Meet Jainaba Manneh, a 37-year-old farmer from the far-flung community of Joli, Kiang West, Lower River Region. Her life has changed for the better, thanks to the intervention of the European Union funded Agriculture for Economic Growth (AfEG) Project of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Jainaba is a mother of seven and the bread winner of her family; she channeled her passion into farming to provide for her family. Jainaba cultivates 10-15 beds (10 m x 1 m) each year to produce vegetables such as bitter tomato, onions, and cabbage in an FAO supported Vegetable Garden
“Gardening is what takes care of my family’s needs. I have children some of whom are school, going, I must work to pay the bills and place food on the table.”
The 37-year-old has been a gardener all her life, she described horticulture as a satisfying labor with a decent profit margin. However, this labor though satisfying has not been all smooth sailing, she took time to recollect the day-to-day drudgery of work she and her colleague gardeners in a scarcely populated village, undergo before and after they harvest their vegetables.
“Access to the garden, water and a good roads to transport produce to the highway were a major problem; we paid men to dig wells but drawing water from these wells was a daunting task, we hardly could do our house chores or sleep when we get back home due to the pain and fatigue. Nonetheless, we wake up at dawn each day to head back to the garden, left with time to be with our families.”
Joli is 6.3 kilometers away from Kiang Manduar, a village where commercial vehicles and middlemen and women traders are. Joli is not accessible to traders due to poor road conditions.
“The only way we could sell our vegetables is taking the risks of waking up as early as 03:00 am to join the only vehicle that goes from Joli to Manduar each day, sometimes one walks through forested and woody areas just to get to traders in Manduar, thus most leafy vegetables get spoiled especially during warm weather, affecting our financial income,” 37-year-old Jainaba narrated.
To contribute to better life change of people in Jolie, AfEG Project of FAO fenced a 5-hectare land area, outside the community for vegetable production. The garden is provided with solar irrigation systems (overhead tank and reticulation) and a feeder road linking the community garden to Manduar. Jainaba and the entire community members are relieved for having this support.
“Ice-trucks selling fish can now reach Jolie, this was impossible five months ago. Vegetable yields increased, because stray animals can no longer access the crops, and traders can now buy harvested vegetables in the community, this has reduced post-harvest losses.”
Jainaba commended FAO for taking the project to them, noting that their lives of people in Jolie would have been worst, due to current economic situation country is grappling with.
“As a bread winner, this means a lot, today I am able to provide enough for my family thanks to this project”.
AfEG, an FAO European Union funded Project is implemented in the North Bank, Lower River, Central and Upper River Regions to address food insecurity and malnutrition through interventions that facilitates better production and a better life. One of these interventions is building feeder roads for 11 communities, to enhance access to markets especially for women.
Jainaba told a compelling story of how a rural woman’s life was changed after years of hardships. She remains grateful to the project for giving her a new lease of life.