Matt Judd, Peace Corps Volunteer - The Gambia.

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Matt Judd, Peace Corps Volunteer - The Gambia.

Matt Judd, Peace Corps Volunteer - The Gambia.

Matt Judd

Peace Corps - The Gambia.

September 28, 2000 - Arrival in the Gambia.

5 November 2000

I am slowly adjusting to Africa - I have mostly gotten used to the physical differences: the heat, bugs, primitive conditions, etc., but I have a long way to go in adjusting to the culture and at a least a year before I will be able to speak worth a damn. Then I will take over the world.

I haven't enjoyed much of training - except for the aptly named "Death March" in which we were taken down river about 25 km and dropped into a foot and a half deep mangrove muck. I never thought a mangrove would smell so foul - that is, like rotten eggs. It was a wholly enjoyable day, and my only regret is that I didn't take more pictures. Hopefully, I can get you some for the website (and Peg Gale wanted to see some photos of Gambian mangroves, too). The next day I promptly "caught" dysentery, but that's a different story. Anyway, we were told to keep the mangroves on our left and the bush to our right (which were full of baboons) and walk until we reach Tenduba, the training camp, about 20 some kilometers up the river.

PCVs (small objects near center of photo) on the Death March.


A Scene from the Death March - humid, hazy, hot.

This "community based training" has been pretty cool - as it allows us to live in the village 5 days a week (in theory) with only two other trainees in the village and one language instructor. Unfortunately, we don't spend enough time in the village - we're always taking trips to volunteer sites, organizations, etc., so after 4 or 5 days, we haven't spoken or practiced wolof at all. You can forget a lot of language in a couple of days, when you're first learning it.

26 November 2000

Well, I'm going to my site tomorrow morning--Kerr Katim Wollof. It's in the North Bank Davison in Central Baddibu. I'm very excited to get up there and see it. There is very little information about the area, as there are currently no agro-forestry volunteers in the area.

10 December 2000

My first few days were spent at Girl Guides, a hostel in Kombo, a tourist area outside of Banjul where the PC offices are located. There we were instructed on the basics of Gambian life, such as how to take a bucket bath and an asinine, but slightly amusing lecture on how to light a lantern.

My next 8 weeks were spent in Sareh Samba, a small Wollof village near Kiaif about 160 km East of Kombo. They call this village biased training (VBT). It was actually very cool as we all got to live with families for the days we were in the village, which was about half the time. There were two other volunteers that stayed in the same village, learning Wolof with a language and cultural helper (LCH), and getting aquatinted with Gambian customs, food, etc. Two days a week we had technical training in Tendaba, a tourist camp.

Near the Tendaba camp is a nakko, which means garden in Mandinka. It has a mango orchard, a eucalyptus plantation, a large garden, almost every tree you can grow, and the best soil that I've seen in the Gambia. This is where most of our technical training was held.

Topics covered in technical training:

A primer on pit and pile composting.

Very basic how-to make Manure Tea and why.

Natural Pesticides and Insecticides. (Neem, Garlic, Tobacco, soap, hot pepper)

How to construct a watering can from some rope and a plastic cooking oil can.

Introduction to Bee Keeping and construction of a basket hive made of inexpensive local materials. This was by far the best training session we had. It made me wish I wasn't allergic to bees.

Tour of a bee keeping site.

Tour of a State owned saw mill and forestry department.

Garden Beds--double digging, raised and lowered beds.

Intro. to Soil and Water Conservation-contour plowing, berm construction,

A-frames, Veviteer grass, N-fixing trees.

Farmer Extension techniques--ideas and methods for coping with farmers,

finding/identifying (good) counterparts, common problems/mistakes.

Seminar on Moringa oleifera (Nebedayo in Wolof)

Environmental Education teaching in the local schools.

Fuel-wood Survey.

Garden Seedbed-- Sowing seeds and Transplanting.

Mud stove construction.

Food nutrition and preservation--food drying, jams, sauces.

Participatory Analysis for Community Action (PACA) the standard RRA/PRA stuff.

Teaching Literacy-phonics approach to (English) literacy.

