Now is the time to move out of the comfort zone of the office complex of FIOHTG Headquarters and go out and meet with The Gambia rural beneficiaries and hear their views on FIOHTG work in their respective communities. The first stop was on 19th September, 2016 in Sare Musa village, Fulladu District, Upper River Region (URR).
The Alkalo (Village Head), Mr. Amadou Sowe, brought his people (men, women, youth, and even some children) to his compound to tell their side of the story about the work that FIOHTG has done in their village. After the usual traditional individual prayers that precede every meeting or gathering in a village setting, the FIOHTG staff, Ms. Rose T. Mendy, introduced the objective of our visit. It was made clear to the villagers that the information they were about to give us should be a candid one and that none of them should be shy or scared to speak up on any issue vis-à-vis FIOHTG work in their village. After the ground rules for the conversation were put in place, the villagers, taking turns, started to highlight the activities that FIOHTG brought for them.
The many projects or activities include groundnut butter making, cereal banking, nutrition and vegetable processing and storage training, tree planting, water reticulation system, training on the use of new cooking stoves, adult literacy training, solar lighting system, training on the construction of latrine slabs, and school gardening. What is the essence or usefulness of these myriad of projects or activities to the village? Answers came pouring in from all categories of the meeting participants. These benefits include but are not limited to: (a) encouragement and sensitization of villagers to enroll their children in the village school. As a result of this sensitization, the student enrolment at the school has greatly increased, (b) the cereal banking system serves as a food security safety net for the village during the “hungry season” (usually between August and October when most of the village food supply runs low), (c) some of the planted fruit trees (like mangoes and cashew) have started producing fruits that the villagers benefit from by consuming those fruits, (d) increase in shade for the villagers from some of the planted trees, (e) increased knowledge in the preparation and preservation of some vegetables like tomatoes that increases shelf life, (f) use of improved cook stoves minimizes the use of firewood that preserves their surrounding forests, (g) increased nutrition information helps them to consume more nutritious foods to improve human health, and (h) provision of solar lighting system now stops villagers from walking between 4 to 5 kilometers to other surrounding villages (like Demba Kunda and Sabi) to charge their cellphone batteries.
Well, not all is fansy with the village projects and trainings. When the village water reticulation system broke down a few months ago, the village requested support from FIOHTG to fix the problem but up to the time of writing this piece, FIOHTG has not yet responded positively to that request. The villagers narrated that because of the breakdown of this water system, their livestock, especially cattle, stray away into Southern Senegal Region of Cassamance looking for drinking water during the dry season. In the year 2014, for example, the villagers reported that some of their cattle were killed by the villagers of Jidda (in Southern Senegal) as a result of their (Sare Musa) cattle straying away in to Southern Senegal in search of drinking water. Their school garden is still not fenced and that leads to stray domestic animals foraging on a lot of their vegetable crops. Yes, tree planting is good for the environment and for the village in general as stated above but most of the planted trees in the village die as result of villagers not taking good care of the trees during and after the rainy season. But the villagers also stated that if FIOHTG had provided them with durable fencing materials, most of the planted trees could have survived.
The next village visited was Kiss Kiss in Tumana District, URR and that report will come your way a week from today. Thanks for reading and please keep reading for the FUTURE IS IN THE HANDS OF ALL OF US!!
Sidat Yaffa, Ph.D.
On Sabbatical Leave
Contacts: Website – www.fioh.org; Email – email@example.com; Tel. – 4460363/4466868