By Omar Bah
Kololi women gardeners have over the weekend took a break from their busy work to plead with government to help them stay in their garden after they were given an ultimatum to vacate in two months by GAM Petroleum, the new owners.
Fatou Camara, a 70-year-old gardener said she has been gardening at the place for the past 25 years. “I and many of my other colleagues came here because we believe all of us cannot be doing business.”
She said since they started working at the garden, things have not been easy with them “especially during the Jammeh regime, every year they will send us out and tell us to relocate. Yes it is a tourist reserve land as they claim, but we believe they (government) should come to our aid because we feed our families from here,” she said.
The Alkalo of Kololi Abdoulie Joof said: “Given the fact that the land is owned by the people of Kololi, it is important that the government give them part of the land for farming. Frankly if these women tell you how much they earn here and how many people they feed you wouldn’t believe it.”
He said it is frustrating because “these women are always forced to vacate their gardens without any explanation. This is why I decided to take it up with Honourable Madi Ceesay, because as we speak the women are given an ultimatum again to vacate or else they will be forced out,” he said.
Mariama Trawally, also a gardener in her early 70s, said they have been treated “as if we are grazing goats. We want to make it very clear to the President Barrow-led government that we are not ready to move an inch. This is where we are earning our living and pay our children’s school fees.”
Meanwhile, the National Assembly Member for Serekunda West Madi Ceesay, said the garden, which has been in existence for more than 20 years, is the main source of income for the women. “This is where they pay their children’s school fees and feed their families. So relocating them from here will really discomfort them.
“My advice to whosoever is responsible is that, these are credible women working hard and feeding their families. Whosoever is taking this garden from them you have to provide them with another place permanent,” he said.
He said government should do everything humanly possible to ensure that they provide the women gardeners with land, “if not is really going to affect them.”
Ceesay further stressed that a committee has been setup to look into all these issues, “after its inauguration, the garden will be our first task, “we will not take the law into our hands. All we want to do is to engage government, starting with the Agriculture ministry.”