Brief Site Description:

I live in the Alikalo's compound (Mustapha Beye), in Kerr Katim Wollof. Its in Central Baddibu District in the North Bank Division about a Kilometer from Senegal to the North. There is a shortage of firewood in area, and there are rumors that people are burning dung for fuel. I don't believe it's that bad yet as my father owns two bakeries and gets his wood in the bush a few km away. He also owns a small bitik (shop), that buys peanuts from farmers at D2/kilo and sells to the Gambian Government for D2.60/kilo. (If the Government is actually buying).

Stapha is a very intelligent and hard working man, who should make a good counterpart. He has already worked with volunteers planting live fencing (Aguave sislama??,) and planting Acacia holifera (Gamtel tree), Eucalyptus spp. (Menthalato), Cashew (Ndarkoso), and Leucaena. He has had a lot of problems establishing his cashew trees, the evil goats got them. He has completely given up groundnut and finger millet farming. I think he's the most American Gambian I've met.

Stapha's friend the Imam/Marabout has also started a smaller plantation of Eucalyptus and Cashew with live fencing. It appears to be doing very well.

The farming system appears to be an upland cereal based system growing finger millet, peanut, and some small plots of corn. Sorghum and sesame are being promoted by NGO's in the area. There is no community dry garden in the village, but neighboring villages have them. The water table is 36 meters deep, which is the primary reason for not having one. One family has a really nice small garden with compost pit, Moringa olifera and a thorn (Zysaphus moritana) fence. But it wont be worked until Ramadan ends.

I arrived for my site visit on the day of Ramadan, which is both good and bad. Everyone is moody and tired, and want's to know why I'm not fasting. On the up side I can go do what I want and be left alone because everyone is sleeping on the bantabas under the trees.

My house is a 5x5 meter mud thatched hut, with screen doors and windows. Its quite nice. There is a small pruned Baobob tree in the back yard and I've just planted some Leucaena spp. and Albizia lebbek to shade the house some and give me a tree to hang my hammock. My only complaint about my house is that it's in the middle of the village and is very loud at night. (Sometimes I do like to sleep).

Some baobobs in the village have been cut so they don't fall on people or houses.

The village is on a high plain in between two bolons running to the river Gambia. Its really damn flat (I miss Montana). It is spotted with huge, beautiful Baobabs and tons of Neem (which is a weed here). There are goats, sheep, a few chickens and many ducks, horses, donkeys, dogs, and cats. Occasionally a hyenas can be heard at night. I'm really happy that my family has few chickens as I hate those rooster calls in the morning.

The best lumo (open air-markets) in the Gambia is very close, only seven kilometers on a good road in Kerr Pate every Wednesday. Rupert calls it the Tijuana of the Gambia. There was a volunteer in the village two years ago, but she transferred to another village after six months. Apparently she married a local, then divorced him, moved to a neighboring village, married another local, and then ET'ed. One of her projects was teaching gymnastics. I have some strange shoes to fill.

10 December 2000 - Part 2.

Here I am in Gambia. It's hot, dry, gritty, and I'm starting to like it. For the first ten weeks (PC Training), I lived in a training village about 150km up the main road on the South bank called Sareh Samba. Between Kaiaf and the Senegal border, Sereh Samba is seven km off the beaten path, requiring four wheel drive to negotiate the washed out sandy roads. The village is made up of mostly Wolof families of about 25 compounds. Here I spent five days a week learning Wolof, and the essentials of Gambian life such as washing cloths by hand and brewing attya (Chinese green tea with a sickening amount of sugar).

My site, the village I will be living and working in for the next two years is called Kerr Katim Wollof. It is in Central Baddibu District in the North Bank Division about a Kilometer from Senegal to the North. Ferifenni is 25 km to the East and Keriwan is 25 km to the Southwest.

I live in the Alikalo's compound, who is the village elder and is considered the leader of the community. He is a very personable and intelligent man, who I'm sure will become a good friend. I have my own hut. A 5x5 meter thatched job with screens in the windows and doors. I have a small back yard with a pit-latrine, and soon some vegetables.

To get to Kerr Katim Wollof from the Peace Corps office in Banjul, I take a cab up the pipeline to West Field (near Serre Kunda), get out, catch a bush taxi to the Market in Banjul and walk to the ferry launch. Its a 15 minute crossing to Barra, one way, but takes a minimum of an hour for a round trip. Loading and unloading the trucks is a very slow process. It was very exciting for me, I was in the last minute rush onto the ferry and was luckily pushed onto the ferry by the crowd since they knew I was with Peace Corps. The ferry was very crowded, so I crawled onto the top of a truck to get some air. I began to think about what was said about ferries in training--"If the boat should go down, be prepared to be mobbed by Gambians who cannot swim and know that all toubab (white people) can swim. So if you should find yourself in the water as a human life preserver, sink down really deep, then swim away from the wreck."

