By Katie Robinson, Canadian Red Cross Society
For the first time in 15 years, communities in Gambia found themselves without food and income following poor rainfall during the 2011–2012 harvest season. Families were forced to sell their assets and livestock, or survive on charity and foraging.
The Gambia Red Cross Society – with assistance from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the Canadian government – aimed to provide immediate and long-term assistance to vulnerable communities in the North Bank Division and Lower River Region.
Using a two-pronged approach, the Red Cross provided emergency life-saving interventions whilst also focusing on longer-term community resilience. Distributions of food, quality rice seeds and fertilizer addressed the immediate needs, whilst the longer-term resilience activities concentrated on women-run vegetable gardens. The Red Cross provided these gardens with infrastructure support, training, drought-resilient seeds, proper fencing and new concrete-lined hand-driven wells.
“Before the Red Cross came to support us, we were struggling to feed our families,” says Funneh Touray, who works in the Sukuta Women’s Community Garden in the Lower River Region. “Thanks to their support we are now able to grow our own food, and are no longer facing hardship.”
The community gardens are not only thriving, they are generating an income as crops and products like jams and juices are sold to nearby communities. This has allowed parents to send their children to school and pay for health care.
Touray is very proud of her community and is looking forward to expanding their garden. They currently have two hectares of fencing around the garden, but only half is currently being used. She is looking forward to the day when more seeds will be planted and there will be more crops to look after.
“I have seen a change in my community and I am very happy,” says Touray. “Many organizations have entered my village, but we have never received assistance like we did from the Red Cross. What the Red Cross has done, nobody will forget. We will maintain this garden and continue to work hard to make everyone who supported us proud.”