Tesito is a forest conservation project hosted by Finnish NGO Dodo and implemented by Gambian partner NGO Freedom from Hunger Campaign based in MansaKonko. The project started in 2021 and is mainly funded by the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, which grants project support for Finnish civil society organisations for development cooperation projects. Another donor, funding the drip irrigation system is EKOenergy, a global nonprofit ecolabel for renewable energy, which funds several solar and wind energy projects in developing countries annually.
Tesito project aims to protect forest resources in multiple ways; by creating an interactive GIS-based forest monitoring map of Gambia and pilot areas in Senegal and Guinea-Bissau, organising fire prevention trainings in the communities and schools around the buffer zone of Kiang West National Park in cooperation with Forestry Department, introducing new FMNR -method (farmer managed natural regeneration) and creating new sustainable livelihoods, such as vegetable garden and revolving fund for the women in Jiffarong (LRR). New livelihoods are expected to substitute firewood selling as income and improve food security in the community. Jiffarong community is very motivated and working hard to tackle the difficulties caused by drought which is one of the results of the climate change.
As part of the livelihood activities, Jiffarong community garden was refurbished for 90 new women farmers last year. Borehole was drilled, and five water tanks installed. Each water tank being 5000 liters, the tanks can store total 25 000 liters of water. This is important, especially because droughts are common in the area. Also, thanks to EKOenergy funding the solar powered drip irrigation system, women are expected to have bigger year-round crops and better profit. This enhances families’ food security and enriches the diet in general. Drip irrigation system also covers Jiffarong tree nursery, where seedlings are grown and later planted to the community forest of Jiffarong. Last year, fruit trees were planted in the garden area to promote food security.
With the energy obtained from the ten solar panels, each 250 watts making it total 2,500 watts altogether, water can be pumped into three main pipes, from which the actual irrigation pipes branch off and water the whole garden. This enables women to better combine entrepreneurship and family-life, since automatic drip irrigation saves a lot of time compared to manual irrigation and allows them to manage more garden beds at once.
All 90 women farmers received training in climate smart agriculture techniques and business management last year and started farming last winter. Each farmer manages 7 garden beds, and this far some have already harvested lettuce, onion, eggplant, and okra. 10 garden beds were also given to the local school located next to the garden. In the garden, the school students learn how to farm vegetables, and the crops are sold at school. Also, with the grant, the rusty batteries of the school’s solar panels are replaced this coming spring, which enables lighting and evening studies at the school. One of the many benefits of solar energy is, that it is renewable and green energy. It is also very reliable, especially in the rural areas in the Gambia, where electricity cuts are common. Thanks to the Gambian climate, sunlight is also always available. Without solar panels, it would also be very expensive for the project beneficiaries to fund cash power to run the irrigation system, which is now powered by sunlight free of charge. Solar panels also need minimal maintenance, although garden beneficiaries and school personnel are trained for basic solar panel maintenance to make the activity sustainable.