You might be wondering what's up with this toubab phenomenon? Well toubab means white person or outsider. Children chant toubab any time I go to a village. Their little arms start swinging around in the air and they are jumping up and down running, yelling "toubab toubab". Well, that doesn't really explain it, but I don't really know how.

When I arrived in Barra, I missed the first bush taxi going to Minte Kunda. So I waited four and half hours in the arm-pit of the Gambia, for my bush taxi to fill. We finally left, and went through Keriwan (where there is another short ferry crossing) all the way to Minte Kunda for D25. From there it was a 3 km walk to my village, just in time to go to sleep.

A note on bush taxis: What is a bush taxi? They are old rickety mini-buses from some European country given to the Gambia. They are Mercedes but don't tell Daimler-Chrysler-Benz. They safely seat about 15 people but typically ride with 25-35 people and all their stuff. Gambians take everything on the taxi. Chickens, food bowls, toilet seats, and I don't know what else. The only thing guarantee to work on a bush taxi is the horn.

The area of the North Bank that I will be living, called Central Baddibu, is a forgotten part of the Gambia. There are no paved roads anywhere near, but there are also fewer people and no tourists here. I think the people are the nicest people in the Gambia.

There is almost no bush left, it has all been cleared for peanut farming. Almost no trees can be seen in the fields, long ago removed to increase arable land. Villages can be spotted by the huge elderly baobab trees that grow through out.


What I see biking near my site...

The hard red clay roads run strait, with deep ruts and holes where cars have gotten stuck in the wet season. The road is lined with brush, thorny gray-green bushes, shoulder height and covered in red dust. Everything is covered in red dust near the road. A truck goes by, and I have to stop and cover my face with a cloth, the dust hangs think in the air ready to choke you if your foolish enough to make too much of an effort biking. Smaller trees, Ndimbo and Here are scattered far apart in the fields beyond the brush and larger trees, huge trees with wide cloud like crowns, can be seen here and there in the distance a few kilometers off.

There are no rocks here, only red clay and sand. A yellow flower is blooming, life continues. Old men ride two wheeled donkey carts carrying Rasta-colored umbrellas. Two small Fula boys, maybe 10 or 12 years old are herding about 30 of the horned African cattle barefoot, they wave calling me by the name of the previous volunteer "Dembo Jaw"! The cattle trample the brush and move on, stupidly. And I continue on my bike.

10 February 2001

The hot dry season is coming-the worst is supposed to come in March and April. I can work outside most of the day except for a few hours around 2-4 when the sun becomes too powerful to bear, and I crawl into my thatched hut, drink some cool water from my clay pot and read

I have been fortunate enough to have a very good counterpart, my father. He knows a little bit of English, which comes in handy when I get stuck in Wollof. He is also the village chief at about 35-40 years old. He's very progressive and intelligent, lived in Dakkar as a fisherman in his younger twenties. He has wind breaks of Acacia holicera (sp?) and has planted Cashew into his inner and outer fields. 5x30 m spacing in his inner fields as a windbreak and for fruit productin. He forms a peanut/millet rotation in between the rows. He has a woodlot of Eucalyptus, as well as some live fencing: Agave spp., Eucalytus spp., Zizyphus moritania, Parinsonia aculeata. He even has some lucana around his fields. Next year he is going to try upland rice on a small plot 4m x 4m and some casava. I'm thinking about suggesting intercropping casava and maize ala Beets, as he grew corn there before with success.

Village life has been difficult to get into. It's hard (for me) to sit and chat, otherwise doing nothing for a good chunk of the day-I know it's important socially here, especially for men, but I just need to go do something-read, wash my laundry, water my tree nursery, write, etc. I can only wathc the chickens fight and the goats rub against fencing for so long.

Another difficulty is that everyone likes to state what I'm doing in Wollof. "You are pumping water," "You are sitting," on and on. They expect me to respond, but there is no intelligent response that I can think of.

