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