“A Goldmine in The Gambia” - Dr Nick Maurice
“A Goldmine in The Gambia” Background to Mango Project Following the publication in 1980 of the Brandt Report, “North South – A programme for Survival” a group of people in the market town of Marlborough, Wiltshire UK (population 8,000) came together to discuss how they might respond to the recommendations in the report, not least the suggestion that new partnerships should be developed between communities of all kinds in the North and South. The then Gambian High Commissioner to London Abdoulie Bojang recommended Gunjur in the Kombo South region of The Gambia for the development of a partnership with Marlborough. The community of Gunjur has been linked to the market town of Marlborough in Wiltshire, UK since 1982.
This partnership has been based on the understanding that people in both communities have as much to learn from each other as they have to give and to date the link has involved the exchange of some 1700 people between the two communities although that exchange programme has been undermined by the impossibility of getting UK visas for young Gambians to visit Marlborough as they did annually until 2009.
In 1997 following the award to the Marlborough Brandt Group (MBG) of a major grant of £407,000 from the UK National Lottery and in consultation with partners in Gunjur it was felt that while the exchange programme had been vital for learning and the development of trust between people in Marlborough and Gunjur, the time had come to address some of the development problems facing the Gunjur community, poor health (malaria, gastroenteritis, poor nutrition etc) low literacy rates for women, lack of access to clean water, absence of early childhood education etc. It was agreed to form a Gambian NGO TARUD (Trust Agency for Rural Development).
Since then much has been achieved by MBG working in partnership with TARUD. A women’s literacy programme, malaria eradication through the provision of bednets, a water and sanitation programme, a microcredit scheme for young entrepreneurs, a health education programme, a women’s 12 acre vegetable garden have all led to a major improvement in the livelihoods of people in Gunjur. The Political Environment.
TARUD and MBG have been collaborating during the past 20 years despite working in an adverse political environment caused by a military coup in 1994 and the installation of the dictator, Yayha Jammeh a, then, 29 year old Captain in the army. He was ousted in 2016 and the new President Adama Barrow was installed bringing with him a team of very experienced people in his various ministries and a determination to make The Gambia the ‘Human Rights capital of West Africa’. Internationally there may be future economic opportunities, given that The Gambia has been welcomed back into the Commonwealth prior to the Heads of Government meeting to be held in London in April 2018 having been withdrawn by the previous President in 2013 who declared the Commonwealth a ‘Colonial organisation’.
The Economic Environment With a population of 1.9 million, The Gambia is one of the poorest countries in the world rated at 173 out of 188 in the United Nations Development Programme Human Development Index. Its economy is largely dependent on tourism which suffered badly during the Ebola crisis despite there being no cases of Ebola in the country or in Senegal which surrounds the Gambia on three sides with the Atlantic Ocean on the fourth. The potential for the development of a mango industry.
The West Coast region of The Gambia is potentially rich in mango trees, there being tens of thousands of such trees bearing fruit of predominantly six different varieties, Keith, Kent, Jurr, Sierra Leone, Tandok, Core-man. The trees and orchards are in private ownership by families and communities. At present a very small minority of the fruit is either consumed or sold locally and an even smaller percentage is exported as fresh fruit through Radville Farms operating for Whealmoor. By far the majority of the fruit, probably as much as 90% lies rotting on the ground.
In the community of Gunjur, 83 mango growers have come together to form a Gunjur Mango Growers Cooperative (GMGC) in order to explore ways in which they can collaborate to improve the quality and increase the sale of their mangoes both locally and internationally including to the UK and surrounding ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) countries. They have drawn up a development plan.
In discussions with local mango growers in Gunjur it appears that Radville Farms have recently been accepting mangoes from them and taking them to their headquarters for sorting prior to export, but the farmers have not been receiving payment for their produce the excuse given that they were not suitable for export but no evidence given! Considerable hostility was expressed.
A basket of 100+ mangoes in The Gambia costs £1.40 whereas they are sold at over £1.10 per fresh mango in supermarket stores in the UK and as much as £1.80 for a packet of dried mangoes. In Gunjur the Mayor (Alikali) and elders in Gunjur have allocated a plot of land 100 metres x 50 metres, one mile from the centre of the town on which both a cold storage and a mango drying facility could be placed. Clearly, training of young men and women will be required in the development of a proper management structure and the execution by such a facility and all aspects of the value chain including cold storage, sorting, drying, packaging, transport to export facility etc.
We met on 29 October 2017 with a number of stakeholders including a major meeting with TARUD trustees, 13 members of the GMGC, at which were also present Fallalo Touray, until recently Director General in the Ministry of Agriculture, Demba Touray, Chair of the Village Development Committee, Lamin Janneh, successful local businessman etc.
Points raised at this meeting included:-
• There is huge potential for the development of the mango industry • Unemployment among young men and taking the ‘back way’ is a major problem • The mango industry could be a solution to the problem • The GMGC has done a lot of work but long term intense commitment is required with trust between members • A management structure is urgently required with skilled people in place • An MOU is required between GMGC, Ministry of Trade and Industry and Ministry of Agriculture in order for GMGC to gain their support • The World Bank is interested in providing support but not until due processes have been set in place. • Communication with UN FAO would be helpful • Collaboration between United Purpose and TARUD could achieve this. • The potential of this industry is not just for Gunjur but could spread to the whole of the West Coast region. • Concern about Radville Farms not paying the mango producers. • A strategy paper will be produced and next weekend 5/11/17 it will be agreed who will be responsible for developing this. This paper will include a. Business Management skills required – institutional responsibility – relationship with Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Trade and Industry b. Encouragement of young people c. Training of mango growers d. Care of the trees and fruit fly e. Proper care and sorting of the fruit f. Drying mangoes g. Cold storage where? Cost? Maersk? h. Routes to export i. Financial Resources required In a subsequent visit to Gunjur and discussion with the Gunjur Mango Growers’ Cooperative by Malcolm Johnston who in the past has been involved in importing papaya from Ghana to UK, he made the following points:- • The opportunity will only be fully realised by selling into the three markets available - whole fruit, dried fruit & puree. In the medium to long term, export of whole fruit only represents too small a percentage of the whole crop to cover the significant costs involved in setting up and in meeting export quality requirements. • To meet the standards required by European importers, internationally recognised accreditation will be required, such as SGF, BRC & ISO. The ability to conduct onsite tests of consignments to ensure they meet international standards will be required. • Both the Keitt (seemingly incorrectly spelt Keith in the GMGC draft) & Kent varieties that make up 80% of the trees in the Gunjur area produce very large fruit (around 600 - 700 gms) compared with popular European varieties such as Alphonso (around 400 grams). Investigation needs to be done to establish to what extent this affects the market for export of whole fresh fruit and the impact it might have on prices. Asking Tesco would be a good start. • I have been unable to find any infor