With support from international partners, little over 500 Gambian women in the village of Njoben has built a successful garden and made a savings of over half a million in 4 years.
On Wednesday, these hardworking women were paid a visit by King Letsie III of Lesotho who was in the country upon invitation of Food and Agricultural Organisation, a UN body the King serves as a goodwill ambassador.
‘In four years, the villagers have saved up to 500, 000 in their joint account,’ said Lamin Jawara, an agricultural extension worker from Sapo.
The money, the gardeners said, is used as a credit facility for their members in need.
“With this garden, the community is sure to tackle two major things: problem of nutrition and household income. I am so inspired by the work that you are doing here. What is more impressive is that the work has reached a period of sustainability,” said Letsie III.
The Njoben garden started in the 1980s by the Action Aid. In 2008, the International Fund for Agricultural Development helped the community to fence it again after the initial fence collapsed.
However, though successful, the community still had several challenges with the garden including limited spacing.
In 2018, the Food and Agricultural Organisation helped through the funding of the European Union to expand the garden from one hectare to five hectares.
The community was further trained on gardening and helped by agricultural extension workers to introduce more variety of vegetables.
The King was accompanied to the village by several high profile people including the agricultural minister Lamin Dibba, EU and UN officials.
The country director of the FAO, Perpetua Katepa–Kalala, said the EU-funded project supported 8 gardens in the country which are mostly run by women.
Darrell Sexstone, an EU official among the delegate who visited Njoben, said they have spent about €40, 000, 000 of aid in Gambian agriculture in the past decade, half of which is on nutrition related issues.
“EU is very interested in the fight to end stunting and malnutrition,” said Sexstone.
One of the villagers who benefited from the garden, Shering Ceesay, said the garden has been very beneficial to the community in providing nutrition and income.
Similar views were expressed by Yamou Surr, the vice president of the group that runs the gardens.
There are currently 504 females and 14 males working at the garden. Njoben has 119 households with a population of 2349.