Dirk Depoorter

Wednesday March 13

We (Hedwig, Dirk and myself) are leaving back to Gambia. Have a nice trip, via Dakar to Banjul. We land in Gambia around 7 p.m., where our regular Gammol employees Omar and Lamin are waiting for us. And, as always, a very cordial reunion!

After a 40 minute drive we arrive where we are staying, Mama Africa Art Residence. Nice accommodation, friendly people. We eat together with Omar and Lamin, but since Ramadan started a few days ago, we wait until after sunset. First meeting after dinner: discussing our program and approach for the following days.

Thursday March 14

Gammol school community

Yusupha Jassey, Omar Jarju and Lamin Bojang

Our first appointment is with the principals of our 3 schools: Yusupha Jassey (Falaa), Omar Jarju (Abuko) and Lamin Bojang (Sanchaba). Abuko is an English school, Sanchaba and Falaa are Arabic schools (where children are also taught in English, but where attention is also paid to Arabic. The children who go to our schools are between 3 and 6 years old for the nursery school and between 6 and 12 years old for primary school.

Our objective with the Gammol schools is to ensure that children receive quality education, which prepares them for (what we call) secondary education.

By starting a school community with the 3 schools, we count on them being able to learn from each other in order to increase the quality of education and to determine a standard that we can use if we want to build new schools later.

There are 3 aspects that we focus on:

  • The financial aspect: this starts with building the school and its furnishings, financing its operation (teachers' wages, teaching materials, etc.) and funding (Gammol intervention, school fees, etc.).
  • The organizational aspects: how many teachers, how many students, what teaching materials, what about meals, how do you organize the classes, etc.
  • The educational: which standards we wish to use, administering tests and monitoring students, which teaching packages, exchanging experience, teaching the teacher, etc.
Dirk Depoorter clarifies the different aspects
of the education

At first glance this all seems obvious, but in practice this turns out not to be the case at all. Our conversations once again clearly show how different our cultures are and therefore also the way in which we approach a number of matters from a completely different logic.

What we find is that there is a lot of desire to tackle this together (the 3 schools). And that there is a lot of good will to do this together with us. To consider and learn from our insights, for what they are worth.

The next step is to put this into practice. Because this is also not obvious, because there are so many limitations: the number of teachers (too few), the number of children (up to 60 for 1 class), limited financial resources… Example: to pay the teachers (3,500 dalasi/month = 47 euros) there are communities that grow vegetables in gardens and then sell them on the market to pay teachers.

We say goodbye with the promise that Yusupha, Omar and Lamin will meet this weekend to delve deeper into the various aspects, so that we can come back to this on Monday before we leave back to Belgium.

The government's role in all this? Limited, especially for the youngest children in nursery schools.


Next stop is Nemisat. This is a village where we have already installed a water installation. We are received by Ousman Saidy, the Alkali (mayor), Faburama Sarr (the person responsible for the installation) and a few more notables.

This is an example community. Each compound pays a limited amount every month to use the water. It is a fairly large community, so they have already saved +-77,000 dalasi (just over 1,000 euros). This is all well monitored by Faburama.

They invited us to thank us again for the installation we placed there and to ask for an extension of the water installation. But – and here we see a wonderful evolution – they propose to pay for the tower itself with the money raised, and ask us if it is possible to donate just the water barrel. For us, this is an example for other communities and we agree to donate a water barrel, 3 extra taps (+ pipes) and do the installation. Great what they are doing here!

Fula Kunku


On to Fula Kunku, where Landing Tamba is waiting for us, together with the driving forces of the communities: about 15 women. Here is an old installation with a 1,000 liter barrel. Nowadays we install installations with a water barrel of 4,000 liters or 8,000 liters (2 barrels).

During our visit last year, we found that the maintenance of the installation and the surrounding area left much to be desired. We also approached Landing about this, because there was already a demand for an expansion of the installation. An expansion that is also necessary, given the growing community. We then promised that we agreed to an expansion, but only if more care was taken. We have been able to determine that this is now the case. Omar assured us that what we saw today was not a one-off, because we had an appointment here. So we are also going to expand here.

