– Dec 04 2015
International Rural Development
In August 2008 I sat in a remote village hospital in The Gambia, West Africa, watching my brother lay in the hospital bed twitching at a medicine induced sleep whilst recovering from an unfortunate food poisoning. At the same time a beautiful young 5 year old girl named Kadijatou Kanteh was admitted due to dehydration and malnutrition. My brother recovered fine due to the fortunate access of medication and the skilful education and training of the local doctor and his support staff. Unfortunately, Kadijatou’s illness was more serious. Her health deteriorated in front of our eyes and we watched helplessly as she sadly passed away. Seven years ago I felt very strongly that a young child passing away from dehydration and malnutrition was criminal, and I still do.
I was in the Gambia in 2008-2009 as a Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) volunteer building regional IT Capacity for the ministry of education – running change projects in international development. This experience motivated me to set up and manage a number of Agricultural projects supporting local communities and female co-operatives to apply technology, business intelligence and creative entrepreneurial thinking to reduce poverty, increase income and nutrition, and better improve lives.
I was lucky enough to directly support some fantastic community projects, watching enterprising and entrepreneurial people pull together in the face of adversity to build a better future for themselves, their families and communities. There is just too much I could say here, so I will give an overview below and try to update on further insight through future blogs.
- Gambia sits 172 out of 187* countries for development (UK sits 14th)
- Life Expectancy at birth is 58 years (79.3 in UK)
- UN research shows 60% live below the poverty line
- 70% of whom are rural, 80% are women
Sekuta School – Region 5
Since 2008 I set up, fundraised, and lead a number of projects working with local partners to support community development goals in the areas of poverty alleviation, revenue generation, improved nutrition and improved standards of living. This was not without its challenges, however it has been extremely rewarding and I have learnt a huge amount along the way.
Here is a quick summary of the main projects that evolved….
- Village Youth IT Training – Mansajang Village
- Water Access for Cattle Herds & Village Protection
- Sekuta School Fence / School Kitchen
- Kabakama Female Co-Operative Vegetable Garden
- St Josephs All girls School – Vegetable Garden
- West Side FC – Youth Football Coaching
- Launch New Agricultural Vegetable Farm
- Kabakama – Banana Plantation
St Joseph School Vegetable Garden
KabaKama Example (2009-2010):
A great deal of collaborative work goes in to make these projects have an impact that is sustainable in the long term. They are community driven and owned initiates. The organisation and maturity of ‘the team’ is important. Local partners, NGO’s and government are pulled on for support to offer the right expertise at the right time. Business and agricultural training is provided. Baseline and Benefit data is tracked. The community invest (even if it is just in kind – time, local resources, timber, and sometimes financially). The final part is the ‘seed money’, the financial injection that can kick start the project into gear….
A small £1,000 donation helped produce the following results:
- 1 Hector of land was developed for agricultural production.
- An additional 67 female’s included (up from an initial 82)
- Income Generation supporting community Health and Education.
- 7290 Kgs Vegetables – First Harvest Yield
- (2776 Kgs Onion, 2282 Kgs Okra, 2232Kgs Tomatoes)
- D207,209 (£5,182) – Total value of first harvest
Kamakama Women’s Group – Agricultural Garden (Onion Harvest)
MegaMeter Challenge Beneficiary:
2016 Target: £2,000 (to hit £10,000 since 2008)
Community: Mansajang Female Co-Operative
Purpose: To further develop a similar Agricultural program.
Over the last couple of years the community group have made several developments to be in a stronger position for a sustainable project, including re-forming of the organisation, linking with partners, developing agricultural practice, and preparation of land.
Thanks for reading, I hope that was insightful – I shall try my best to update further throughout the year.
““Boto kensengo buka lo no” – An Empty Bag Cannot Stand (Gambian Proverb, Mandinka)
Meaning: A Hungry person, cannot work. Fill a bag with something flimsy, it might just stand, but fill it with something sturdy, it can stand on its own for a very long time.
Your Support is greatly appreciated,