NEWSLETTER 5: JULY 2011 – GOOD NEWS : the garden is going to be enlarged !!!
Yet again it is time for a newsletter to inform you of what has been going on in the past twelve months. The fate of the Gambian women, and in particular that of the women of Nafugan, affects us very much. From the moment we embarked on this project we have met many analogue organisationswith similar goals. Thus we observe that slowly but surely, bit by bit, the efforts of numerous charities around the world aim to improve the lives of those who live in total poverty.
I have the honour and privilege to inform you that the Nafugan Lower Basic School’s Mother’s Club Project has started contributing immensely towards improving the lives and livelihoods of not only the women of the six Nafugan Communities but their entire families.
The President, the executive and the entire membership of the project are extremely happy as they keep saying “Kamara, we are happy, happy, and happy for the timely intervention of FHAG, particularly for the generous support of the Belgians”.
On behalf of the group the Lady President extends her sincere thanks and gratitude to FHAG Board specifically to the Belgium Board.
Bravo to you all.
In June – after a first successful harvest – Momodou S Kamara (Vice President of FHAG, our NGO in The Gambia) sent us this letter from the enthusiastic women who work in the Nafugan garden.
In February 2011 we left the cold Belgian winter behind and travelled to The Gambia. Hilde, a friend who was born in the Congo and who lived there for 12 years, accompanied us (Maurice, Rita and Pat). Hilde quickly felt at home in The Gambia.
Two days after our arrival we attended the FHAG’s Annual General Meeting where we met representatives of all SHHG-NL and SHHG-Belgium’s projects. This very interesting meeting was graced with the presence of dignitaries of the Gambian Ministries of Education and Agriculture, as well as the Chief Official of the Department responsible for the NGOs. Sebou, President of the Nafugan Mothers’ Club and chairperson of the vegetable garden project was also present. She told us, (translated by the Headmistress of Nafugan School) that the first planting had gone well but that the leaves of the young plants were eaten by bugs thus destroying the entire crop. The women needed further materials and seeds. Sebou also told us that more mothers expressed an interest in participating in the project. We agreed to look into this during our visit to the garden.
A few days later we were completely acclimatized to the warm weather and to the affectionate welcome of our many friends and acquaintances. We set off on our 350 km journey inland using the old Saint Vitus Health Centre Ambulance (Bakadaji), which had been replaced in November 2010 courtesy of the Amsterdam-Dakar Challenge. Manon (member of SHHG-NL and spending five months in The Gambia doing voluntary work for SHHG-NL) and Thijs (a friend visiting from Holland) alternated behind the wheel. A second car with Ousman (Secretary of FHAG and civil servant at the Ministry of Education) and his driver followed on. Ousman was – as usual – invaluable as translator.
For many years the South Road was impossible for travel because of the many potholes. Now nearly all of it has been resurfaced and, with luck, you should reach Basse in 5 hours. But you would not be in Africa without experiencing some breakdown or other. But not to worry: Thijs (a real Handy Andy) skillfully removed the leaking radiator which was repaired in the next village in truly African fashion: holes mended and hoping the repair will last. Meanwhile we sat at the road side enjoying the sunshine, a good chat, a hearty picnic and munched on baobab seeds. About 30 km of the road remains unsurfaced which meant slowing down and driving through a huge red dust cloud. Tired and filthy we arrived later than planned at Bakadaji Lower Basic School. As usual we were greeted very warmly. We also called in at the Saint Vitus Health Centre and admired the new accommodation for the Head Nurse and his assistant. Finally we arrived in Basse were Ndey (Momodou’s wife) served us a delicious lunch. It was already 5 pm and she also had dinner waiting for us! She is such a great cook you simply cannot refuse. Of course we had to visit the recently opened bar in Basse – a place where ‘immoral’ Westerners can drink beer. A few cold Julbrews (local beer) ensured the journey’s dust was washed away.
The next morning we bought six watering cans before setting off to Nafugan. In Nafugan Lower Basic School each class greeted us with “Good morning friends”.
At the garden the women were awaiting us impatiently. The garden was divided into neat beds which had been weeded and raked but the few plants looked miserable and eaten away by insects.
During the customary speeches we promised to organise more watering cans, more seeds and pesticides (otherwise further sowing was useless) as well as training. Once the speeches ended the musicians entertained us and we were asked to join in with the dancing. We then walked round the garden and saw how enthusiastic and proud the ladies are of their garden. The new watering cans were immediately put to use. We witnessed how the wells worked but realised that a block and tackle would make hoisting up the water much lighter. We tried to haul up a bucket of water and appreciated how much had work it was. With average temperatures of 30-40° C each bed needs more than just one bucket of water. Momodou was asked to buy more watering cans the following day and deliver them to the ladies.
A mere month after our return to Belgium Momodou sent us photographs of the garden full of healthy growing vegetables: what a little encouragement and effort can achieve! (see photos). What a change – and what a success! What a great crop.
As you know, Nafugan consists of six communities which makes it bigger than an average village. Many more women want to participate in the garden but are unable to because of the size (50 m x 50 m). Given the present achievement we have decided to enlarge the garden and quadruple it in size.
We left Nafugan direction Maneh Kunda, a community near Basse, where for the past sixteen years a group of ladies manage a vegetable garden. Unfortunately part of the fence had come down and their crop was being eaten by goats and cows. They asked us to sponsor a new fence. The garden measures 72 m x 58 m; a new fence would cost around € 800.00. We promised to consider their application and on our return home decided to acquiesce to their request. This is not a new project, but a once only aid to a worthwhile cause.
We took the North Road for the return journey which enabled us to stop in N’Jau, a village where Manon advises with a group of women in the local skill centre. They make objects with beads (e.g. crocodile key rings), crochet hand and make-up bags from old plastic bags, sew dresses, make soap, tie and dye materials and work in a small vegetable garden.
We ended our Gambian stay with a nice cup of attaya (Gambian tea) in Kololi Craft market.
What else is happening in 2011?
= Event (wereldfeest) in Bokrijk on 28 August 2011: it will be our first participation in this biannual happening. Approximately 60 Belgian charitable organisations with projects all over the world will participate. There will be lots of entertainment for children and adults. So do come and visit our stand.
= Beer tasting in Antwerp: 19 November 2011. Make a note in your diary: an invitation will follow.
= Christmas market at De LindePoort, Mechelen: date unknown, but presumably on 17 December 2011.
Expanding the garden
Our visit to Nafugan showed us that in order to improve the lives of the women, a lot still needs to be done on both sides. Thank you all for your help during the last year. However, we would like to seek your further assistance: now the garden produces positive results, we have decided to enlarge the garden to four times the size (thus 100 x 100 m). This means we have to expand the fence, build 2 more wells and buy more material (watering cans, hoes, rakes and seeds). Of course we need to raise more money for this and we hope to accomplish this with your support. We would like to enlist your aid in helping the women of Nafugan improve their circumstances.
Any donation is welcome. You can also give your bank a standing order, e.g. € 2 (a cup of coffee) or € 3 (a cappuccino) a month. Or more, but every eurocent helps and goes entirely to the project.
Thank you very much.
The SHHG-Belgium Team
STICHTING HUMANITAIREHULP GAMBIA-BELGIË
AXA bank : 751-2037600-58