For many years, women gardeners in Barrow Kunda in the WuliWest District of the Upper River Region have long grappled with two intertwined challenges that have adversely impacted their lives and livelihoods. The community faced acute water shortages, particularly in their vital garden, which is the backbone of their sustenance and income. This persistent lack of a reliable and sustainable water supply not only hindered productive gardening but also forced the women to endure labourious efforts to draw water from wells, limiting their agricultural output, and the absence of a local market exacerbated their economic struggles. Without nearby access to a market for their agricultural produce, the women were denied fair prices for their goods, leaving their economic activities vulnerable to market fluctuations.
However, it was until late 2022, when a local human rights and development NGO, Beakanyang came to their aid thanks to a project funded by the Global Environment Facility Small Grant Program (GEF/SGP) of United Nations Development Programme. This project aimed to address the pressing issues of water scarcity and the absence of a local market by implementing a borehole to ensure reliable access to clean water and establishing a dedicated community market. By doing so, it seeks to empower the women as agents of sustainable community development, fostering economic independence, and improving their overall well-being. The women were also provided with training and technical support to help them tackle climate change.
The inauguration ceremony, bursting with vibrant colors and joy, was attended by esteemed dignitaries,including the Chief of Wuli West, Alhagie Mamadou Bah, who graced the event as the guest of honor. Also present was the Councillor of Sare Ngai Ward and Vice Chairman of Basse Area Council, Hon. Abubacarr Danjo, alongside Mr. Modou Danso, the Regional Coordinator of NGO Affairs, Alhagie Demba Barrow representing the Alkalo of Barrow Kunda, Mr. Bakary Jawneh, Chairman of the Village Development Committee, and Mr. Fanding Barrow, a Board Member of Beakanyang. The local community members and invited guests added to the festive atmosphere, marking the culmination of a project that promises to bring lasting change to the lives of the women in Barrow Kunda.
The inauguration ceremony unfolded in two distinct yet inseparable parts, each emblematic of the transformative potential of collaborative efforts:
Inauguration of the Community Market:
The first segment of the ceremony witnessed the official inauguration of the community market, a beacon of hope for the women of Barrow Kunda. This market, a long-awaited dream, now provides the women with a dedicated space to sell their agricultural produce. In the days preceding this intervention, the absence of a proper market had stifled their economic prospects, leaving them at the mercy of unpredictable market forces. With the advent of this market, these remarkable women can now engage in economic activities that empower them and improve their financial well-being.
Chief Alhagie Mamadou Bah, speaking at the event, articulated his joy and deep appreciation for the positive transformation that this market promises to usher into the community and described the intervention as life changing. He emphasized the vital role of economic empowerment for women in fostering sustainable development and hailed Beakanyang for not only educating the people in his district about their rights but also empowering women to mitigate the effects of climate change. “Beakanyangis an organization that the people of Wuli West are grateful to for bringing us numerous life changing projects.” he said. Chief Bah then urged the beneficiaries to take good care of the facilities, adding that such projects would contribute towards alleviating poverty and boost income of women.
In delivering his statement, Mr. Modou Danso, Regional Coordinator of NGO Affairs Agency in URR commended Beakanyang for its contributions to national development and went on to say, “NGO Affairs Agency acknowledges the great contributions of Beakanyang towards the socio-economic development of the country.
Inauguration of the Borehole:
The second segment of the celebration marked the official opening of a borehole, a lifeline that will ease the need for water at the garden for years to come. Before this borehole’s construction, the community had been grappling with dire water shortages, particularly in their fertile garden, which significantly hindered their yields. The honor of opening the borehole fell to the Vice Chairman of Basse Area Council, Hon. AbubacarrDanjo.
In his poignant address, Hon. Abubacarr Danjo said that the market and borehole when fully utilized and maintained could transform the community and boost the economic activities of women. “Today is a momentous day in the life of our community as we gather here to celebrate the inauguration of not just one, but two essential assets that will undoubtedly transform the lives of our people. I stand before you as your Ward Councilor with immense pride and gratitude for the opportunity to witness this historic occasion,” he said.
According to him, the market is not just a physical structure but a symbol of growth, unity, and progress. It will serve as a hub for commerce, a place where local entrepreneurs can sell their products, and a space where people can come together as a community. “As your Ward Councilor, I am committed toworking tirelessly to ensure that these assets are not just inaugurated today but are maintained and enhanced for the benefit of generations to come. Together, we will continue to build a thriving, inclusive, and sustainable community,” he said.
For his part, Mr. Nfamara Jawneh, Executive Director of Beakanyang thanked the GEF/SGP of UNDP for funding the project and further went on to say “Standing by rural women farmers is not only the rights thing to do but is critical in the fight against climate change effects and human rights”. Mr. Jawneh added that, “Other than our national human rights education program, we work with people living in extreme poverty to develop projects and programs aimed at alleviating poverty and injustice in rural areas. We don’t only do advocacy on critical issues such as human rights, climate change and women political participation, but we are doing service provisions to complete government’s efforts” and reaffirmed his organization’s commitment in empowering women to improving their livelihoods and build resilient communities.
A beneficiary at the market, Mba Matta Fatty told the gathering that the construction of the community market had already started bearing fruits for them and their garden’s many years water problem is now a thing of the past. Several speakers such as Fanding Barrow, a board member of Beakanyang, Mrs. KintiSidibeh, President of Barrow Kunda Yeriwa Kafo, Mr. BakaryJawneh, VDC Chairman and Alkalo’s representative AlhagieDemba Barrow all applauded Beakanyang for not only teaching people about their rights but also helping them realized their rights.
The community of Barrow Kunda expressed their gratitude to the GEF/SGP and UNDP through Beakanyang for their support, which has already begun to transform their lives. The combination of the new market and borehole is expected to have a profound impact on the economic empowerment and well- being of the women in Barrow Kunda, and it serves as a testament to the positive change that can be achieved through sustainable development initiatives. At the end of the event, certificates were awarded to contractors and community representatives of the NGO.
Report by Communication Unit, Beakanyang