The Chronicle Gambia

Cattle Invasion Spoils the Show for Jokadu Dasilami Onion Farmers

When Kanyi Njo and other women in Jokadou Dasilami first decided to venture into mass onion cultivation, it was seen by many as the answer to their myriad of economic troubles in the predominantly salt-producing community.

But ten years down the line, hardly any significant transformation has happened in the lives of the women of this North Bank settlement. Their initial hopes are fast dashing away.

“In the beginning, things got off to a very promising note, helping us to take care of our children and our own basic needs like feeding. In fact, many in this village were able to use money from onion farming to send their children to Europe. In recent times however, cows from the neighbouring villages have been giving us sleepless nights. Even though they are not fully ripe, we cannot help but uproot the onion tubers in the face of cattle invasion,” Kanyi Njo laments.

Cattle invasion spoils the show for onion farmers

Just like the rest of the women, Kanyi Njo, on a daily basis wakes up very early in the morning. She would pray, prepare breakfast and go to her onion field situated several kilometer away from her home.

“I come here that early morning and I stay till late in the evening hoping that some middlemen would come and buy my onion.  And knowing that we risk losing our heaps of onion to the marauding cattle, they determine the price at which we sell our produce rather than us the producers. Imagine a full bag of onion being sold at a paltry D700,’’ she laments.

Added to the limited market marketing opportunities at the disposal of the women is the question of storage. As to how they make do with the huge tons of perishable produce, Kanyi Njo explains “what we resort to is parking them behind our backyards after building makeshift tents to provide shade. That is how we go about preserving our onions since we do not have a single cold store within our community and the environs. In the end, we use them bit by bit to supplement ’’

As the women of the agrarian community of Jokadou Dasilami spend dawn to dusk watching over the fruits of their labour in the bush, they say their children are consequently bereft of much needed attention. For the women themselves, the fact that they had to juggle this agricultural enterprise with other maternal responsibilities can be physically demanding.

The large scale seasonal cultivation of onion in Jokadou Dasilami and the environs usually starts from December to April.  Despite its attendant challenges, it has over the years proved instrumental in cushioning the effects of their comatose salt industry and also marks a new page in moving away from subsistence to commercial agriculture.

Famara Fofana is a freelance journalist and communications specialist with Child Fund International

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