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Sunday, January 16, 2022

‘Taste this, it’s salty’: how rising seas are ruining the Gambia’s rice farmers | Global development

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In the sweltering warmth of the late-morning west African solar, Aminata Jamba slashes at golden rice stalks with a sickle. “The rice is gorgeous,” she says, song enjoying within the background as her son, Sampa, silently harvests the grain. However although the standard is top, the volume isn’t.



Whilst as soon as Jamba will have anticipated to reap sufficient rice to remaining the entire yr, this yr she reckons it is going to remaining 3 to 4 months. After that, she must glance in different places for a option to feed her circle of relatives and make sufficient cash to are living.

“Issues are other now,” explains Manding Kassamah, a fellow farmer and mom of 9, recent in from the rice fields, empty water can in hand. “The rains used to come back in lots. Other folks would paintings and feature a excellent harvest. Now, we paintings onerous however we don’t get as a lot rice as we used to.”



Manding Kassamah, a rice farmer in Kerewan, says the soil started to get saltier about 25 years in the past however the procedure has speeded up previously decade. {Photograph}: Sylvain Cherkaoui/Dad or mum

Historically, rice farming within the Gambia has been most commonly carried out via ladies, whilst their male opposite numbers take care of the groundnuts. However for years now the feminine farmers have watched because the land round them turns into increasingly more tough to regulate.

Right here in Kerewan, at the north financial institution of the Gambia River, they’re struggling with the local weather disaster on two fronts. Emerging sea ranges are pushing saltwater additional and additional alongside the river, which snakes its means around the period of the low-lying nation, and extended dry spells imply much less freshwater to flush out the salinity. The result’s that the water within the fields that used to provide rice is now too salty, and the a lot of the land – greater than 30 hectares (74 acres) – has needed to be deserted. For ladies comparable to Jamba and Kassamah, that may be a crisis.

A farmer,on an expanse of salt
Almamo Fatty, a farmer, displays the layer of salt the place there was a rice box. {Photograph}: Sylvain Cherkaoui/The Dad or mum

“Those ladies are driven out they usually don’t have many different livelihoods to show to love males,” says Muhammed Ceesay, 27, from the youth-led organisation Activista. “It pushes them into poverty. They’re very susceptible.”

The ladies listed here are moderately fortunate, as they do have another supply of meals and source of revenue within the type of a vegetable lawn. They may be able to develop aubergines, tomatoes, peppers and onions, and know that, although they have got dwindling rice provides, they’ll have one thing to promote or devour. “It’s our the next day,” says Binta Fatty. “It is helping us in such a lot of spaces as it is helping us keep wholesome and so that you could purchase small issues for our youngsters. That’s why we focal point at the lawn after the rice fields.”

This backup is very important. Closing yr’s rice harvest most effective lasted Fatty about six months prior to she needed to do what in Kerewan would as soon as had been unthinkable: purchase imported rice.

Up to now 10 years, this has change into the norm around the Gambia. “On this neighborhood there used to be a time when, in the event that they noticed you purchase rice from the store, they might know there used to be starvation in your home. Now, it’s the order of the day,” says Almamo Fatty, 63, no shut relation of Binta, despite the fact that the 2 shaggy dog story that they’re brother and sister.

“I don’t suppose you are going to see somebody on this neighborhood [now] who will say: I will farm sufficient rice to feed my circle of relatives for longer than six months,” he says.

Binta Fatty, rice farmer
Binta Fatty’s rice harvest remaining yr most effective lasted her for 6 months, while it as soon as would have lasted for the yr. {Photograph}: Sylvain Cherkaoui/The Dad or mum

His personal is not any exception. His son, Kemo Fatty, a local weather activist who used to be a part of the Gambian delegation to the Cop26 local weather summit, has noticed how his mom has change into regularly much less self-sufficient. “She has to rely on my pay cheque to in truth purchase rice that comes from China, and this has been taking place for the previous couple of years now,” he says. “Believe, from having our personal rice that we grew and ate all yr spherical to having no rice in any respect.”

The Gambian executive is aware of extra must be carried out to offer protection to its farmers from the have an effect on of the local weather disaster: agriculture is the most important sector of the economic system, accounting for approximately 1 / 4 of GDP and using about 75% of the labour drive.

However, from low technological capability to deficient power provides, the demanding situations for farmers are daunting. Nearly all meals within the nation comes from rain-fed fields, making farmers specifically liable to adjustments in precipitation.

And feminine farmers – who’re anticipated to shoulder the load of taking good care of their households in addition to incomes their stay, possibility home violence as poverty bites, and are ceaselessly not able to get entry to the birth control they want to keep an eye on what number of youngsters they would like – are arguably essentially the most susceptible of all.

The Gambian local weather activist Fatou Jeng, who used to be additionally in Glasgow for Cop26, says that despite the fact that they make up about 70% of the rustic’s agricultural staff, girls and women “face insufficient get entry to to elementary herbal assets wanted for farming”.

Writing for the World Rescue Committee website online, she adds: “There’s a nice injustice on the center of all of this. All too ceaselessly, those under-represented teams, comparable to ladies residing in fragile states, perceive maximum about what’s at stake and, subsequently, the answers had to take on local weather exchange. But ladies particularly had been systematically excluded from the decision-making desk.”

In brief, if ladies like Jamba, Kassamah and Fatty are omitted of the local weather disaster resolution, the answer might by no means be discovered.

Salt held up on the tip of a machete
Almamo Fatty displays the salt encrusting what was high agricultural land close to Kerewan. {Photograph}: Sylvain Cherkaoui/The Dad or mum

Status at the boggy banks of a tributary of the Gambia River, Almamo Fatty gestures to the bottom, the clay glowing within the sunshine. “These items you spot shining? This is salt,” he says, shaving off a skinny layer with a machete. “For those who style this, it’s salty.” And it’s.

“Two decades in the past, when you grew rice right here it might develop like this,” he says, gesturing to his shoulder. One box would have produced 20 luggage of rice. Now, there are plans for a dyke to prevent the saltwater, however he is aware of lifestyles won’t ever return to how it used to be prior to the local weather disaster arrived. “This land right here, it used to be all rice fields,” he says. “Now it’s all deserted.”

Further reporting via Omar Wally



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