Human Tales of Resilience in Gambian Agriculture: Inspiring Story of three Gambian youth in the Agric sector 

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Yusupha Jarju with his produces from the Graden

By Fatou Dahaba

Agriculture, the cornerstone of The Gambia’s economy, faces challenges that jeopardize livelihoods and hinder production. Despite these hurdles, individuals like Yusupha, Omar, and Wuyeh showcase a determined spirit as they pursue their dreams amidst the complexities of climate change, economic constraints, and personal sacrifices.

Yusupha Jarju, a 32-year-old horticulturist, left the densely populated Sukuta in 2016 for the rural landscape of Badibu Saba in the North Bank Region of The Gambia. Inspired by a friend’s success in cucumber cultivation, he diversified into various crops. His dedication shines as he navigates the volatile market, projecting a profit of nearly D100,000 from over 100 cucumber beds despite water scarcity, fencing, and land limitations.

Yusupha’s journey underscores the nuances of cucumber production, where market dynamics fluctuate from lucrative highs to potential losses.

Yusupha’s journey underscores the nuances of cucumber production, where market dynamics fluctuate from lucrative highs to potential losses. His resilience is evident when faced with setbacks, rebounding with a steadfast determination to persist until success is achieved.

“I relocated to Badibou Saba because there are jobs I cannot do while in Sukuta due to stereotypes that would make me uncomfortable. I have no family or friends and did not know anyone in Badibou, so I can do any job here, and I won’t mind”, he told The Alkamba Times. 

According to Yusupha, his friends occasionally earn between 35,000 and 40,000 Dalasis from a single harvest during peak market periods. He needs help comprehending how such substantial profits are possible from cucumber sales in a single day.

Currently, Yusupha tends to almost 100 cucumber beds, anticipating a yield of at least 100,000 if market prices remain favorable after harvest. He defined the market dynamics, explaining how prices can vary significantly based on demand, impacting his profitability:

“When the demand is high, I can sell one kilo at D60.00 or D70. 00. It depends, but if the supply exceeds the demand, a kilo can cost about D10.00 or even D5.00. That is usually a loss for me, and in such circumstances, I don’t even have what to spend on production”, he explained.

Yusupha added, “When I harvest my cucumbers, they can reach 2000 kg or nearly 2 tons, and if my friends harvest theirs simultaneously, we all take them to Tipa Garage and sell them at a loss. When we see that happening, we go to Senegal because it’s close to Saba, and there’s one thing about Senegal: no matter how much you harvest, you always sell at a good price.”

Currently, Yusupha has two wells, each more than 7 meters deep. He connects pipes from these wells to water his cucumber beds.

Yusupha narrates a moment of despair when a batch of cucumbers failed, leading to financial losses. Once, he experienced losing all the cucumber seeds initially planted. Yet, he did not give up. He decided to try again, this time investing in different seeds. Despite facing challenges, he recovered from the setback and expanded his cucumber production to 100 beds. Yusupha’s determination and commitment to his goals allowed him to overcome obstacles and continue his path to success.

“I initially bought nine packets of cucumber seeds, each costing D950.00, and planted them in 27 beds, but unfortunately, they all died. I then purchased three Tokyo tins of cucumber seeds, each costing D2,500.00, and three sachets, each costing D850.00. Despite the challenges, I managed to make a small profit. I harvested about 400 to 500 kilograms of cucumbers, which allowed me to recover and expand to 100 beds of cucumbers. If I hadn’t been committed, I might have stopped, but I persisted until I reached where I am today”, he recounted.

Omar Secka, a 22-year-old from Sukuta Lambia, adds his voice to the narrative, embarking on his second cucumber harvest in Badibu Saba. Unlike Yusupha, Omar commenced this journey a year ago, realizing a profit of at least D20,000 from his previous batch. He envisions expanding his garden and creating job opportunities for fellow youth, challenging the notion that success necessitates leaving the country.

Omar Secka, a 22-year-old from Sukuta Lambia, speaking to TAT National Correspondent Fatou Dahaba

“Many young people believe if you don’t travel to Europe, you cannot make it to this country, which is not the case. There is money in this country through many means, but we can only achieve it when we get support from authorities because if I get the water I need, my production will go beyond this, ” he said. 

He continued, “People try to look down on me: my friends and family. But that’s normal to me, and this is my best job. I can do it, be comfortable, and make money without depending on anyone or doing what people want.”

Wuyeh Sillah, 27, abandoned a perilous migration journey to pursue greener pastures, opting for horticulture in Badibu Saba. Despite facing challenges such as fertilizer shortages and an unpredictable market, Wuyeh remains resolute in his commitment to bolstering The Gambia’s agricultural output, asserting that he could potentially supply cucumbers to the entire nation with support.

Wuyeh Sillah, 27, abandoned a perilous migration journey to pursue greener pastures, opting for horticulture in Badibu Saba.

Having migrated to Badibou Saba nearly five years ago, Wuyeh cultivated cucumbers, tomatoes, sweet peppers, and other crops. His journey was fraught with challenges, including initial setbacks with tomato cultivation and ongoing struggles with fertilizer scarcity and market volatility.

“When I came here, it was challenging; I started with cucumber and tomato cultivation. I have been here for almost five years, growing cucumbers and tomatoes. My tomatoes weren’t as good as they were supposed to be, and the first one I transplanted all died, ” he narrated.

Wuyeh faced various challenges in his agricultural endeavors. One significant challenge was timely access to sufficient fertilizer, which hindered his production scale. Additionally, he needed help with issues related to water availability and an unpredictable market, further complicating his efforts to sustain and grow his agricultural business.

“If prices are good, I stop Tipa Garage. Otherwise, I go as far as Senegal, or sometimes they [Senegalese] will come to the garden here and buy cucumber from me. The market price at Tipa Garage is determined by the women vendors there: the lower the supply, the higher the demand and price, and vice versa. Sometimes, we sell a kilo of cucumber D10 or even D5”, he said.

These stories illuminate the human dimension of Gambian agriculture, where individuals defy the odds, finding purpose and prosperity in tilling the land. As The Gambia grapples with an evolving economic landscape, their experiences underscore the imperative of supporting and investing in irrigation and drainage systems to unlock the nation’s agricultural potential.

Unlocking Potential Through Irrigation: A Call for The Gambia’s Agricultural Renaissance

The Gambia, heavily reliant on agriculture, confronts challenges that imperil food security and economic stability. As tales of resilience unfold, it becomes evident that developing irrigation and drainage systems is pivotal in unleashing The Gambia’s agricultural prowess. With the River Gambia’s vital water source and abundant underground resources, embracing tidal and pump irrigation is critical to sustainable growth.

Addressing water scarcity, climate change, and market unpredictability becomes imperative in a nation where agriculture significantly contributes to GDP. By investing in irrigation infrastructure, The Gambia can empower farmers like Yusupha, Omar, and Wuyeh, facilitating year-round cultivation, mitigating risks, and elevating the nation’s agricultural landscape.

As the world evolves, The Gambia’s agricultural renaissance hinges on strategic investments that support individual aspirations and ensure food security and economic resilience for the entire nation.

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