Question we should ask ourselves: when do we install a 4,000 liter barrel with +-10 taps, when do we install 2 4,000 liter barrels with +-15 taps?

A question we received, but what we are certainly not prepared to do, is to place the taps in compounds. After all, this would mean that the water is not available to everyone. We have also asked Landing to introduce Nemisat's working method (monthly contribution) here as well. Landing has promised us to do this. We will come back to this next year.

Sanyang Garden

Jonsaba Sillah - Tata, VDC Sanyang

Next stop is Sanyang Garden, one of the largest gardens in Sanyang and the surrounding area (5 hectares) where some of the residents of Sanyang grow vegetables, each on their own plot. The reason why we come here is because one of the pumps broke last year. The repair went smoothly. To give an idea of ​​the size: there are 3 towers here: 1 x 10,000 liters, 2 x 5,000 liters. The pumped water is distributed over about 20 water basins spread throughout the entire domain, so that water can be easily accessed by everyone. To-do here: replace worn Gammol board.

Here we meet the new chairwoman of the new Sanyang VDC (Village Development Committee), Jonsaba Sillah, dixit Tata. An energetic lady, the second woman ever to head the VDC. We have an appointment with her and the VDC on Sunday.

Sanyang fish market

Indoor fish market needs urgently
repair needed

Last stop for today is the Sanyang Fishing Market on the coast. Something is going wrong here. This is an indoor marketplace where fishermen sell their catches to traders, to resell to the catering industry or at the many (permanent) markets that exist. Gammol built the market in 2004 and paid for a new roof for the market in 2017. And it urgently needs to be repaired again.

There is also a Gammol water installation that supplies the area with water. When installing the pump, the objective has always been to provide water to the fishermen and other people who work there. All together, around 2,000 people would work here, and we would provide them with drinking water in this way. Two problems with this: the installation apparently now pumps slightly salty water and the restaurants that have been built next to the fishing market are tapping water for their gardens.

In addition to our water installation, there is another installation, owned by the Sea Costal Rescue, that pumps fresh water. The problem here is that the water tank is too small and there are no branches with taps, which means the pump is underused. This could be solved by connecting an existing 3rd water tower (without pump) to the Sea Costal Rescue installation. Problem: that tower (on which the water barrel is located) is rusted through. Filling the water barrel is too dangerous, the tower could collapse under the weight.

Last year we already had a meeting with those responsible for the fishing market, where we discussed the first two problems. Where we even provided them with a solution. After all, our Gammol pump was never designed to supply private restaurants with water. The first thing that had to happen is to make the restaurants pay for the water. The income for this can then be used to make the necessary repairs.
They have introduced this too. The restaurants now pay for the water. However, a new problem has surfaced: those money end up at the VDC and not at the Fishing Market itself, so they are not yet available anywhere. And come back to us.

We have an appointment with the new VDC on Sunday and will raise this. We want to be responsible for the repair of the roof, a new tower and connection to the pump of the Sea Costal Rescue, possible extensions to make water accessible in the fishing village, but only if they are willing to pay for this. This is a good example of how it is all too easy to assume that we will continue to sponsor free of charge, while the resources are available to tackle the problems ourselves.

Drying place for fish, women take shelter under the drying tables from the bright afternoon sun

We end our day at our lodge with a discussion about what should be done with our Gammol house. This is also a topic that we would like to discuss on Sunday in our meeting with the VDC.


Dirk Depoorter

Friday March 15


Counselor Alieu at the inauguration of the new Jamwelly water installation.

We start the day with a visit to the village of Jamwelly where we installed a new water installation. We are received by the Imam, Yorro Cham, the Alkalo, Momodou Jallow, the chairman of the VDC, Alleu Ceesay and the spokesperson for the women, Yasine Low. We also meet the person who was appointed to take responsibility for the water installation, Haruna Saidy. And of course there are plenty of villagers present, all wanting to show their gratitude. We always visit our new projects at the express request of the community where we are building an installation (or school). This is always accompanied by a ceremony, where the notables of the village give a word of thanks. We have asked Omar to make it clear to the villages that we really appreciate this, but that they should keep it short so as not to lose too much time, given the amount of work that still needs to be done and our (too) short time. in Gambia.