Gambians don't seem to have any respect for silence. I think it makes them lonely. Even late into the night, people are talking, children running around yelling, playing tag, youth blasting their radios. The don't seem to enjoy being alone, and I think they might think I'm aloof or disinterested in them because I take long walks alone or sometimes shut my door to be alone in my house.

9 March 2001

Greetings from Kerr Katim Wollof. I read Confederate General from Big Sur in one evening, I was laughing so much, people must now think I'm crazy.

We had or technical training at last, which was held at the Njawara Training Center about 20 km from my site, the only agro-forestry training center in the country. We learned tree nursery management, fruit tree grafting, transplanting, cashew nut processing, seed collection and treatment, fruit tree propagation, home-made polypot craft, eucalyptus (or small seed) germination, cashew apple fruit preservation, the benefits of Moringa oleifera, Zai holes, bee fodder trees. We all invited counterparts, which kept the training simple, since everything had to be translated into three other languages, but it did help in learning a little Wollof in hearing the translation.

I've been mostly working on my Wollof, and learning a little Mandinka and Pular as well. I've been biking around looking for farmers who are trying different methods, who might make good counterparts. I've found a few potential counterparts outside my village, and have just tried to hang out with them and get to know them and their families a little.

Alhadji Jallow (who lives in the neighboring Fula village Mida) has a small inner field that he is turning into a cashew orchard. He has a very nice live fence of sisal (Agave sisilana) and Parkinsona aculeata that we are going to (try to) finish this year. Inside he has some cashews that are poorly spaced but well protected by individual thorn fences around each. He currently farms peanuts around them. He also has a small garden near the well that is already fenced where he has a few large mango trees, cassava, sweet potato, and his tree nursery. He is the only person in the village that I am aware of that is dry season gardening. He's a well-respected man in the village, a good farmer, and is fun to hang out with.

My father Mustapha Baye, has a 5 acre inner field that the wants to finish fencing in (Parkinsona aculeata, Agave sisilana, Ziziphus Mauritania, Leucaena leucocehala), along with a small (1/4-ha) eucalyptus woodlot, Acacia holosceria windbreak, and about 70 cashew trees in a 30 x 5 M windbreak/orchard layout. I'd like to plant between these rows, spacing about every 10 meters. He can continue to cultivate in between the trees, and good cashew varieties can start fruiting after 2 rainy seasons. He wants to finish fencing in his field (about 5 hectares) which is about half finished.

In my village, the elder women's group is interested in a woman's woodlot, but I haven't made any progress with this yet. We are supposed to get some aid from Concern Universal (polypots, tools, seeds, and the ever-promised almighty barbed wire), but I'm not holding my breath. I'd like to try starting a few seedlings that are goat resistant (Acacia holosceria, Cassia siamea, and possibly Eucalyptus camaldulensis) on the land around it. But before anything happens, I think the women should really need to decide how they are going to manage it--who, when and how harvesting and replanting will be done, and how the money will be used.

The neighboring village Mida has a well for a women's garden provided by the Department of Agriculture. They are supposed to come and fence it in with barbed wire and to remove the tailings from the well. It really needs a live fence and a windbreak, and ideally some light shade (Leucaena leucocephala, Moringa oleifera, Sesbania sesban). They have no rope, pulley or bags for pulling water, tools, or seeds. If they show some initiative I might write a SPA for them.

Schools are generally agreed by volunteers as a disaster to work with; I have kept my distance from the schools. The village of Minta Kunda a Mandinka village 2-km Southeast, is not a very fun place for me to go. I get "toubabed" all the time there, other volunteers have also been harassed there. In my experience people have been rude there as a rule and I can't remember a time when someone hasn't gone up to me and demanded a visa or money from me. Is this because they have been the target of outside help (see next paragraph) and now expect any toubab to hand out gifts? I digress. Many volunteers have had good experiences with starting/running environment clubs in the schools. Minta Kunda already has a club, and seems to be active (doing what I'm not sure yet), but I don't want to interrupt a good thing, especially if its being run by Gambian teachers already. I could possibly come as a guest speaker or help arrange guest speakers. The school also has a good garden and a tree nursery that sells extra trees and produce.

My father has agreed to lend me a 1/2-hectare for farming this rainy season. I'm not sure exactly what I'm going to do with it...anything but peanuts. I'm not sure how much time I will have to work on it and I'm not sure how ambitious I am. So far I've been a failure at my own garden, in my back yard with the exception of my trees (of course, the soil is all red latterite rock which is pretty difficult anyway). I'd like to just try a variety of alternative crops and see what works. Nobody in my area grows yams, so I'd like to try that. Or maybe I'll just plant a small woodlot this year.

