January 2018 Report on PingCharity activities in Gambia.
We travelled to Gambia in mid-January and were delighted with our projects.
Firstly we visited Bafaluto and the ladies garden committee met us to show off their magnificent market gardening; 90 women now with plots growing a wide variety of vegetables. Tomatoes, chillies, onions, lettuce, cabbages, and cassava to name but a few.
We gave then 10,000 dalasis (160 Stg) to fix the fence around the area as goats had damaged some of it during the last 8 years. They also wanted to make the pit toilet in the corner of the garden more private with screens and a door.
We met the new water committee with the Alkalo (chief) of the village and discussed the water system. When we put in the system there were 800 villagers but in the following 5 years this had risen in the 2013 census to 1389 and now 5 years further on in 2018 the estimate of 1,800+ has placed pressure on the system. We agreed with them to add further taps and carry out the necessary upgrade to the system which will cost 4,000stg. Villagers agreed to dig all the necessary trenches, organise cleaning of the solar panels and security including a night watchman, and reorganise how the money was being collected for maintenance of the water system. A new younger committee has been formed, including a number who had moved back to the village to raise their family, who are all committed and confident in maintaining the extended system.
Bafaluto was our first village and we want it to be working perfectly as it is a good model to show off and is close to the airport. We have offered Gambian Experience Travel Company who organise Tours to the nearby Brikama Craft Market the opportunity to take clients to visit the village and show what has been achieved with a fully functioning water system and a vibrant 5-acre market garden
Our next 5 villages are located on the North Bank which is accessed via the ferry from Banjul to Barra across the Gambian river. In the past this has been a very time-consuming crossing due to long queues and a slow overcrowded boat. A new ferry, the Kunta Kenteh, has made this quicker but it still cannot operate in low tide.
We visited Njongon where the 8- acre market site is being utilised by 110 women with a nursery seed area and a big variety of crops growing. The women’s committee have a bank account in which contributions from each plot holder are held. The fencing and gate were in good condition and they had money for seeds and fertiliser. No further funds were required.
The water system was well maintained and the metre reading showed 66,953 cubic metres, that’s 6,695,000 litres have been lifted from a 300ft deep Borehole and distributed to Njongon and M’Bollet Ba village 3km away. When we did this project in 2009 there were approvimaently 2,000 people living in M’Bollet Ba but now it is close to 4,000. Since it has only 3 stand pipes for 4,000 people. We have agreed to upgrade their distribution network but only after they improve the area around the stand pipes which had deteriorated and in our opinion, was not only difficult but unsafe for the women who did all the collecting of water. They also agreed to dig all the necessary trenches. The cost is £1,800 stg.
Njongon asked for an upgrade to bring the water cross the main road as the village has extended and the road is quite busy, but this was a little complicated getting the pipework under the road. Momodou is investigating what has to be done and the cost and while we accept the need for this extension we have deferred a decision until later. They have 11 stand pipes at present and have put the extra ones in themselves.
The next project was the system which supplies the 3 villages of Kerr Wally, Chessey and N’dofan who have enjoyed clean water for just over 2 years; the metre reading was 21,870 cubic metres, 21,870,000 litres and this has attracted more people to the village and especially young families. So, the 3 taps in each village needed to be extended both to the schools and to some other locations. We agreed to fund this necessary work, £6,000.00 stg, as the population had steadily risen from 1250 up to over 1600 in two years. We originally had to work on a very tight budget on this project and we knew there were insufficient taps but we were restricted by lack of funds.
They asked for a small clinic for the nurse who looks after the health in these 3 villages and adjoining areas and we are costing this and if possible we will do it with with our building team using the block making equipment which we provided.
We gave the women £160stg, 10,000 dalasis for seeds and fertiliser for their market garden and they were delighted with this unexpected help.
The training school had several women attending a beekeeping class organised by a group of British Beekeepers who have recognised the work the training school has done in making hives and providing training for youths from surrounding villages. The beekeeping training will not only teach the women how to make hives and look after their own beehives but will equip them to train others in beekeeping.
One of the 2 Compressed Earth Block machines is sited in Njongon and produces bricks for sale in the area and was used to build a Milling House to accommodate 2 maize milling machines which were provided by the village chief’s son.
A bore hole near the Training Centre was paid for by an individual who had ideas for a fish farm but has given up on it, so we decided to get the water system completed and running so as Mr Joof can develop more agricultural training and production in this area, and we can look at the possibility of a fish farm in the future. Since this borehole is quite shallow, 30 mts, and the volume of water to be lifted on a daily basis is nothing like that required for a village therefore the cost of completing it will be quite small. The main cost, the borehole has already been funded.
The animal house at the Training Centre is full of chickens of various types and eggs are being used mainly for hatching. The plan is to provide women with a hen and a cock and when they hatch their own clutch they will repay the Training Centre with 2 chickens
The 8 men who came through the Training School have become a very competent group of builders and using the second brick machine which they moved to the South Bank where there is much greater population and have completed three houses in Serrakunda. Their work, including a 2-story house, is very impressive. This has created a livelihood for these 8 young men here in The Gambia, and has removed the very real temptation for them to try to make the dangerous trip to Europe.
From discussions with the women Infant mortality rates for the 6 villages have decreased, exact verifiable figures are difficult to obtain but they reckoned that only 5 babies under 5 had died in 2017 out of a combined population now of nearly 8,000 villagers. We hope that is accurate but let us not fool ourselves; in the UN’s latest figures of HDI, Human Development Index, The Gambia is 173 out of 195 countries.
After being involved in The Gambia for 9 years we have shown that we can successfully provide Clean Water Systems into remote rural villages working with local suppliers and villagers on the ground to help them build a sustainable future and we know its great value for money.