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On the pink and dry earth, right here and there streaked with white, just a few uncommon blades of grass are dying. Nothing on this panorama means that simply seven years in the past, rice with inexperienced stems sprouted its ft within the cool water, right here, on the outskirts of the village of Panchang, in central Gambia, just a few dozen meters from a tributary of the river that crosses this small nation of two million inhabitants.
« I bought a part of my rice to pay for my youngsters’s education and I saved the remainder to feed the entire household », remembers Awa Ceesay, 60 years outdated and mom of eight youngsters. However the rise in sea stage linked to local weather change has made these fields uncultivable: salt water rises within the Gambia River and infiltrates as much as 200 kilometers inland. The lower in rainfall contributes to intensify the phenomenon as a result of the recent water circulation, a lot decrease, struggles to push the salt water in direction of the ocean.
Soil salinity, which impacts no less than three of the six areas of this landlocked nation inside Senegal, worsens over time and worries Saikou Sanyang, director of the ministry’s agriculture division.
“Hundreds of hectares of rice fields, often irrigated with river water, needed to be deserted, he notes, with out having the ability to give a extra exact determine. That is slowing us down from pursuing our manufacturing goal of 217,000 tonnes of rice per 12 months, after we are solely at 30,000 tonnes. «
Restore the mangrove
Seeing the land cultivated by his mom deteriorating earlier than his eyes, Muhammed Ceesay determined to get entangled within the struggle towards local weather change. “Our mom fought to pay for our research with rice. With out this, we might not have been capable of enhance our state of affairs ”, testifies the younger man of 28 years, now undertaking supervisor throughout the Gambian NGO Activista.
He returns usually to his native village, the place he initiated the planting of 100 salt-resistant timber such because the tamarind tree, in August 2021, through the wet season. He’s additionally campaigning to plant mangroves, this plant ecosystem that grows in brackish water and has the ability to manage salinity.
In a neighboring area, the city of Kerewan is dealing with the identical tragedy, notes the younger environmental activist, guided by Almamy Fatty, an elder of the neighborhood. The farmer exhibits what stays of the outdated plots on which he cultivated rice, deserted for greater than ten years. Any further, there stays solely a big expanse of land whitened by salt and strewn with thorny bushes. This locality of some 4,500 inhabitants would have misplaced between seven to 10 hectares of cultivable land.
“Earlier than, these fields fed the entire neighborhood, everybody cultivated no less than what they wanted to eat. Now our rice is barely ample for just a few months of the 12 months. The remainder of the time, we now have to import it from China however we do not have the means « , is determined Almamy Fatty, who now is dependent upon the revenue of his son, Kemo, who has additionally grow to be an environmental activist.
A meals safety difficulty
“We solely people are struggling, however the entire aquatic ecosystem is destroyed. We’ve seen crops disappear and the fish inhabitants of the river has drastically decreased ”, notes Kemo Fatty, who returned dissatisfied with COP26, the worldwide local weather convention held in November 2021 in Glasgow (Scotland) and during which he participated. « World warming is a worldwide drawback, air pollution comes from the richest nations and we’re those paying the prices », the younger man is indignant.
Fortuitously in Kerewan, just a few hectares have been preserved due to a dike constructed as a part of a program of the Ministry of Agriculture. This dam prevents salt water from getting into the fields however can be helpful for retaining recent water from the rain. The village is asking for extra funds for its upkeep and hopes that different constructions shall be erected.
“The rains weren’t good this 12 months and the dike was broken. The rice was subsequently not capable of ripen correctly ”, says farmer Aja Jawara, hitting the ears with a stick with launch the white grains.
Soil salinization is a meals safety difficulty. To reply this, some advocate a diversification of crops. Within the affected areas, farmers have thus launched into the manufacturing of market backyard greens for their very own consumption but additionally on the market. Cultures that may be achieved on land farther from the river and which can be content material with watering with water from the effectively.
One other resolution is to develop new types of rice which can be resistant and tolerant to salt. « However the issue is to have entry to seeds », says Saikou Sanyang, from the agriculture division.
Confronted with soils that had grow to be uncultivable, some farmers set out looking for new land. These migrations incessantly result in land conflicts between the totally different communities who compete for entry to sources. A phenomenon that significantly worries Muhammed Ceesay. The activist subsequently arrange with Activista a program in three areas to resume the dialogue between the populations.
« This undertaking responds relatively to the results of local weather change, the results of that are already there, he explains. On the identical time, we’re elevating consciousness of sustainable farming practices, for instance by discouraging slicing down timber for charcoal. « Prevention and remedy, that is the recipe he recommends to attempt to adapt as greatest as doable.