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  • Writer's pictureOmar A. Manjang

Op-Ed: The Nostalgic Days

Written by Omar A. Manjang | Edited by: Lamin E. Manneh,

Children of today and myself thought this was just a story but it was indeed the reality in Gunjur in particular, Kombo in general and elsewhere in The Gambia and Africa as a whole. Rice self-sufficiency was reminiscent of that period in The Gambia when buying imported rice was associated with a demeaning status in the community. It was believed that "imported rice has an unpleasant odour".

Omar A. Manjang

Access to food in those days was never an issue. This was the time when old harvest was taken out or donated to make room for the fresh harvest in the store. Every household has a silo known as Buntungo and a food store called Sakaado. These stores were built with eco-friendly materials, using indigenous architectural methodology, which provide adequate ventilation and kept the produce for invariably longer periods. Such indigenous architectural stores have proven to be excellent storage facilities for keeping grains, nuts, seeds and food stuff. They prevented infestation by aflatoxin and other toxic or poisonous agents. These stores maintained low humidity and equally ensured the viability of seeds, organoleptic and phenotypical characteristics of seeds and grains.

Home grown rice fed the nation in the olden days

This happened during the period when our land was so fertile that even stones can literally grow food, as stated by Ali Maziriin his Triple Heritage of Africa "The soil of Africa was fertilized even the nails can grow”. This was when our heritage was sustainably used to support our existence and cemented unbreakable bonds between human and the ecosystem. This heritage, including our arable land, rivers, estuaries, lagoons and pastural vegetations, etc. all play key roles in the ecosystem by balancing the quality of life between humans and the ecology.


During these periods, popular production sites such as Tambakara, Jalato, Fafako, Juukanjaa, Yorrof, Sempeh, Yarang Sonko, Abukumala, Saalaa, Korfung, Baito, Kanuma, Saynga, Gironda, Wonyo, Sankoring, Kaynikoring, etc. were in good shape. The performance of rice varieties like Tunkung Jiranna, Attewndew, Burukuso, Kamosoro, Sanjalo, Kumbandingo, etc. and other field crops  used to be as beautiful as a bride.


The productive nature of these heritages established and cemented natural bond and symbiotic relationships with insects, birds, other primate and invisible living things. With the judicious and sustainable used of land, even the founding fathers and pacesetters like Manjang Fing, Bunja Janneh, Arajuma Kumba, Burama Gindaki, Yankuba Darboe and other warlords who fought with swords to establish the ownerships of these lands used to have their annual returns or rewards for establishing the foundation for generations yet unborn.


Farming was part of our common heritage; virtually the entire community of Gunjur and its surroundings neighbourhoods were farmers. Their artisan skills were supported by diverse cultural and societal stratifications which provided the skills sets needed for the progress of society. Descendants of Amara Sulu of Saa kunda provided black smith services through individuals like Bada Sanyang, Jawo Demba, Sana Janneh of Numu Kunda.


Wood carvers such as Kebakeba of Konoto and many others were known for their brilliant handicraft in carving Daba Falo. Similarly, there was a set of people called Joka Jalo, a set of griots that accompany legends such as Bai Darboe of Fabaida, Jerreh Yai of Mbata Kunda, Jaara Kaddy of Jabang Kunda and others, singing praise songs. Society undoubtedly acknowledged the indispensable roles of such people. It used to be the responsibility of the various Kafos to take care of the farms. It has been narrated that when the griots stood behind these strong men, the ploughing of that land is completed. This was the typical embodiments of the African society where everyone played a role and contributed towards the progress of society. The success of these skills sets provided unique opportunities for certain individual who capitalized from the potent nature of the agricultural industry, to achieve resounding successes which led to the financing of their pilgrimage to Makkah for Hajj.


Most of these people engaged in farming and rearing of cattle and other domestic animals, whereas others establish flourishing businesses to generate wealth to finance their journey to Makkah through the Sahara Desert. Such pioneers include Afang Loum Barrow, Fabinako Bojang, Falaloba Barrow, Fakaranta Touray, Ansunding Ndong, Bamusa Jatta [a Karoninka convert], Afang Demba Jatta, and an exceptional woman called Mbakarang from Njundu Kunda, who was said to have supported herself for the Hajj through petty trading. Inspirationally, three brothers from Alkali Kunda supported each other sequentially from their farm proceeds to performed Hajj. These three brothers were Sabaki Touray, Janko Solo Touray and Sheriffo Touray.


Noteworthy is the fact that certain families were able to leverage on masculinity in large numbers to cultivate vast land for crop production. Coupled with family ties and unity, such homes utilised the proceeds of their farms to establish family businesses. Such families included Fakaramba Kunda under the leadership of Fa-Karamba Darboe and Bojang Kunda under Fa-Malang Nambu.


It must be mentioned that rice and other grains catered for a great portion of our daily meals. Thanks to food technology ,innovations and value-addition, these helped to organically provide dietary options for a healthy and active population. The three daily meals were never compromised. In the early evenings, a mealtime called Seetaa was popular among children and the elderly. On Thursdays, powdered rice ball known as Aramisa Munko, Dempetengo and Challi Jiyo were common in keeping the society well-fed.


The active youth population were poised to stay committed in supporting their parents. Providing guidance in the society and maintaining the food basket of the family was a collective responsible. This period represents the real embodiment of Africa youths and their moral responsibly to the keep the society in good shape. Even the few that were opportune to attend schools had to join people on the farms after school.


Peer groups called Kafo played pivotal roles in providing agronomic services for a fee. Farming thus became a major medium or source of income for financing the routine operations of these Kafos. Currently, the sad reality plunges us into unsustainable lifestyles and the insatiable desire to amass wealth within the blink of an eye, which effectively puts the life of unborn generations into unpredictable uncertainties.


Farming had significantly maintained quality and healthy lifestyles in the communities. Unfortunately, this is no longer the reality, especially amongst the male folk. Remittance has become the main source of support for family economies. Our tangible cultural heritages such as arable lands were monetized for a few million Dalasis; swampy rice fields were sold for few million Dalasis, to be used as sand mines. Indigenous trees that lived for decades and centuries were felled for few thousand Dalasis. Worse still, intangible heritages such as the names of our farmlands and cultural sites were changed to foreign ones that have no cultural links whatsoever with our heritages. Birds and other Communities of organisms were threatened, engendered or extinct. Fresh water bodies that were used as drinking sites for animals dried up, resulting in an exponential loss of biodiversity.


The names of our indigenous tress, fruits and foods were gradually lost. Peer groups called Kafos are now transformed into Football Clubs with foreign names. Land disputes and misappropriation of communal and family properties, unsustainable used of natural resources all continue to affect the quality of life we collectively inherited.


Farming prosperity in Gunjur and Kombo is like a fictional story; everyone now relies on imported broken rice. Diet related disorders such as diabetes and hypertension continue to claim lives. Youths lose hope of achieving their dreams, owing to which we lost countless numbers of youths to Mediterranean Sea and the dessert. This is propounded by new wave of drug abuse that continues to ravage the youth population.






Copyright: 2017 - 2022 | GunjurOnline™
Copyright: 2017 - 2022 | GunjurOnline™
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