|Dried-up garden well|
Last August, the British Ambassador to The Gambia organized a town hall meeting in Gunjur to discuss, among other things, the development issues and challenges facing the town and its surroundings. He informed the gathering that The Gambia stands to lose out on a substantial amount of development aid from the European Union because of its poor human rights record. Development assistance in the region of € 150 million is being held in escrow to be unblocked only after the regime of Yaya Jammeh addresses the human rights outlined in the EU’s 17-point demands. Gunjur and surrounding towns are being adversely affected by the government
recalcitrant behavior towards the EU and other development partners, You can read the blog post here.
The town of Gunjur, as well as the rest of the Gambia, is being adversely affected in an equally challenging way by Jammeh’s unilateral decision to increase the tariff on trucks using the SeneGambia highway. The decision contravenes all trade protocols he’s signed with it’s regional partner ECOWAS and bilaterally with Senegal resulting in the two-week old border closure.
In Gunjur, as in many towns and villages in the Kombos, horticulture, fruit tree orchards and cassava have, to a large degree, replaced groundnut cultivation with the vegetable produce sold to area hotels and oranges and other fruits sold to Senegalese middlemen who transport it back to Senegal. This year, the cassava crop has been blighted by mosaic virus depriving Gunjur farmers with much needed income which will push many further below the poverty line.
|Blighted cassava plants|
The border closures have left the orange fruits rotting because the Senegalese trucks used in hauling them are stuck at the borders. The horticultural activities of the town have also fallen victim, not to the border closure but to sand mining (which you can read here) that has grown uncontrollably and in the process devastating the environment as well as the livelihood of the townspeople, especially women who normally are engaged in gardening.
Since Kartong youth demonstrated against the the environmental devastation caused by sand mining, Yaya Jammeh has decided to move to Gunjur to add to the plight of the people of Gunjur. We have learned that Sheriff Arjay Jammeh, the village chief, bought a truck and has joined Jammeh’s crew in sand mining that can only bring further hardship to an already distressed community, both environmentally and from an economic development standpoint. Chief Sheriff Arjay Janneh should know better.