

FAO-Supported Vegetable Garden is an Answered Prayer for the Community

FAO-Supported Vegetable Garden is an Answered Prayer for the Community

“FAO brought to us something we’ve wanted since 1992 and we will forever remain grateful”– Mba Kumba Touray

 

Kuwonkuba is a village in the Missira Ward of Sandu District in the Upper River Region of The Gambia. The community of Kuwonkuba is one of ten communities that has benefitted from a five hectares garden established by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) through the Adapting Agriculture to Climate Change Project (AACCP) funded by the Global Environmental Facility (GEF).

 

Jalamang Touray, the Secretary of the Garden Committee, is among many beneficiaries who feel that the establishment of the garden is an answer to a prayer they have been making for a long time. He recollects how it all began in 1992 when on a fine day he was sitting with his friends under a tree shade brewing Ataya (Gambian tea), they saw some women from a neighbouring village selling onions to the women of that village. 

 

However, instead of trading money for the onions, the women sellers demanded groundnuts. The men knew this was unfair trade but could do little about it, as the women in his village, deprived of onions, needed them to cook their meals. “It was then that we decided to come together to help the women from our village have their own vegetable garden” Jalamang recalls. 

 

To create a garden for its women, the community erected a fence from local materials and dug wells through personal labour and funds mobilized from members. Later, an NGO assisted with barbed wire fencing and a number of concrete lined wells. The community though determined to produce vegetables had limited knowledge of vegetable production. With no standard beds, frequent flooding of the garden and animal invasion was the order of the day until FAO intervened in 2018 to set up the AACCP garden. 

 

Jalamang claims that there has been a noticeable improvement in the lives and welfare of people in the community since the establishment of the AACCP garden in their village in 2019. He noted that the project while improving the garden has also facilitated training on good horticultural practices and cooperative management. He added that the project has facilitated the training of three of their members as Farmer Field School (FFS) facilitators and they have played instrumental roles in providing good guidance and advice on smart agriculture. 

The Garden now has 352 members, seven of whom are males. Each member has six beds on which they cultivate. The vegetables they cultivate include onions, tomatoes, garden eggs, bitter tomatoes, cabbages, okra, lettuce and potatoes. 

 

“We are so grateful to FAO because we now produce our vegetables and eat healthy diets. We also make income by selling the excess vegetables.” Mba Kumba Touray President of the Garden Committee said. “While the health and economic benefits the garden has provided are for anyone to see, the garden has also created a greater sense of unity and a strong family-like bond within the community,” she said adding: 

“FAO brought to us something we’ve wanted since 1992 and we will forever remain grateful for this AACCP-funded garden.”

 

Best Practices and long-range plan

According to Jalamang, the garden committee has created rules to help ensure good management of the garden for sustainability. Only organic manure is allowed in the garden. The FFS facilitators are always available to help make organic composts. Providing statistics on the amount of organic manure used in the garden, Jalamang explained each bed takes up 60 kg of organic manure. That, multiplied by the total number of 2,112 beds amounts to almost 127 metric tonnes of organic manure usage in the entire garden. 

 

To ensure the sustainability of the garden after the project ends, Jalamang said that each member of the garden contributes GMD 30 every three months, which the group saves into a bank account they have opened. He also added that those who violate garden rules must pay a fine and all these funds go into the same account, which forms a sort of emergency reserve fund. These funds are used when contingencies emerge needing finance. They are encouraging more young people to join the garden so that they can also nurture a culture of gardening in their daily practice.

 

Eat what you grow, and grow what you eat!  

The community of Kuwonkuba has developed a policy of “Eat what you grow and grow what you eat” and are optimistic that with the necessary help, they will realize this goal. Community members have noted that while they continue achieving required production targets in six beds, they are ready for expansion so that they can cultivate more. Apart from vegetable production, community members are also engaged in small ruminant and honey production.