However, short is an elastic term here, because every speaker is given a forum to express his or her words of thanks. And they take the time to do this, and some do not fail to put their own merits in the foreground. The shortest and most to the point are without a doubt the female speakers.

The gratitude is, as always, great. And also, as in 90% of the cases, we receive requests for additional support. In Jamwelly specifically for additional installations, because the compounds in the village are often far apart. In addition, they ask for help in building a marketplace, money for medicines that they cannot buy themselves, both things that do not fit within our objectives. Even as we recognize the need, we remain focused on our main objectives, water and education. Alieu emphasizes the fact that they have now received something that the government could not give them, even though it is their job. He also emphasizes that they also roll up their sleeves in the village itself and ensure improvements. For example, they have invested 200,000 dalasi (2,700 euros) in a better (earthen) road that runs through the village. For us this is a piece of cake, but for them it requires a great effort to raise this large amount.

Women carry the water.

Yasine emphasizes how much we have helped the women with this and emphasizes that thanks to the clean water, their children will now get sick much less. She also asks about additional installations.

To conclude, Alieu, the counselor, repeats his request for an additional installation. He emphasizes how difficult it is for women during Ramadan to fetch the water they need for cooking, washing and drinking. And that in some places they still have to dig this out of the ground with buckets. Which made me wonder why men don't do that? But I kept silent.

Dirk then delivered our message:

  • Satisfied with the work of Omar and Lamin, and the village that dug the canals to lay the pipes.
  • The installation can be a starting point for us and there can be a follow-up.
  • This is in the hands of the village itself, and starts with perfect maintenance of what is there now.
  • In addition, we expect the village to take action to improve their own lives. This can take many forms: setting up a community garden, asking for contributions for maintenance, walling gardens against stray animals, making bricks to build a school, etc.
  • If we see action being taken, we are prepared to provide additional support. But first we have to actually see the result of the action. It cannot be an empty promise or a dead letter.

Dirk emphasizes that the resources we have are not unlimited and that our sponsors will only be willing to continue to support us/them if they know that the money has been well spent. Perfect maintenance of what we give to the community is a basic requirement, in addition to the initiatives we expect them to take themselves. If they fulfill that promise, we will also fulfill our promise to provide extra support. So it primarily depends on them.


Dirk Depoorter at the new Fufor installation.

The second village we drive to is Fufor. The head counselor, Ousman Bah, rides with us. You could compare his task with what a governor does in our country. We suspect that it will look different in terms of content. He is responsible for a specific jurisdiction (province), and is in close contact with the Alkalos and VDC of the various villages. He also has close contact with Omar, to whom he gives advice and makes proposals where the needs are greatest. installing water installations and/or schools. He is the first to speak to thank Omar, Lamin and Gammol for a very nice double (2 x 4,000 liter barrels) installation.

Fufford is one of the oldest and least developed villages in the region. It is located on the southern border with Senegal. There used to be about 10 compounds (families), but this has since evolved very significantly. Reason: the land here was free. It is a community that is very strongly united and has taken the development of the village into its own hands as far as possible.

The happiness that the Alkalo, Sulayman Jatta, radiates when he thanks us is authentic and heartwarming. The most important thing we could give them is the water installation. “Water is life”. This is a gift that will make much possible, as there are still many challenges. For example, he talks about their ambition to build a primary school and a “youth center”, where they can teach young people a trade. The water that will attract new people to live in Fufford, providing more resources to realize their dreams.

The chairman of the VDC, Alieu Jarju, agrees with what Sulayman just told us. The village is in strong development thanks to the free land. So far they have developed the village themselves without external help. For example, they built a mosque and a nursery school themselves. Thanks to the water, they will be able to plant gardens to grow vegetables and thus free up more resources for their next projects. He promises us that they will take care of the water installation as if it were their own child, and concludes by saying that if we were to visit in the coming years, something would have changed and evolved in the village.

