By Patience Loum
The Coronavirus Pandemic has had a significant impact on the Gambia’s Economy, 2020 has been a challenging year for many business sectors. Given the relentless return of the deadly Coronavirus Pandemic, 2021 seems to be no different with horticultural women disproportionately affected.
According to the International Fund for Agricultural Development, over 60 per cent of Gambians depend on farming for their livelihood. Farmers and agricultural workers, especially women and young people depend mainly on agriculture for economic prosperity.
Here in the Gambia, with women as major contributors to agriculture and horticultural production; they play a key role in the sustenance of their households. Their role goes beyond just agriculture but environmental management as well. However, the impact of covid-19 has not spared these women especially those in the coastal town of Bakau in the Kanifing Municipality.
Speaking to Fatou Jammeh, a small scale horticultural producer in Bakau, she explains some of the challenges she faces during the covid-19. According to her, other women have been grappling with similar challenges since covid-19 was first recorded in The Gambia in March 2020.
“Things have been really challenging with us. Before the coming up of covid-19, middle-women would usually call and visit our gardens and buy our produce and take them for marketing. But now, things are no longer the same.”
“Now the situation is the opposite. Most of the time it’s us who would take our produce to them and of course the way things are, we usually come back without our produce sold; which has become a huge loss for us,” she said.
“This is a difficult situation that we are facing because we depend on this for our livelihoods.”
Fatou explained that on top of all that, a lack of pesticides has also been a big challenge for her and her colleagues. According to her, this has greatly affected the growth of their vegetables.
Another challenge we are facing is lack of water for our crops, the women said.
“Before we had contributors from Mali and Senegal who’ll contribute to building us wells in the gardens that we can use to water our crops and vegetables but that’s no longer the case. They’ve been asked not to help us anymore by these community leaders and as a result of that, we are facing so many troubles with our produce.”
According to the FAO, an estimated 23% of the Gambia’s total arable land (117,329 hectares) is suitable for horticulture but less than 3% (3,519.9 hectares) is currently cultivated.
However, Mariama Barrow, another horticultural producer, the issue of land has been another challenge as they don’t have anywhere else to do their gardening.
“We’ve been asked by the community leader also known as Alkalos in the Gambia to move out of our current spot as the land has already been sold.”
She added that the Alkalo said if they don’t move out anytime soon they’ll be thrown out.