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Empowering communities through climate-resilient cockle farming: FAO trains 300 cockle harvesters in rural Gambia

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In the face of mounting challenges posed by climate change, the Climate Resilient Fishery Initiative for Livelihood Improvement in the GCF-funded Gambia (PROREFISH Gambia) project led by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) recently trained 300 cockle farmers in Bullock, Kiang Keneba and Niuma Kanuna Clusters to bolster resilience.

As sea level rise threatens agricultural lands, the project will reintroducing the age-old practice of cockle culture in these communities. This innovative approach not only offers an alternative livelihood but also serves as a beacon of hope, safeguarding vulnerable communities against the perils of climate change.

In Foni Bullock cluster where the training kicked-off for 120 participants in three cohorts, there is a spark of optimism among participants such as Tina Badjie of Besse and Marie Therese Jarjou of Sumakunda. They are among the eager participants anticipating a profound impact from the newfound techniques.

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“This is a great opportunity for us, the new techniques we have acquired from this training will undoubtedly make a difference to our work on the mudflats. We are now able to know how to among other things; maintain the mudflats to ensure productivity,” Tina expressed.

As FAO’s Nfamara Darboe elaborates, the comprehensive curriculum delves into the intricate interplay between cockles and climate, encompassing factors influencing their growth, nutritional significance, cultivation methodologies, traditional harvesting, and modern approaches. With these newfound skills, participants will soon embark on practical sessions, identifying ideal mudflat sites, gauging suitability, stocking strategies, and implementing vigilant monitoring to maximize mudflat productivity.

Enthusiasm for the training overwhelmed aquaculture pioneers. Fatou Janha and Dawda Saine of Try Oyster, accomplished aqua-culturists, lauded FAO for its proactive approach. Their accolades underscored the vital role that knowledge dissemination plays in fostering sustainable practices, ushering in a new era of resilience for coastal communities. With the promising prospects of enhanced cockle production, other participants such as Tida Jammeh and Rita Sanyang are also inspired by the opportunity.

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From Bullock, the team proceeded to the far-flung community of Kiang Keneba in the Lower River Region, where a similar training was held for 90 participants in three cohorts, before proceeding to Kanuma, another Coastal community in Niumi, North Bank Region for another three-day training for 90 cockle harvesters.

Beyond empowering individuals, PROREFISH Gambia transcends individual endeavors, paving the way for economic transformation across rural Gambian communities. The integration of cockle farming into local economies offers a multi-faceted array of benefits. By harnessing previously unutilized spaces, communities can tap into an invaluable resource, cultivating sustainable livelihoods while mitigating the adverse impacts of sea level rise. The provision of vital equipment, such as canoes, further elevates the potential for sustainable growth.

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