Something very special: the land that was free until now will no longer be free, but will be sold so that they have more resources. And that land belongs to the Alkalo, in their tradition is that the person who first came to live in a bad place has taken over the land, and therefore now has a lot of power. A somewhat feudal system, where it is better to have a good Alkalo. After a few generations (because Alkalo passes from father to son) he is often a rich man of prestige, who of course has every interest in sharing his resources with the population, so that the village can further develop.

Iba Touray, representative of the women.

Then Iba Touray, head of the women's community, takes the floor and says that it is mainly women who will be able to make the most use of the pure water. She also emphasizes the need for further development. Due to the vastness of the village, there are still women who have to walk a long distance to get clean water. This is despite the fact that this installation has 2 x 4,000 liter barrels and 15 taps spread throughout the village. She also talks to us about the challenge of sending their children to school, and that is why they want to build their own school. That they will do this themselves and also pay the teachers themselves.

Unlike all other villages where we have installed installations, this is a village where they explain their needs to us, but where they do not ask Gammol to arrange everything.

Dirk gives the explanation we always give, with a strong emphasis on their responsibility to keep the installation in order, as a basic requirement. We also indicate that we are willing to support them further (although they have not asked for this themselves), because we note that taking action actually happens here. If there is a clear action plan, we are willing to sponsor further.

The counselor or elder finally takes the floor to say that they will take further action:

Setting up a water committee so that the installation is taken care of down to the last detail.
Request a contribution from the community for the water, so that they generate resources.
Installing a fence to create a community garden.
Continue building the youth center.
Building a primary school in the village.
Impressive, by Gambian and our standards, when you see how little resources they want to do this with and also take steps to actually realize.

A village that takes the initiative and seems to take matters into its own hands. We ask to go around the village together to get a better feel for it. They take us to the location where the school is to be located and on the way there Alieu tells us more about how they work and what their plans are. For example, they ask 25 to 50 dalasi (0.33 to 0.66 euro cents) from the villagers every week. Once they have enough money, they buy sand with it. If they have enough sand, they save for cement. Once they have enough of this, they turn it into bricks. And so it goes until they have enough bricks to start building. And it is not an entrepreneur who does the construction, but the men of the village itself. We continue to ask: how are they building, how many classes do they want to build, how many children are involved (400 or 500 depending on the source), how are they going to provide shade, etc.

From our conversations and what we see, we question the construction. For example, they only foundation the corners of the building and not all the walls. Reason: lack of resources. We experienced this in Falaa, where we built a new school last year because the previous one collapsed due to an unstable structure. When we visit the nursery school of Fuffor a little later, Dirk and Hedwig also have to determine that the construction entails risks.

Fufford is a village/community that gives energy. A community that takes its own initiatives and does not wait for sponsors, but realizes something itself with the very limited resources they have. It goes without saying that we want to further support this village and that this project will be on our agenda for next year. We agree to provide a definitive answer on this quickly. We certainly want to avoid that they start building something that they will later regret, because it would turn out to be unsafe. At the very least, they should use the standards we use.

Giboro Gidda Sukuta

With a lot of energy we go to Giboro Gidda Sukuta, where we already visited last year after installing a water installation. We then left with a very good feeling, after their promise to create a community garden on the land around the water installation. They started by fencing the property to keep the animals out, and then started growing vegetables. By next year (now) they would let us taste their first tomatoes.

Disappointment when we arrived and found that they had not kept their promise. Neither the fence and therefore nor the garden had been constructed. The Alkalo, Saikou Badjie, and then a few other men came to explain to us the reason. One of the excuses: they didn't agree on what type of fence to install! Another excuse: no money to put up a fence. But now it would work: Saikou himself had donated 5,000 dalasi and the community had saved 4,650 dalasi. Together 130 euros. It is not clear why they did not start this earlier. But now they were going to start it. In addition, we also had to determine that the concrete base of the pump was crumbling. Something they know they need to report so it can be fixed.