Kerr Samba Nyado has a former Peace Corps language trainer, Sajoo Dooboya, who owns a small orchard. I plan to work with him and his wife on making/marketing cashew apple cookies, a simple method to preserve the apples and sell them at the local lumo. He is currently a metal shop teacher in Banjul, and visits his family every two weeks.

Sara Bidum Kunda, a small village of 3 compounds has one farmer Ebrima Bah, who is trying to establish a small orchard of cashew on his own. He has already started some trees for a windbreak and a few fruit trees around his compound. He needs help with small things like soil mixtures for polypots, knowledge of live fencing trees. He's just starting, so well go on it small, small as they say here.

Mida has a broken pump that needs repaired. I plan to look into the problem at EDF. I want to find out why it was never repaired who is responsible for these things like repair, maintenance, if anyone in my area is trained in it. This is a really common problem. When things are given, people don't value them, and they get ruined. Or they don't receive the knowledge to fix or maintain things, have the money to maintain things, or be able to find parts.

I just met one farmer just across the border in Senegal who has a small (~1 hectare) diverse farm that really impressed me. He has never worked with any PC or NGO's. He has a 'live fence' of local grasses and shrubs with a couple of Sisal (Agave sisilana), with mango and cashew trees, sweet potatoes, cassava, cotton, wanjo/bissab, grass, calabash, neem (Azadirachta indica) and Cassia siamea. He sells the grass for thatch, calabash bowls, poles for roofing, the mangos, cassava and potatoes get sold at the market. Impressive considering all the people surrounding him grow only groundnuts and millet.

I have a few other ideas for future projects, but I don't know how they will take off or whether I will try them. One is an agro-forestry kaffo (group) to exchange seeds, share tools, knowledge, etc. Another is to start a tree nursery with my village's children. I'd like to experiment with Zai holes for transplanting earlier, before the rains. Mostly, I expect to be starting tree nurseries so that I can plant when the rains come sometime around June 15.

The local farming system fits Beets description of the Upland Cereal-Based system closely. Rainfed millet for subsistence is alternated each season with groundnuts for cash. The intensity of farming increases with proximity to the village as Beets describes as "concentric-ring farming". There are compound gardens in some surrounding villages (but not mine), with inner fields and outer fields. Inner fields are sometimes fertilized by cows (Wollofs pay Fulani cattle herders to fertilize their land), and sometimes then crop with maize. The outermost fields are sometimes fallowed, but it's rare. Sorghum is sometimes inter-cropped with millet. Groundnuts are the primary cash crop, some vegetables are grown for the local market (Kerr Pate ~6km away has a open air market every Wednesday).

Goats and sheep are owned by women, left to range during the day and are tied up in the compound at night. Chickens, ducks and guinea foul are also raised and consumed locally for meat. No egg production is done because Holland exports (subsidized) eggs cheaper (1.50 dalasi) than they can be produced here.

Beets gives a really good synopsis of problems that holds true in my area. Declining soil fertility, unreliable rainfall, inefficient markets, high cost of inputs, little integration of animals, population pressure (not currently a problem here, but will be), shortened (or no) fallows are all problems that I see.

Soil erosion is a big problem as almost all trees have been removed and no new trees are regenerating as the goats get to them. Trees are seen as a wasted space in the fields--area that could be used for peanut production. Fields are plowed against the contour to help drain water quickly (though I haven't seen the rainy season yet). Wind erosion is the primary problem with the Harmattan winds blowing like a blow dryer all day long. (Haze in the air, dust devils, etc). Windbreaks are needed badly.

People are starting to try small dry season gardens and orchards. There is a real need for soil fertility management, soil and water conservation, and wood production. Pressures on the neighboring forests are a large problem, and are quickly becoming depleted. Soils are infertile, difficult to work. If any manure is applied, it dries up and blows away with the topsoil every year. Roads are turning into gullies and sand pits.

Very few inputs are used as fertilizer is expensive and difficult to get as transportation is (almost) impossible. NAWFA and the Agriculture Department give out herbicide, insecticide, and fungicides.

