Upgrading farming practices in the Gambia
As part of the regional office for agriculture Mr. Aziz Sowe works as extension officer in the region of Kuntaur in the interior of Gambia. He is the leader of a center for mixed farming entailing 8 ha. Besides him two gardeners and two instructors are working at the center, which serves as a model farm for the farmers in the region. The farmers come and learn from the center and also Mr. Aziz Sowe and the instructors continuously visit the farmers and support them with all kinds of agricultural advice and knowledge.
Farmers support center
The advices and professional support pertain to general production issues including agriculture and animal breeding as well as horticulture etc. The rainy season only lasts three months from July until the end of September. During the rest of the year vegetable gardening by means of irrigation is the only alternative option, and besides that different forms of animal breeding. The vegetable gardening is mainly in the hands of the women, working in groups and it is as yet only destined for household use.
The farmers are facing many issues, like the availability of water, the necessity of fencing (against goats, but also wild animals), diseases, the choice of the right fertilizers and also the right feedstock for the animals, transport for reaching out to the market (once a week, but at a large distance).
For instance if farmers grow onions and tomatoes the extension officer will pay them a visit to give them practical advice on the use of seedlings, the amount of water, fertilizers and monitor whether they choose for organic fertilizers, which ones and how much. If they choose for poultry he advises on infections, feeding, on when they are ready for the market.
Lodging and supervision
Circumstances are very basic. There is hardly internet, no electricity, no storage facilities let alone cool storage. Also living circumstances are very basic in a very quiet but also beautiful landscape.
In this assignment that is cooperation between Planetary Service, and Kairoh Garden, which is a guesthouse managed by a Dutch Gambian couple, operating as a social enterprise that also takes care for orphaned young people.
The mixed farming center and the extension activities need support from internship students who are interested in the following assignments:
- Supporting the best practices model of the mixed farming center in its daily activities, adding some special experiments, e.g. with producing homemade fertilizer, with disease management, hydroponics, and several other that are relevant to local farmers and adaptable to their practices.
- Data collection amongst the farmers in the region in order to map and monitor their existing practices in the different farming strategies they use: fertilizers, disease treatment, harvest data, marketing etc. The goal of that is to be better positioned to make the advice specific to their needs.
- Experimenting with storage facilities made from local materials and not based on electricity.
- Experimenting with low key processing of harvested products, like marmalade, juice, drying spices.
- Working on a project proposal for fundraising for the upgrading of local farming facilities and practices.
Although the above-mentioned internship assignments are primarily targeted at students in agriculture, students with a background in other study programs are also welcome, if only they can contribute to the above-mentioned activities and objectives.