Monday, February 07, 2011

Organic Meadow and REAP-Canada: Solidarity Visit to Gain Ground in the Gambia and Senegal

At the most beautiful vista in the country, overlooking the River Gambia, the Organic Meadow crew: Maria Biemond, Shelly Juurlink, Peter Biemond, and Anita Tucker, with REAP-Canada intern Margaret Graves, GGIGS Livestock Officer Abdoulie Loum, NATC driver Mamoud Panneh, GGIGS Project Officer Sulayman Darboe, GGIGS Community Organizers Hadijatou and Baboucarr Ceesay, and other AVISU staff members.

For two weeks in September, Organic Meadow Co-operative farmers visited the Gambia to learn from and support farmers in the West African country. Peter and Maria Biemond, Linton McCoy and Shelly Juurlink represented Organic Meadow, and Anita Tucker, a Research Associate in Animal Science at the University of Guelph, came along to offer her expertise. The project was spearheaded by Ms. Juurlink, who, as a former REAP intern, and an active contributor to REAP, has a lasting commitment to the Gambian situation.

Upon arrival, the group were fortunate to experience some traditional Gambian music, the beautiful beach at Bijilo, and indispensible language and cultural training from Baboucarr Jallow, REAP’s regular Wolof-language trainer.

Once moving upcountry, they welcomed by REAP’s long-time Gambian partner, the Njawara Agricultural Training Centre (NATC), using the Centre as a base for 10 days. A few projects of interest were investigated, including REAP’s Gaining Ground in Gambia and Senegal (GGIGS), Concern Universal’s Gambia is Good (GIG), and a Senegalese women’s dairy cooperative.

The focus of the trip, however, was to encourage dialogue among the farmers – Canadian and Gambian. With this purpose in mind, tours and village meetings were organized in various places along the North Bank of the Gambia, including a visit to another of REAP’s partners, Agency for Village Support (AVISU), in the village of Kaur.

After a lively sendoff from Njawara, it was back to the city, as the Gambia’s National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) took on hosting duties, and the Canadians had a brisk tour of the more developed agricultural endeavors of the Kombo area.

It was an activity-intensive trip with plenty of food for thought. The farmers had an essential few days of downtime on the beach after returning to the coast, to digest, brainstorm and debate. And relax, of course!

REAP would like to thank the Organic Meadow group for their support and input. Peter, Maria and Linton also participated in REAP’s Development & Food Security workshop at the Guelph Organic Conference at the end of January, offering them another chance to share what they learned while overseas – and in the “re-entry period” since returning to Canada.


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