Neneh Binta Jallow heads her own household in Moriya village in the Niamina East district of the Central River Region (CRR). The village has a population of 31 people living in 8 compounds. Different ethnic groups live side by side and there are both Mandinka, Fula and Wollofs.
According to the village head’s wife, Mrs Camara the poor rains in the last season have resulted in serious crop failure. This year for example, most of the crops grown in the village have been affected. This has affected the recovery/payment of loans for seed cereal banking scheme which was operational in this part of Niamina for the past 4 years, because most of the farmers have low productions or no production at all. Feeding the family is the first priority, paying back is the second.
The crops of the village are grown in different ecological zones.While rice, which is mainly a food crop, is grown by women is cultivated in the lowlands, other food crops are grown in the uplands such as early millet, maize and sorghum which are mostly grown by men. Groundnuts are also grown not only by men but also by the women of the Wollof community. Other cash crops grown are water melon and pumpkin. These cash crops are grown for the Senegalese buyers who during the harvest season bring lorries to buy from producers. Groundnuts are taken to the main buying point at Kudang.
For early millet, ¾ of the farms cultivated have failed. For maize, there is complete failure. Groundnuts have also suffered 90% loss. NERICA rice which has been recently introduced, and where There was massive campaign by the Directorate of Agriculture to get farmers involved in production last season has completely failed.
Neneh Binta also said the little food harvested this year was mainly from lowland rice and millet, but this has all run out of stock in March 2012.
In such a situation as we are in, it is clearly indicated that our children, the elderly, the pregnant women, lactating mothers and the widowed are the most affected
Neneh Binta who is the head of her household has to take care of her five children alone. She lost her husband two years ago, and since then she has taken care of the family alone from what she can make on her farms. This year she is in despair because has to go the extra mile to feed her family. She is now going to the river bank five days a week to cut the flowers of a certain type of weeds called “Bankang” in Mandinka. They are used to make local pillows. She goes in the morning to harvest flowers for six hours, coming back in the afternoon she will be sewing the pillow bags and putting the dry flowers into the bags to complete the pillows case for sale. The afternoon work is coupled with cooking the second meal for her family. She cooks twice a day, which means that they eat only twice a day too. In the past years Neneh Binta used to work on her farms for no more than six months during the year in order to feed and take care of all the basic need of her family. But this year she is working year round and has had to venture into what is traditionally known as men’s work.
Every Monday of the week Neneh Binta will walk 5 Kilometres to Kudang’s weekly market - the “Lumo” -to sell her pillows. Sometimes she will sell up to 5 pillows at a price of D30, each equivalent to 1 dollar, and sometimes less. Her family uses the money from the sales of pillows to buy rice and provide other basic need for the family until the next weekly market comes. We are talking hand to mouth living here.
The impact of the food crises is so severe that the families do not think of buying new clothes. Neneh Binta Jallow says “Konkoto buka bayi sango miira”, meaning a hungry person, do not think of buying clothes.
The above blog is based on an analysis of the findings done by the ActionAid assessment team that Lamin Saidykhan Activista Coordinator participated in. The assessment showed that the drought has seriously impacted the food and cash crop production in the last cropping season. As a result, most farmers have experienced low food and cash crop production. This has influences the availability of food, and they are currently reaching exorbitant prices beyond the reach of most families. There is an urgent need for support to Neneh Binta Jallow’s family and people of the area before it is too late – food production will not go up until the rains come in September.
Neneh Binta is living in an area where ActionAid International The Gambia is working