Women gardeners in Kitty have expressed fears of losing decades-old gardens as a result of intense mining activities of Gambia, Angola, China Holding (GACH) Global Mining Company, a newly registered company in the country that is also into tomato paste production, car rentals, gun importation and vehicle sales.
In 2018, The Gambian government issued a mining license to Gambia Angola China (GACH) Mining Company to export heavy mineral concentrated sand locally called “black sand” from the country notably in Sanyang and Batokunku villages in Kombo South. However, the company is also into undisclosed sand mining activities around Kitty that triggered the worries of the women gardeners who fear that such activities may result in the loss of their gardens.
Recently, the company has been embroiled in the alleged importation of firearms into the country generating heated debate among Gambians. People wondered why the company should be allowed to import guns into the country when firearms are severely restricted for personal use. After two months of investigations, The Gambia Police Force issued a statement that the firearms imported into the country are harmless and purportedly used for hunting purposes.
“I have been working on this garden for more than fifteen (15) years and since my husband passed away some 5 years now, I and my family are entirely dependent on this garden for all our needs. Currently, I must say I am very much worried because the mining activity is too close to our gardens and if efforts are not made by the state, we will surely lose this garden,” said Binta Dibba, a single mother who earns her living from the proceeds derived from gardening.
According to her, life will be very unbearable once her garden falls in the wrong hands of the sand mining company, disclosing that her family’s daily bread, clothing and medical expenditures are all garnered from the gardening and once that slips from her hand, the livelihood of her family will become difficult.
Fatoumata Sanyang is fifty-four (54) years old and she told The Chronicle that there are more than one hundred women working at the Kitty garden. Most of them have been working at the site for more than two decades purportedly reserved for that purpose by families of Brikama, maintaining that due to mining activities, the water level at the gardens have dropped. She said the mining activity has also destroyed the forest cover around their fields making it impossible for the women to make their fences through local means.
“We are calling on the government to come to our aid; we are appealing to them to look into our situation because for most of us, this is our office and once this location is closed, we are doomed as all our household expenditures are acquired from the proceeds of our gardening activities. Already we have our own problem of fencing as our gardens become exposed due to the indiscriminate cutting down of the trees around the gardens compounding our problems by exposing our gardens to stray animals,” Madam Sanyang revealed.
Sanyang has been working at the Kitty garden for two decades complaining that already, a score of women gardeners have unwillingly abandoned their gardens as a result of the mining activities that is encroaching into their fields, adding that if the government fails to act, many more women gardeners in Kitty will finally lose their decade’s old gardens.
“You can see that sand mining has already made many women to abandon their gardens. Already mining activities have consumed many gardens and if action is not taken, all these gardens will end up as mining fields and if this happens, hundreds of people will find it difficult to make a living,” said Essa Suwareh, who works as an insecticide sprayer for the women gardeners.
He said his livelihood entirely depends on the spraying of the women gardens and once the gardening activities cease, he and his family will also feel the pinch, disclosing that no formal discussions or engagement has taken place between GACH Global Mining and the Bulandato families of Brikama on the sand mining activities leaving them suspended on what their fate will be.
The Chronicle visited Brikama Area Council (BAC) to sound their opinion on the alleged mining activities currently undergoing at the site close to the women’s gardens, but council officials said BAC has no hands in the issuance of license nor aware of the mining activities at Kitty women’s garden.
“We (BAC) are not aware of any mining activity going on at Kitty and we didn’t issue any license to GACH Global. I will advise you go to geology to find out the license issue and maybe they can tell you something about it,” said Ebrima Sawaneh, acting administrative officer, Brikama Area Council (BAC).
Efforts to visit the site with Geology officials proved futile as many appointments were not kept. However, the geology supervisor around the area Lamin Kanteh, confirmed that GACH Global mining has been authorized by his department to embark on sand mining around that end, revealing that geology only came to that decision after discussing with the Bulundala families of Brikama, the traditional owners of the said site.
“It’s true that geology department issued the mining license to GACH Global to embark on sand mining at the area, but only after the company went into agreement with Bulundala families of Brikama who are said to be the rightful owners of the site,” disclosed Kanteh.
According to him, mining activities have been going on at the site for a very long time, noting that it was Sino-Gam that was first issued with a license to mine sand at the area, but since their license expired around September of 2018, GACH Global Mining took over. He said Sino-Gam and GACH Global Mining are all owned by one person.
Malaine Bojang of the Brikama Bulundala families also confirmed that it is his family that allocated the mining site to GACH Global mining, stressing that the entire area belongs to the Bulundala families comprising of sixteen families who all agreed that mining activity can take place at the site.
Last week, Kitty One Organisation for Poverty Alleviation (KOOPA), also made calls on government to stop the mining activities around the area, disclosing that if such activities are not stopped, many families may starve and poverty will rise in the community as most of the women gardeners entirely depend on the proceeds acquired from the site to make ends meet for them and their families.
Meanwhile, all efforts to talk to GACH Global Mining Company on their mining activities proved futile as the company’s secretary to the Chief Executive Officer promised to get back to The Chronicle, but never did even after a series of messages and calls.