GUNJUR TO GET COLD STORAGE FACILITY FOR FRUIT PRESERVATION BY THE END OF 2019
In complementing the development efforts of government of the Gambia, Gunjur Development Association (GDA), Trust Agency For Rural Development(TARUD) in collaboration with Thriving Through Venture (TTV) a charitable organisation based in the UK held consultation meetings at the Gunjur Project Gambia to discuss the plans for the construction of Cold Storage facilities in Gunjur by the end of 2019.
High level meeting held at Gunjur Project to discuss the cold storage facility for Gunjur
Speaking at the meeting, Dr Nick Maurice, a co-founder of the Marlborough Brandt Group(MBG) in Wilshire, UK which has links with the people of Gunjur since 1983 who also doubles as a Trustee of TTV had these to say: “I think is is very important to understand that it is not a one way stream benefit for the people of Gunjur that many young people from Marlborough Wiltshire with more people in Gunjur have been linked now since 1983. Many young people from Marlborough gained considerable benefits from living and working here in Gunjur, for example, young people in Marlborough are now working in the field of international development because of the experience they have had here in this community. We are very grateful for every thing the people of Gunjur have given us in terms of personal and professional development.
The purpose of this year's visit is to bring 10 young people under the umbrella of a new charitable organisation called “Thriving Through Venture” which I am a trustee. We brought them here and living in the community but working alongside with Gambian partners and they have been engaged in 3 particular projects which are, exploring in the life history of the elderly people in there communities back home and here in Gunjur, they have interview many elderly people including Alikalo, the chief and women's leader in Gunjur to understand the life they have lead and compare that of the elderly people they have interview in the UK.”
Further commenting on the purpose of the visit by TTV, Dr Maurice revealed:
“Another small group of ten also learned the Art and skills of photography and they have been taking photographs of these elderly people so that the story and photos can be brought together as a book which we hope to publish and I am sure it will be fascinating comparing the life of people from different culture and environment, I think that will be interesting. The third group will be looking at the barriers to the development of the Mango industry which is what we are discussing with Gunjur Development Association.”
The backway menance due to lack of youth employment opportunities
Dr Nick Maurice lamented that the problems of unemployment here is too much which is why many young people take the back way journey to Europe where many die attempting to cross Mediterranean sea. Therefore, anything we can do to encourage and provide youth employment in the Gambia has got to be a good thing here in Gunjur. Dr Nick further stressed that Gunjur is surrounded by 1000 of mango trees, most of these fruits lay rotten on the ground during the entire mango seasons. “When I am in my supermarket in the UK, I can buy a single mango for D100 while here in Gunjur, I can buy the whole basket for the same price.”
Anything that can be done to encourage the export of mango to create wealth and employment in the community is a good thing. The mango growers with their Gambian counterparts have been interviewed together with prominent personalities in the Gambia including the British Ambassador to The Gambia. We have had very interesting discussions with Sharon Wardle in this area, as well as meeting with mango growers associations, the youth empowerment office and Topingo fruit who are already exporting some mangoes. The impact of the mango project will depend on very large extent on the collaboration with the community for e.g. the importance of getting some land in the community on which we can build cold storage unit, drying unit and juicing unit. If we can get everybody in Gunjur committed, to be able to work together to encourage this development then It could have a major impact on the people of Gunjur.
In the short-term, we have written a business project proposal which we will be sharing with the people we have interviewed, we recommend a management group for these program consisting of United Purpose( UP) in the Gambia as one of the most respected International NGOs, at the local level Trust Agency For Rural Development (TARUD) which we are working with since 1997 and the mango growers organisation in the Gambia. The next step is to appoint a manager who will be answerable to those organisations. His/her roles is to work with the Gunjur community looking at how he/she can educate the mango growers to deal with such issues like fruit flies which is a big problem, how they can work to eradicate fruit flies which is destroying many trees and there is so many educational needs that are required because people use traditional methods which will not satisfy the importers in Europe. The establishment of this project will depend on the the outcome of these meetings with GDA, acquisition of the land. I would hope that the maximum of 1-2 months time that the land would have been found measuring 100M by 100M on which the cold storage facility can be constructed. Dr Nick finally indicated that by the end of 2018 the manager would have been appointed and looking forward, by September to October 2019 the Cold Storage facility will be in place.
The shift in balance in farming
Speaking to GunjurOnline, Mr Baai Jabang the Executive Director of Trust Agency For Rural Development (TARUD) the Gambia said the reason of mango situation in West Coast Region particularly in Gunjur is because of the mango growers have scatted in everywhere, the situation is appalling because of the climate change, the erratic rain nature, the outbreak of insects and disease has shifted the farming patterns in the whole of West coast Region including Gunjur. Initially, it was swamped land where people grow rice and it will go the whole year round which meant rice is readily available, now because of that climate change that there is no more then livelihood become difficult. There is a whole shift in balance and attention has now focussed on Fruit Trees production including Mangoes, Oranges and paw-paw which are the areas of the men, on the side of the women they also shift to a small rice production coupled with horticultural production, this is the reason we have vegetable gardens cross the country. When there was a shift in balance people entered into mango production, there are massive mango orchards in kombo particularly Gunjur, over time there was no markets for their mangoes because the only market outlet was Brikama. The supply is so huge coming from all the regions in the country supplying one market then the market became saturated and there was no price, when the foreign market knows that there is lucrative market in the Gambia they explored that situation at the detriment of the farmers, there is whole desperation, lack of hope, focus and market, farmers don't know what to do because a whole basket full of mango at the peak period will sell for D50 or less.
Mr Jabang highlighted some situational analysis that if people are disparate, don't know what do, they always get into too much poverty and inability to support the family, if such thing happen the family will face dare consequences. In a situation like this the only hope that they have in the African family set-up including Gambia our children are our assets because initially they use to work in the farm but now that farming is no more with the limited amount of money you are unable to provide better education for your children, and if the opportunity for youths to work in the office is very slim they will use these irregular migration routes because of the desperation.
When Mango growers knew that there is no more groundnut production they organised themselves to form a kind of cooperative in order to move these mango issues, after the formation of these cooperative they had discussion with TARUD with the possibilities of salvaging their plight so that their way of life can be enhanced.
Resource mobilisation through collaboration
When I became the Executive Director of TARUD in 2017, I re-established these connection between Gunjur mango growers and Marlborough Brandt Group in Wilshire in order to further strengthen our collaboration. Mr Jabang said after connection with Marlborough Brandt Group, Dr Nick came on board and I had a fruitful discussions with him. Eventually, I was invited to attend a Trade Fair in the UK. While in the UK, I also met with the Kombo Sillah Association and in collaboration with Gunjur Development Association(GDA).
In the diaspora the energy is not properly energised between TARUD, KSA, GDA and other stakeholders until recently we had this meeting with Gunjur Development Association(Gambia Chapter) and Thriving Through Venture from UK. TARUD Executive Director said the coming of TTV led by Dr Nick is a breakthrough as they are working hard engaging with all the stakeholders to ensure that mango growers have their own Cold Storage facility in Gunjur. Mr Jabang finally challenged all the stakeholders particularly Gunjur Development Association (GDA) to work hard in order to make the project a success.
Also speaking at the meeting, Badara Njie Bajo, GDA Chairperson in the Gambia thanked TARUD and TTV for their invitation, said GDA’s doors are open for any community developments and will always want to work with any developmental partners with similar aims and objectives. Therefore all that is discussed here will be effectively communicated to GDA Executives, the most important thing is to draw a time line for an effective and better system approaches. He finally appeal to all the partners to put hands on deck to make things possible.