Mechanical threshers are available for peanuts, but no pounders for millet, which is a large labor and time burden on women. An NGO gave away thresher/pounders for millet, but the men didn't maintain them. There are commercial machines at the Lumo in Kerr Pate, but the millet spoils quickly.

Crop residues are all burned off the field or cleared and brought to the compounds to feed horses, although some families store it in the fields and take their horses, donkeys out to feed during the day. Very little integration with livestock. Men own cattle for both savings and for animal traction. They are kept by the poorest of the Fulani, the traditional pastoralists in the neighboring village. (Villages are generally segregated by ethnic group.).

Burning fallow fields in preparation for planting.

A farm field after it has been burned.

I took an informal census of my village. There are 262 men, women and children in Kerr Katim. There are 12 compounds, but some of these compounds break down into 16 smaller household units. Two compounds own cattle for animal traction, but I think there may be more (I was having some language misunderstandings over this). There are 38 horses, 11 donkeys, 19 sheep (not including rams to be slaughtered for Tabaski), and 94 evil goats.

Training was a difficult time in that everything was controlled. My life was structured, my diet dictated, etc. I dreaded the two days of sessions in Tendaba on "cultural sensitivity" and so on. Now my life is the opposite, no structure what so ever. Going to the city is tough--the change of worlds, its like after watching a long intense movie and then being left with your own simple life again.. Upon returning to my village after a couple days break its really hard to get back into things. I'm usually depressed for a few days, and don't get much done. Or I'm excited about getting things done and run around in a frenzy getting nothing accomplished.

It's hard to adapt to the village pace of life. To just sit. I see young men sitting around drinking attya (a funky overcooked Chinese green tea super saturated with sugar) all day and get disgusted; their wives are out working hard getting water, laundry, cooking, caring for their children. The conversation always comes back to how great America is or how they want a toubab wife, or why I don't have a wife. So I've been trying to hang out with the older women in my village, who have some spare time, and the old men who just don't give a damn. It's not easy sitting and doing nothing, especially with the language barrier. A few men are motivated to plant trees and try new things, but they are the same people who are busily running their bitik (village shops) or ...

5 June 2001

The rainy season should be coming any day now. The first rain on average is around June 15, and Mali has been getting rain early this year so people are predicting an early and long rainy season this year.

Kerr Katim Wollof Women's Group

They have a small tree nursery and have started some eucalyptus, gmelina, gamtel, and Cassia samia seedlings and will begin some gardening of Bitter tomatoes, Eggplant, and Okra. They have been getting help from Concern Universal and will be getting some kind (dubious) aid package for starting a woodlot if they get the local contribution of D1600, which includes a wheel barrow, polypots, shovels, watering cans, and barbed wire. It seems like overkill to me--we can just plant goat resistant trees and the rest is not needed...

Mustapha has been telling me the Gambian and Senegalese governments aren't loaning out much peanut seed this year--it may come late or never. Farmers in my village apparently sell all their peanut harvest except for what is needed for the food bowl. It makes no sense to me why they do this, when they can rely on themselves. Maybe seed storage is a problem? Farmers in Mida keep their seed for the following year. The problem isn't so much producing peanuts for export, but goeng (peanut grass) for the horses, donkeys and cattle.

The women's woodlot in Chorgan Fula was burned down last week by a jealous man from the village. The women had grown some poles (Cassia samia and Eucalyptus) and then sold them to their husbands for roofing and then spent the money on school fees for their children. Almost all the trees are burned up pretty bad--but its only the Eucalyptus camadensus that burned, and I think it will re-sprout if the standing wood is coppiced when the rains come. They have caught the man and the government want to make an example out of him.

I bought a donkey. It wasn't easy to find a good one. The first one I looked at bites--which is no good at all. Apparently, when a donkey bites you it won't let go. Alahji Jallow told me a story about a man who was bit by his donkey--they had to kill the donkey with an ax to release it's bite. My donkey doesn't bite, but it does kick! I'm thinking of naming it punkel, which means fat. My donkey is about 4-5 months pregnant. We use the donkey for pulling water in the morning. Women use the water for laundry, but it is mainly for watering the tree nurseries. Not bad for about $40.

I also bought a chicken and named it George W. Bush. It slept on my grass roof until it scratched out a bed and made a hole in the ceiling. So last week George W. helped me introduce the concept of barbecue to Kerr Katim.

