in the Central River Region (CRR) have described an intervention led by the
Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) as ‘life
changing’ that paid them more than 12 million dalasis within six months.
The initiative name “Cash For Work” targeted to help contribute to building the resilience of vulnerable communities in the Central River Region who were hard-hit by the effects of climate change induced phenomenon such as erratic and poor rainfall, drought, floods and marauding hippos in 2017. FAO in close partnership with the soil and water management unit of the Department of Agriculture, regional agricultural directorates in Sapu and Kuntaur and the Gambia Red Cross Society rolled out a six-month “Cash for Work scheme in the area.
The Cash for Work scheme enabled the over nine hundred farmers (representing more than 7272 people) selected based on vulnerability of their children to malnutrition to improve access roads to their rice fields, reduce vulnerability to floods, increase the flow of water into the irrigated rice scheme with a monthly wage of D3,600 each.
Farmers said not only has the intervention helped them to earn income to pay for basic needs and to strengthen their resilience to climate change but it has also discouraged many young people from migrating either from rural to urban areas or taking up the irregular migration route.
More than 2040 hectare of tidal irrigation area has been rehabilitated in both CRR north and south. In Jahally alone, a 6 km irrigation canal has been cleared and desilted with 4 culverts installed and 3 km of the main irrigation feeder canal cleared. At Pacharr rice fields, 19 km of perimeter of the rice scheme has been cleared (removing trees harbouring birds that feed on the rice) and 1 culvert installed while at Niani Sukuta,a 3 km of access road to the rice field was rehabilitated and 5 km of the main 3 feeder irrigation canals connecting the rice field to River Gambia was also cleared.
The Cash for Work scheme was supported by the European Union funded Project entitled “Post Crisis-Response to Food and Nutrition Insecurity in The Gambia”. The 29-month project is aimed at contributing to the reduction of stunting among children under the age of two in the country by addressing both the underlying causes and immediate needs of malnourished and at-risk households. It is being executed by the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), World Food Programme (WFP) and The United National Children’s Fund (UNICEF) according to their corporate mandates, expertise and comparative advantages. The €11.5 million project is being implemented in the North Bank, Lover River, Central River and Upper River regions with FAO serving as the lead agency.
“This is a very fine project. It has significantly helped us to cope with the crop failure we experienced in 2017 due to lack of water in the field and flash floods,” Jalamang Jassey of Brikamanding said after receiving his payment on Saturday.
He said before the coming of the project, they were faced with feeding challenges and providing for their household needs. He said the cash for work initiative created opportunities for them to work for themselves and get paid and enabled young people in the area to stay with their families and earn a living for themselves. “It has greatly reduced youth migration and dependency in the area,” he added.
Baa Marega, a farmer in Jahally who heads a household of more than 50 also said, “This project is very important to us. It has helped eased many difficulties we were facing particularly on feeding.” He said his 2017 harvest only sustained his household for one month but the cash for work initiative has been able to provide for them without taking loans.
Jahally and Pacharr rice fields used to be supported by the Chinese during Gambia’s first republic with year-round production, but they left after former President Jammeh cut ties with the government of China shortly after taking over the country’s leadership in 1994.