In May, when I left The Gambia, I had a mission to raise enough money to buy at least ten more of the new design of stoves that run on peanut shell briquettes.
The Community Stove Initiative
If you have been following my blogs from The Gambia you may want to skip the next bit as the following was explained in a previous post Give a man a fish but for new readers or those that want a reminder, this is why these stoves are so wonderful.
In a nutshell (pardon the pun) they….
- Save time
- Save money
- Reduce deforestation
- And they are healthier
For Binta, whose husband had lost his job, they may also be the means by which she can help her family get by in a very difficult time. The new stoves can be run on peanut (groundnut) shell briquettes, an environmentally friendly and economically efficient alternative to firewood and charcoal. If enough of this new design of stoves can be brought to the area where Binta lives then she can become the agent to sell the briquettes.
Back home in England I told my colleagues at The Gambia Experience about this. They already knew about the stoves as the company promotes the initiative but I told them about my plan to help this particular family. Of course I also told my family and friends, as well as the choir I sing with who held a concert to help raise funds. I have been so touched by people’s generosity. One friend in particular, Chris, went all out to help me raise the money needed (£20 per stove).
Instead of enough to buy ten stoves between us, in just over one month, we raised the money to buy 29! I am so very grateful to everyone who supported this. Chris and I returned to The Gambia at the end of last month, not just for this but also for Chris’s wedding but that is another story!
And so on our first morning in The Gambia we meet up with Fanna from the Community Stove Initiative and somehow managed to load 29 stoves into or rather onto the taxi. 26 of the stoves were for the neighbours of Binta in the village of Jeddah and 3 were for friends of Chris.
We arrive in Jeddah to find everyone gathered at Binta’s house. Fanna explains to the villagers about the stoves, the best way to light them and why they are so good. Mind you, they will already know much of this as Binta has been delighted with her new stove in particular how much time it saves her.
Peanut shell briquettes
After some singing and dancing we headed back to the Kololi area to visit Lenja at GreenTech who make the briquettes. These are made from peanut (groundnut) shells, a waste product of the peanut industry in The Gambia, this being their biggest export.
We leave some money with them to buy an initial supply of briquettes for Binta to start her business. Each bundle that will last a family one day costs D5 from the suppliers in Kololi. Binta can sell these for D6. So hopefully she will make a profit of about D25 or so a day. Not very much, just £0.50 GBP but it will help. We’ve made it very clear that she must hold back D5 from the sale of each bundle of briquettes to purchase more and to keep her business going. It is now up to her to make this work although it will be hard not to be tempted to spend the money that should be put back into the business. Most Gambians are used to living day to day without ever having the chance to save money. Fanna is a shining example of how a young woman, with no previous experience, can manage a small business and she has kindly offered to help Binta, as she in turn starts her new business.
Back at Chris and Moussa’s we devour a very delicious mango dish cooked by their friend Hadja on one of the new stoves, which she loves. As is customary we all eat out of one bowl and the mango stew is so tasty and light that I find it hard to stop eating! When I first started visiting The Gambia I didn’t really like mangoes. I do now, which is lucky as its mango season and hundreds of trees everywhere you go in The Gambia, are dripping with ripe fruits.
It’s not long before Moussa, Chris and another friend Okams, collectively Toumarkane, get out their instruments and start playing while Hadja and I sit in the shade enjoying the music.
Tanji Fish Market
Its getting late so Hadja and I head back along the coast by taxi. When we pass Tanji the smell of fish from the market is even stronger than I remember it from previous visits. Hadja wants to buy some fish to feed herself and her children for the next few days. She invites me to come with her but I worry that when people see her with a toubob (a European or American), they will charge her more but she insists that I come and I’m glad I did.
Tanji fishing village in the late afternoon is as it was on my last visit but more so. An intensified version of colour, smells and noise. Instead of maybe half a dozen boats, a couple of hundred are moored just off shore. Three large fish cost Hadja D100. She will cook them all tonight and keep some for tomorrow and the next day. She has no fridge or freezer to keep them fresh. As I look around hundreds of people, for as far as I can see, are chattering and haggling over fish while hundreds of gulls swoop overhead. Instead of leisurely carrying the bowls of fish on their head as I’d previously seen, men run towards me and I step out of their way as they rush passed with a collection of children jogging along side them. A fish, still flapping, slips out of a bowl and one lucky child catches it. Instantly his face lights up. He is beaming for he will be able to sell that fish and keep the money for himself, or more likely, his family.
I didn’t take any photographs as I know many people here don’t like it and I simply wanted to soak up the atmosphere but you can see my photos from a previous visit here, A feast for the senses at Tanji fish market.