September 2001

Working with People in the village

Mustapha Baye, Kerr Katim Wollof

We finished out-planting his windbreak/fence of Acacia holosceria, lines of cashew in his fields and a small assortment of other non-native agfo trees. He is also growing 2 ha of upland rice. Nobody has tried growing upland rice in this area to my knowledge, and is doing well so far. I just hope the rains keep coming. I think that 2 ha was too big, and he should scale it back a bit, rice is a marginal crop here-upland rice needs about 700mm and so it will fail in some years, and the soil tends to be sandy-risk assessment. I have mixed feelings about growing rice--he goes through something like 30 50kg bags a year and now he will be should self-sufficient in his rice consumption. However, it is nutritionally inferior to millet and corn (and I don't like to eat rice). For the women, it is easier to cook, but more work to weed. Stapha grew over 5000 trees, much more than he can protect, so we gave over half of them away-up to 30 eucalyptus and 30 cashew trees to farmers who promised they would take care of them-to protect them from fire, and the evil goats. I will go around and give advice and encourage protection of the trees. He has also started a rainy season garden, including cassava, sweet potato, bitter tomato, tomato, eggplant, okra, and hot peppers. He sells the product at the local lumos and in the village, making 300-500 dalasi a week.

Alhadji Man Jai Contech, Kerr Katim Wollof

Alhadji has planted a rainy season garden, with the same plants that Stapha is using. He has planted a windbreak around his inner farm using Cassia siamea, and Acacia holosceria. He transplanted about 100 cashew trees as well, but I'm concerned that that is too many for him to protect.

Samba Bah, Mida

Samba is a student at the Njawara training center, interested in Silvi-Pastoral systems. We have been planning his farm, produce fodder for one or two of his cattle through the dry season for milk. He is the only literate English speaker that I know in the area. He saw a plan for a grazing preserve for times of drought that he would like to implement. He will also be doing ram fattening for Tobaski and goat raising. This rainy season we are just trying to fence in his property and plant a windbreak on the North and East sides. As well as adding some cashew trees. Right now there is corn on his farm. As soon as it is harvested we will plant some fodder trees (Sesbania sesban) and cassava in long ridges.

Aladgie Jallow, Mida

Aladgie's sisal didn't survive the rats, so we planted a windbreak/live fence of Eucalyptus and Parkinsona. He direct seeded about 40 cashews, but are having a tough time growing inside his millet field due to the lack of light.

Katim Turey, Kerr Katim Wollof

We laid out and planted a cashew (and a few mango) tree orchard. He fenced in about ½ ha area, which took him about 2 weeks. He is growing cassava and sweet potato under and around the trees as well.

Women's Garden, Mida

What a mess. The sisal beds never got watered. I'm not sure exactly why. Anyway it was all plowed under and planted with peanuts. I believe the women of the village are worried about the land getting taken over by the Alkalo's family (it was originally his land) and the amount of work that goes into gardening in the dry season, as they should, because it is too much work. And if they have a good barbed wire fence, people don't see the need for the sisal.

The ministry of agriculture that dug the well and donated the barbed wire is unhappy because the fence posts are no good so they are withholding the rest of the barbed wire and trees they want to donate. When I first started, I was told by the village that this was to be a women's garden. Later at the ministry, I was told it was for an orchard for everyone. Why build a well to only be rendered useless? Mango and other trees will eventually shade everything out. The well is 40m, expensive, and could have allot of uses. There are no fence posts to cut as the area is totally deforested and transport is very difficult. I don't see how this will not fail. I intend to hold a meeting to find out what people want to do with the land and suggest dividing the area into 5 parts, for the 5 compounds in the village, so that people have some kind of ownership and pride in their work. The few people interested in doing some work can, the others go to waste but at least it is used. I would also like to get the village to come to an agreement on what will and will not be allowed to be done there. Can the well be used for animals? Can shade producing permanent trees be grown there or only temporary ones? ie. powpow and mango. Once I know what the village wants I can go back to the Ministry of Agriculture and see what we can agree to.

There are a few projects that I have seen using barbed wire and local wood posts for gardens and orchards. Is it really beneficial overall to cut 200-400 posts a hectare only to plant 60-100 trees? There must be a better way to do this. In other areas of the country where there is allot of Gmelina, people cut them for fence posts and they re-sprout in the rainy season.

