By Mariama Marong
Women gardeners in Sukuta, West Coast Region, have decried the losses they incurred in marketing their products due to lack of storage facilities and shortage of water.
Gardeners in the country grapple with lack of storage facilities and water shortage. Nonetheless, in The Gambia, anecdotal evidence showed that more women engage in gardening activities than men.
Many people in the Gambia are directly or indirectly involved in agriculture, and horticulture, a branch of agriculture, that seems to be neglected by stakeholders.
Fatou Bojang, a gardener at the Sukuta Women’s Garden, says their garden helps them to generate income and sustain their respective families. Madam Bojang says gardening is hard work that needs time and concentration and it takes all their time yet when the results are out, they benefit less.
“The main challenges we are faced with is inadequate supply of water and lack of storage facilities to store our produce,” she said.
The 45-year-old gardener says vegetable sellers who often buy their garden produce wholesale take advantage of their situation and buy the vegetables at a price that is not favorable to them.
“This is because many of us cannot go to the market and sell our vegetables,” she added.
Bojang says horticulture is beneficial, but the manner in which their produce is purchased from them by middlemen is hindering their development in the sector.
She says the government has a great role to play in remedying the conditions that gardeners are faced with.
“The low prices that the vegetable sellers sometimes impose on us are due to lack of facilities to store our produce. If we have a store that we can use to keep our vegetables for a long period, then we will be able to sell our produce at a good price,” she says.
Kaddy Sano, also a vegetable gardener, says nothing is more painful than seeing your hard work go in vain. She blames the government for not providing them with facilities to keep their vegetables, this she says, is why they continue to incur losses.
“When there are many vegetables in the markets obviously the prices of our produce will go down. It’s either we sell it at a low price or lose it all,” she explains.
Sano says transportation is sometimes challenging to them because vehicle owners usually increase the cost of transportation and this often leaves women struggling to pay for the service.
Touray Jatta, another gardener at the Sukuta women garden, says the government should assist women, especially women gardeners, saying she spent almost D10,000 on her garden and got less than that amount after she harvested her produce.
“The money I spent on my garden was a colossal sum, but when the produce was ready for the market, it coincided with other gardeners’ harvesting their produce, such as tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuces. So, the supply was high and the demand was low. That was my dilemma,” she says.
Jatta says they also want to export their produce to other countries, citing Senegal as an example. She says most of the vegetable sellers go to Senegal and buy vegetables there, even if the period for that produce has passed. This is because they have facilities to store their produce unlike us in The Gambia, she says.
“Gardeners in Senegal are not harder working than we are, but the only difference between us and them is the support they have from their government. They are supported by their government and they have huge storage facilities. However, we lack support from our government,” she adds.
Speaking further, Jatta says water is their greatest strength when it comes to gardening but also their weakness as well. Thus, she calls on the authorities to help them address their problems.
Sainey Sillah, another gardener, expresses similar sentiments regarding the issue of water constraints women in Sukuta are grappling with. To her, this should be a cause for concern to the state.
“I did not water my vegetables for two days due to unavailability of water, because our main source of water is the borehole and it had some technical problems and NAWEC is inconsistent when it comes to electricity supply. Nevertheless, the borehole has been repaired, but the water issue is still a challenge,” she said.
She also joins her colleagues to call on the government through the Ministry of Agriculture to look into the constraints that women in the gardening sector are encountering; support them with storage facilities and provide them with facilities that will help them have adequate supply of water.