Sunday, June 26

Kakoundu women gardeners; small profit means education for their children

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By Oumie Mendy

The chilly morning breeze soon turned into a hot searching sun. The women, these women in a troubled Foñi region, continue to persevere in producing enough to make a good livelihood for their families.

A good home, healthy and successful children and a happy family is their motivation. They are wives and mothers hitting on every given opportunity of even a little space, breaking their backs under the unbearable heat growing vegetables.

The quest to make their ambitions come to reality left a hundred and fifteen women scramble for space to cultivate in Foñi Kakoundu, West Coast Region.

Their little profit can be the reason a child is educated or be a dropout.

The women leave their homes in the early hours of the day to make sure the vegetables have enough water before sunrise, and return home late evening for the fear of animals destroying their plantation. The garden is unfenced and unprotected from marauding animals.

Worse, the women mount the road of about 10km as early as 5am to the main Brikama market to make their early morning delivery to retailers and rush back to their garden.

“We have been experiencing a lot of difficulties when we started this garden. Fencing was one of our major problems, most times we leave home early hours in the morning and we had to stay here after watering till late evening all because we fear going back home for animals will destroy everything labored for,” Hulaymattou Saho, president of Kakoundu garden women exclaimed.

According to her, the little she makes from her beds helps in seeing her children through school and their feeding as well as clothing. She gets frustrated when she couldn’t preserve her perishing goods and the lack of sufficient water supply before a water project was established for them by the Gambia Red Cross Society.

“We used to have only one well in the whole garden where we all drew water from for vegetables and it is deep. This well one cannot rebuild alone and considering that we are women, we cannot do it all by ourselves, but thanks to Red Cross Society for helping us fence the garden and drilling a borehole. We can now come and water, then go back home to cook and relax till evening. We used to give D10 lunch to our children but now we give up to D25 and we’re grateful that we used our own produce for iftar in this Ramadan,” she spoke.

Fatoumatta Konteh, a young lady from Baddibu married in Kakoundu village, has been cultivating in the garden for 6 years and refers to it as her office. “This is where I make a living to support myself, take care of my children and help my husband with other basic provisions. We do not buy vegetables from the market; we use the ones we grow.”

The scuffle with rotting vegetables continues to be her nightmare.

“Sometimes, when I take my products to the market and they’re not finished, I give them out to people as loan and sometimes getting my money from those people becomes a problem. If I should take them home, they’ll get spoilt especially in this season that the sun is usually hot,” she told The Standard.

Different kind of vegetables including cabbage, okra, tomatoes, garden eggs, onions etc. are grown in this garden. According to them, their first produce of the year has already been sold and the second garden season is ready for market.

“We are still struggling with space; we have other little gardens in the village different from this one. We are about 115 women cultivating in this garden. We need more space that can contain us all to busy ourselves and grow more vegetables and we won’t have to be spending more time at home.

Storage is another problem we face here. Most of our goods are kept at our backyards that are not well protected and when animals happen to access them, they leave us with nothing. We have only one major market which is the Brikama market. Transporting goods to the market is difficult because the road is bad. Sometimes before we get to the market, retailers would already buy what they need and if our products are not finished, we have to bring them back home in which some will get spoiled,” she narrated.

A lot depend on the little these women grow in their garden, chiefly to take care of their families and urgently need intervention. “We want to go back to the land; we want to eat what we grow and grow what we eat. The strength and the will are there but we cannot do it all. We need help,” the young lady said.

Musa Jarju, one of the village elders, said the vegetable garden has been of immense help to him as a family head. “I must say I am grateful because I now occasionally give my wife fish money. All that she needs for cooking are grown in the garden. The income gained from it helps in feeding, clothing, taking care of our health and other needs and my wife steps in whenever I am in need,” Mr Jarju said.

He also emphasized the need for storage facilities to enable the women keep their products for long without perishing.

Alasan Senghore, secretary general of the Gambia Red Cross Society, told journalists that the determination and willingness of the women motivated them to help, saying the project has been handed to the women a few months ago and they are working effectively to produce a lot of healthy vegetables.

“We came here over a year ago and realized that they have this garden that was not fenced and were struggling with one deep well. So we decided to sink them a borehole with solar pumps and then do some reservoirs across the garden as well as fencing it. It is pleasing that these women are positively using this garden as a means of fulfilment in taking care of their needs as well as their families. We are very grateful that what we delivered is making positive impact on the lives of people in this community,” he added.

He expressed gratitude to the donors that helped improve the livelihoods of women in this village and assured their full support in continuing to engage women in production and training them on how to transform perishing goods into eatable products like vegetable sauce.

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