While the coast of The Gambia is a popular—and economically thriving— tourist destination for European vacationers, the inland portion of the country provides little means for young men to make a living. Many leave their villages for the coast or even other countries, in hopes of making more money in urban areas.
This economic disparity within The Gambia, coupled with its agricultural potential, is what inspired Sandy Martin to found the Home Farm Project in 2004. The Home Farm Project works with rural communities to establish the basic training, tools and other resources needed to build a productive and income-generating farm, and give young men from the area a reason to stay.
“It really hurts the community when the men leave,” says Sandy. “Everyone suffers because of it.”
It’s not that women don’t farm too, explains Sandy. It’s just that, in addition to keeping gardens, women are responsible for caring for the children and other household chores. And it is the men who, without the proper resources to make a living from farming, find they have little recourse but to leave the villages in search of employment elsewhere.
The Home Farm Project works with villages to break up community land and give it to young men who have expressed interest in farming. The organization builds wells and provides pumps to make the water more accessible for irrigation. It promotes drought tolerant plants and trees, such as moringa, in order to diversify crops, create a year-round harvest, and provide resistance to the arid climate. Many of the trees and shrubs promoted by the project can also be used as “live fences” to keep out baboons and other animals in the area that often pillage small gardens and farms. All of these plants and shrubs provide additional benefits such as fodder for livestock and help to sequester carbon in, and provide nutrients to, the soil.
The ultimate goal is to help farmers build a business and as much as possible, the projects source materials used to build home farms locally. Two farmers in the Kunkoto district, for example, have, with the help of the Home Farm Project, established a Sustainability Centre or nursery, to provide other local farmers with seeds and seedlings to build their own income generating farms.
“This isn’t about a hand out,” says Sandy. “It’s so important for these projects to become self-sustaining because that is what will provide food and income over the long run. And what will strengthen the community.”
To learn more about innovations that turn agriculture into a livelihood, see: How to Keep Kids “Down on the Farm,” Conversations with Farmers: Discussing the School Garden with a DISC Project Student, Cultivating a Passion for Agriculture, Improving Farmer Livelihoods and Wildlife Conservation, Protecting Wildlife While Improving Food Security, Health, and Livelihoods, and Helping Conserve Wildlife–and Agriculture–in Mozambique.
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