Beyond Covid

The Gambia in particular and West Africa in general has not been ravished by Covid but to date there has been no scientific or medical explanation, so lets just be thankful and try to work on the myriad of other problems, such as lack of clean water and sanitation, underfunded education, massive youth unemployment and a healthcare system which results in the following sad rates for Infant Mortality (Gambia 40/10K, EU 3/10k) and Maternal Mortality (500/100k,3/100K) Source:https://www.macrotrends.net/
The impact of Covid in Europe (and now the Russia/Ukraine war) has been so severe that fund raising has been well nigh impossible, therefore we are especially grateful to the small number who continue to support our work, a special thank you, you know who you are.
We are currently working on some technical problems with one of the nine villages in which we have provided clean water systems, the others are functioning well and have extended the network as village populations have grown. The first “PING” village, Bafaluto, has almost doubled in size since 2008 and thanks to a very active Water Committee they are adding 20,000lts water storage to complement the original tank of 25,000lts.

Bafaluto 20,000 lt Storage Tank Stand work in progress.

In the last year we have introduced Drip Feed Irrigation in 3 sizable trial plots, roughly 35 by 25 mts. We are delighted with the results. This led to discussions with Momodou and others on how more people could be involved in producing agricultural produce in a more structured way than happens in a traditional village garden. The outcome is the establishment of a farming Co-Operative based at Njongon village. It is in its very promising formative stage and we will keep you posted on progress.

PING is working with FFG (Future Farmers of Gambia) a locally registered charity which Momodou set up years ago. This will make it simpler for the registration of the Co-Op as a legal entity to enable it to enter into contracts such as land rental/ownership or bank borrowings. We provided a small start-up fund of £500 and will fund salaries of the current 6 members (4 men 2 women) during the difficult formative months. Each member pays a joining fee of £100 (spread over 6 months) into the Co-Op’s temporary bank account. If you would like to earmark a donation specifically for the Co-Op development just drop us a note, (bharrold77@gmail.com) and we will ensure that it is used as such.

Low Covid rates in Gambia

While the rest of the world has suffered horrendously from Covid in the last 20 months West Africa generally and The Gambia in particular have been surprisingly lucky with infection and death rates extremely low. Lets hope this continues.

Due to Covid we have not visited Gambia since early 2020 but thanks to internet technology, Skype, Facebook and especially WhatsApp we initiated and monitored a number of small but high impact projects. Selling the advantages of Drip Feed Irrigation had a slow start but after a season the results have been outstanding in both quality and yield of vegetables and fruit.

A picture of our partner Momodou Joof in his “Forest of Food” as he describes it. Momodou has farmed for many years and was surprised but delighted at the improvements which he has personally experienced with the addition of Drip Feed Irrigation.

We also introduced it in our first village Bafaluto and extremely positive feed back is coming from Samba and Madi.

In his Forest of Food.
Best yields of bananas he has ever had.

The Beekeeping group whose training and development was funded by our American supporter Jeff H is doing very well again in spite of a temporary set back when an extreme storm “unsettled” the bees and caused serious damage and a number of deaths across the country.

Bafaluto Beekeepers

Drip Feed Irrigation Progress

None of the villages we worked in had drip feed irrigation until mid 2020 when we encouraged our partner Momodou Joof, Njongon and Samba Bah, a hard working member of the Bafaluto Water Committee to install drip feed systems. They are both delighted with results. The picture shows Samba’s young family helping with the tomato harvest.
Installation into additional gardens has been frustrated due to a series of broken delivery promises from the supplier. Thanks to tireless searching on foot by a good friend, Joe Jandy, we have found an alternative supplier with lots of rolls in stock! No more living with broken promises. The next installation will take place in the next week.

North Bank Beekeeping

Since Njongon village became involved in Beekeeping a few years ago it has gone from strength to strength, perhaps not so surprising as our partner Mr Momodou Joof is on the Board of BEECause which promotes beekeeping in The Gambia.

So successful has this year been that 90%+ of their 33 hives are colonised. Another group of beekeepers are in training and will manufacture the additional hives from wood they got from Gmelina trees planted some years ago specifically to provide timber for construction in the village. It is a blondish timber with a high resistance to termites and as the picture shows the trees are tall and straight. This forward planning by the village is now providing them with cheap timber, just the cost of slitting it, at a time when timber is quite expensive.

The new beekeepers are already converting last weeks trees into hives. The new timber dries out quite quickly in the warm ambient air. Within the next year Njongon area hopes to be harvesting from 50 hives! This is great encouragement to the newly trained beekeepers in Bafaluto who are just beginning.

Drip Feed Irrigation

In the absence of sufficient funds for another Village Water System we have been looking for other ways to get “meaningful bangs for our limited bucks”.

Drip Feeding is a No Brainer.

1.You only water at the exact point its needed… 

2.Weeds nearby die due to lack of water, so less weeding. 

3.Reduced leaf disease/fungus since water isn’t being thrown over all of the plants. 

4.Falling  water also compacts the soil around the plant which has to be regularly loosened up. 

