During a discussion with these rural women, they raised concern over the bad state of some of the major roads in the district, fertilizers and fencing materials. They said bad roads and lack of markets were negatively affecting their business, on which they depend for their living.
Aminata Trawally, a rice grower, from Mandory village, whose preoccupation includes going to the farm on daily- basis, cultivating onions, pepper, tomatoes and garden eggs during the dry season, now spends the day on her rice field during the rainy season.
“We are poor farmers who do everything to maintain the survival of our families but the government has forgotten us. Most roads, especially those leading to the main roads, Barra –Farafenni, are in a bad state,” she said.
She urged the government to put aside symbolic gesture and start helping the villagers. “We are now appealing to the government to intervene,” she added.
Majority of the women continue to play a subservient role, despite being the hardest hit, Gambian women contribute to the wellbeing of their families and the development of rural economies.
According to Fatou Njie, some of the consumers from the urban areas have stopped coming to buy their goods because of the bad roads, especially in the rainy season.
“We are very much worried with the bad road network. It is expensive for most of us to maintain our businesses now. As poor farmers, we are calling on the government to intervene as a matter of urgency and construct good roads and markets,” she lamented.
She said if customers from the urban areas do not come on time, their goods end up getting spoiled. She said as a result, they sometimes give it away at a reasonable price. .
Abdoulie Sowe, a businessman, who resides in Serrekunda, was found buying onions from different women in the village, added his voice to the concerns of the women.
“I bought almost hundred bags of onions because they are good and reasonable, but the roads are poor and some get spoiled,” he said.
Kaddy Mambureh, another rice grower in the village, decried lack of fertilizers. She said they were working on the rice field but they did not have fertilizer from the government.
The issue of market has long been a concern for rural women. When I travelled to Brikamaba, in 2010, on the occasion of rural women day, scores of women bemoaned among other things that they did not have a market to sell their goods neither did they have good roads that link them to the remote villages.
Mariama Saho: “We make the vast majority and yet most of us are poor farmers. We want our voices to be heard because nothing has changed even with the so- called ‘Musool sembentounya’ (women empowerment). We still remain in the same situation.”
Mariama added that: “We make the fences for ourselves because we don’t want to share it with the animals. We dig the wells in our gardens for ourselves every year. So, you see how we suffered here.”
A 15- year- old boy found working on her mother’s rice field said he had no other option but to help his mother during the weekend.
“I come over almost every weekend to the village to help my mother because she pays for my school fees, provides money for my uniforms and books. And whenever I am going back to the city where I am schooling, she gives some money to me for my allowance,” he said.
According to Alhaji Surawa Mambureh, an old man in his 80s, women are likely to live in such a situation and live in the struggle because they want the best for their children.
“Women are really suffering when it comes to digging wells and fencing. They sometimes pay young men to fence for them. Government should help them because they can play a big role to end hunger, but only if they are supported,” he stated and further said that unless their sons help them, they do it themselves.
“Men who are their husbands do not help them with the fencing and digging of the wells. I have lived in the village all my life and despite women’s’ efforts by providing food for the family, they have little or no say in the way the family spends its income, despite working for it,” he added.
Action Aid International’s Hunger FREE Scorecard, which was launched in Brikamaba on the celebration of international rural women’s day, said The Gambia is among 20 out of 28 developing countries without possibility of meeting its promise of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 1 of halving hunger by 2015.
“Neglecting the small- scale farmers with limited extension support, inadequate access to production inputs, and poor access to markets operating, has worsened the situation of hungry people resulting in absolute poverty,” hunger free scorecard stated.
This was supported by reports which suggested that gender equality and increasing rural women’s agricultural production and participation in the labour force would help reduce poverty and stimulate economic growth.
The report went on to point out that unequal treatment of men and women poses serious threat to achieving the MDGs.