Farming and the Start of the Rainy Season

The rains have finally come and so I have been becoming familiar with the farming system. The primary crops in my village and the surrounding villages are groundnuts, millet, and to a lesser extent corn. Nobody is farming sesame in my area despite the government and NGO extortionists promoting it. I have been told that it is too much work and yields have not been very high. Millet is strictly for subsistence, while both corn and groundnuts are sold to "co-operatives" and the government, as well as for household consumption.

Land use in my area is organised in concentric circles. Inside the village and immediately outside compounds are rainy season gardens growing peppers, bitter tomato, eggplant, tomato, squash, calabash, and onion. Then there are the inner farm fields that are farmed every year and are fertilised with either organic or chemical fertiliser. This depends on who they know and their financial situation of course. This is where most farmers are deciding to add trees to their farms. They are adding wind breaks (Eucalyptus and A. holosceria), and fruit trees (mango and cashew trees) by either building a large fence from shrubs and thorns from the farms and bush or individual small weaved tree guards. The guards are easier to do and maintain, but they effect the tree's growth making them tall and spindly. It also makes it difficult to weed. Some farmers build small fenced-in areas for growing cassava, potato, and sweet potato. Outer fields are sometimes fallowed for one or two seasons for four to six years of crops. Striga is the major pest for the millet, which seems to be the primary reason for fallow. I believe that the Fula farmers tend to fallow more often, as they need land for their cows to be tied up at night. The crop rotation is strictly millet or corn followed by groundnuts.

Millet, Maze, and Sorghum are the staple foods besides rice (which is imported). Millet and Sorghum are often mixed in both the fields and food bowl. The stocks are used for fencing and fuel. Millet and Sorghum grains are used for feed-fattening chickens (a rare thing to do), for horses and donkeys. Grasses in the fields are collected as well for feed during the rainy season. Groundnuts, are primarily the cash crop, but it is getting harder and harder to make a profit. Fertiliser is getting more expensive and less abundant, while prices are declining. Groundnuts are the primary concern of men. They only work 3 months out of the year to earn their money, at best around 3000D. Meanwhile the soil is losing its fertility, and getting washed away with nothing to hold the soil in place. People tend to sell too much of their crop, depending on the government for loans of seeds the following year. Sometime its going to completely fail. The rest of the peanut crop is used for sauces and oil. The leaves and stock of the plant is used as fodder-for feeding horses and donkeys through the dry season.

Between neighbouring village's outer farms, there is usually a strip of bush-mostly shrub up to 11/2 meters tall with a slightly higher incidence of trees. The bush is used as a bathroom, and for firewood collection, timber, poles, posts, medicines, fodder/graze, tying up goats, bush meat, and as a corridor to the river for sheep and cows. This is another case of the tragedy of the commons, there is no regulation or management from within the village over the last remaining bush. I would like to find a way to control fire and animals, but how to do that? Its very difficult working with groups here-at least when I'm working with a environmental project-I have yet to have any successful work done in a group.

Goats and sheep are owned by women, with the exception of rams, which are fattened and sold by men for Tobaski. Men also own all the cattle, horses and donkeys. At the beginning of the rainy season, when the millet is germinating, goats are tied up in the compounds and trees and grasses are lopped for fodder. Sheep and cattle are both herded either by boys in the village or by a hired man (about D800 for the season), which are taken to the river and bush to feed. As the weeds grow goats are taken to the bush or roadsides to be tied up for the day, then returned in the evening. Goats are considered the best money making scheme for women, they often have twins every 7 months or so. If you have 5 or 6 goats you can buy 1 cow (but is rare to see a woman owning a cow).

At the very end of the dry season all the land to be planted next season was cleared with machete and rake, then burned. Combritum spp. and Guiera snegalensis that grows abundantly in fields was removed for firewood during the rainy season.

At the first good rain, when the soil is soaked, farmers begin sowing their millet and then their groundnuts. They have mechanical seeders that have a pair of wheels and an arm that drops the seed into the soil. Seed is measured through a removable plate that rotates with the wheels. A horse or donkey leads the seeder, with a small boy leading the animal. The seeder has handles behind it and so to guide the machine and keep an eye on the seed. The first weeds are removed by a sine hoe about two weeks in. This is also the time that animals are then tied up.

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Story Source: Personal Web Page

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - The Gambia; Agroforestry; Photography - The Gamiba



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