5.Addition of fertiliser can either be introduced into the drip feed line or in pellet form at exactly where needed, where the drip is, no wastage. 

6.Plants become healthier because they develop a stronger roots system.. Traditional watering moistens the soil down to only between. 15/20cm max, constant drips make the soil moist down to 25/30cms.

7.Also there is significant labour saving. Twice  a day bucketfuls have to be pulled up by rope from a 5/6mt deep Irrigation well and then distributed by hand using a bean tin.

8.It’s a water feast or famine twice a day, (not the best for the plants) as opposed to a nice steady drip, which once set up doesn’t need any supervision. 

9.The inclusion in the main water hose of an inexpensive AA battery powered Timer enables you to control the time of the day/night and frequency & duration of watering depending on the season & stage of growth of the plants.

10. and on top of all this, a Water saving of approx. 50% 

Initial installation of drip feed pipes and below a very healthy crop of squash plants and a copy of a WhatsApp from Momodou

Am sitting down to enjoy the way the drip works. I used to take cans to do my watering but now just to sit down to see it work. You have added value to my life again. No time consuming.”

Rainy Season

In the 3 1/2 months from late June until early October the Gambia receives its annual compliment of rain. This is very much welcomed by those in the rural areas especially the large numbers involved in crop growing. However in the urban areas over the last number of years flooding has become a serious issue brought about mainly by the increased number of buildings which in many cases have blocked the natural channels through which heavy rainwater finds its way to the Gambia River. The result of this can be seen in the picture below.

1st qtr 2020 workplan completed

In January we committed to do work in 4 villages and in spite of Covid 19 hold ups the work programme is completed.

The largest of the villages Jamagen now has a fully functioning Clean Water System and an extensive Distribution Network.

In the same most northern part of the country near the Senegal border is the village of Sambayassin where the Water Systems has been completed. Nearby we carried out repair works on the existing system in Mallick Sarr.

Kerr Wally a village in which we had provided a Water System a few years ago had a village vegetable garden situated quite a distance from the nearest source of water. This resulted in hours per day being spent carrying water by the women to the garden. We have sunk a Borehole in their 1.5 hectare garden and work to complete the system is in hand. The garden also needs extensive repairs to the fencing which which will be carried out by the villagers once our negotiations on supply of fencing wire is finalised.

We are also encouraging compound holders with sizeable home gardens, 500 to 1,000 mt2 to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their cultivation by the introduction of Low Pressure Drip Feed irrigation. This is a long term project which we will encourage in all 10 villages with which we have established contacts.

Below is the young forward looking Alkalo of Jamagen turning on the Clean Water System for the first time. Current travel restriction made it impossible for us to be their to share in their celebrations.

Covid 19 has arrived in The Gambia

These are official figures up to date as at last Sat 11th April. We also have regular communication via WhatsApp in rural villages and towns who are trying to cope with the State Of Emergency which is in place until mid May.

All bars and restaurants and non essential businesses are closed and non essential travel discouraged. Number 1 problem. Very few businesses are in a position to continue to pay their workers. Number 2. The Government is in no position financially to guarantee any, even a very basic level, of income to these people. Within a very short time hunger will be a serious issue and there is concern that this could understandably lead to civil unrest.

Bafaluto is the village we began working with in 2008. Most of the men there who had work are now without an income and when earning between Euro 60 to 100 per month its impossible to accumulate any emergency savings. Being aware of this we organised a delivery of 1 tonne, 1,000 kgs, of rice to be distributed in this village. We will attempt, funds permitting, to do the same in the other villages as the need arises.

The value for money is wonderful. 450 Euro per tonne, 20 X 50 kg bags. If you can donate 22.50 E (£20) for a bag we will ensure it is delivered where most needed. Thank you.

That’s a lot of rice!
Distribution took place last Thursday / Friday.
The number of scoops depended on family size.

The orderly distribution was organised by the Water Committee headed up by Samba Bah, who until 3 weeks ago worked at the Airport. He has no idea when he will receive his next “monthly” pay cheque of 3,000 Dalasis (£50)

New Year 2020 in The Gambia

Apart from the excitement and challenges of the Banjul to Barra Ferry our time on the North Bank was very successful.
Since our return three Boreholes have been sunk
Over the coming weeks a lot of work will be done by the young men of each village. They will dig the hundreds of metres of trenches to carry the distribution pipework to strategic location through their villages, in total well over 2,000 mts. Hard manual work in hot sunshine.

While this trench digging takes place the construction team using circular moulded bricks will build the water towers to support the minimum 6000 litre (6 tonne) tanks at a height of approx 5 mts above the ground. This elevation of the storage tanks ensures sufficient pressure to “push” the water throughout the distribution network.

Our very first village, Bafaluto ,some 11 years ago, still has the same fully function Water System. We see no reason , with reasonable maintenance carried out by the villagers, why it won’t continue for at least another 11 years. One of the best value for money investments we have ever made.

However the original fencing of the village vegetable garden has rusted badly much to the joy of goats and other 4 legged intruders. We contributed to the Garden Fund and a full scale repair job has been carried out. .