The West Africa Food Crisis is growing every day and the international community appears to be reluctant to intervene while it is still possible to avert the worst of the crisis. Bo Banks has been travelling around The Gambia to parts where ActionAid works and, as in this case, where it does not to get a real picture of what is going on.
Sarjo Dibba, 30, is one of two wives to a local groundnut farmer. She lives in the village of Jalangfarri located less than 100 meters from The Gambia-Senegal border.
In this tumultuous region (in close proximity to West Africa’s longest running civil conflict in Senegal), refugees fleeing the fighting are a common occurence and local markets are nonexistent due to the instability.
In Sarjo’s compound there are 13 people, including 9 children. Each year the family harvests groundnut (peanuts), millet and cassava. They save the millet for food, while the money they earn from the groundnut and cassava harvest pays for rice, cooking oil and other food items. In a good year, their food stock will supply the family until next season’s harvest, with two months near the end reduced to basic rationing - typically called ‘the hunger season’.
This year because of an extremely poor rainy season, the groundnut harvest (a lifeline for so many families in The Gambia) failed throughout country. Their millet and cassava yields were minimal. Sarjo’s husband is resorting to making charcoal (long banned in The Gambia due to rampant deforestation) and fetching firewood in hopes of bringing in some small revenue for the family.
The next planting season does not begin until July, with the harvest beginning in September. What this means for Sarjo and her family is a near constant struggle for food for the next 6 months. While the impact of the emerging food crisis in the Sahel has not fully emerged, Sarjo’s story shows desperation and the need for immediate assistance. As Sarjo says
During these long days, I am beginning to fear for my small children. The hunger season has already started.