Last year we made them a promise to further invest in their community if they kept their promise. Which didn't happen. Result: Gammol will not invest in their community again this year. Since they have not kept their promise, they will first have to regain our trust. Where they used to be at the top of our list for a next project, they are now at the bottom.

While we are explaining this to the men, we hear shouting and screaming in the background. Omar was translating everything for the women present, causing them to turn against the men. Really not ordinary. The women were literally pointing their fingers at the men to point out their irresponsible attitude. Recriminations were thrown around. And they did not fail to make it clear to the men that if they promise something, they will do it! It was 40°C on Friday, but I can imagine that the temperature rose a bit in the households afterwards!

We also gave them the message that they should not build a fence for us but for themselves, so that the women can grow vegetables, to improve the quality of life for them and their children. We ended our visit with a prayer and an “Inch Allah”.

Debriefing in the car, and we are all on the same wavelength in that regard. This all seems very bizarre, especially according to our Western standards and habits. It is not easy for us to draw that line, because it is at the expense of the entire community, including children. But this is sometimes, certainly not always and everywhere, the only way to get the men moving. Be consistent and make them experience that this is an expensive lesson for the entire community. Regrettably.

Omar explains why we are not investing further for the time being.

Mandinaba Daru Salam

We drive further to Mandinaba Daru Salam.

The Mandinaba water tower is in urgent need of paint.

Ai, we arrive and we notice that the frame of the water installation has not been painted. We have supplied paint for all installations, so that the iron is protected against rust formation. In addition, the pump is leaking, causing one of the irons that support the water barrel to rust. If there is one thing that we repeatedly emphasize and monitor closely, it is that: the water installation must be maintained. Initially for themselves, so that they can use it for a long time. But also for the sake of their safety. As I wrote earlier in this report: In the fishing market, one of the water barrels is no longer filled, because there is a risk that the rusted rack would collapse under the weight of the barrel. Imagine that such a barrel would fall from a height of 6 to 7 meters, just as someone passes by. A risk we cannot or do not want to take.

Consult with Omar. Our decision is – obviously – the same as in Gidda Sukuta. We had planned to build a school in Daru Salam this year. The result of this lack of maintenance is that no school will be built this year.

The meeting starts. Ousman, the head counselor, who is already feeling the heat, opens the meeting by saying that Gammol is coming to see if everything is going as agreed. After which we come straight to the point: the installation is not in order. What to expect: Amoro Jarju, chairman of the VDC, and Amado Jallow, secretary of the VDC, provide a full explanation of why the tower has not been painted and why the leak has not been repaired.

We then make it clear to them that we are not going to invest in a school, which is much more complex in terms of project, if they do not manage to perfectly maintain their water installation. We don't accept the excuses, the facts are there. Conclusion, same as in Gidda Sukuta: promises are kept, insofar as this is the case on both sides. And trust must be mutual. That's why, as much as we hate this, there is no school this year. Extra painful compared to a water installation, because it is the children who suffer from this and not the men who are the cause. They clearly do not always take agreements and promises so seriously. We once again make it clear to them that they must always contact Omar and Lamin if there is something wrong with the installation that they cannot solve themselves.

So today was not very pleasant for us, but especially not for the two villages involved. An expensive lesson for the two villages involved. In the evening we discuss the situation and what to do? The investments planned for Daru Salam and Gidda Sukuta will of course happen elsewhere. Enough requests. As for the school: see my report on Fufor. Our visit there on Friday gave us a very good feeling. They showed us that they take matters into their own hands without waiting for a sponsor to come along. Their initiative to build and start a primary school themselves, without asking for money, deserves our support. We need to decide this quickly, so that we can monitor the quality of the construction, especially after we established that the construction of their nursery school is not really of high quality. After all, we have Falaa's experience with what the rainy season can do to a building that has insufficient foundations and is built with stones of inferior quality. Knowing that this is only the result of a lack of resources, which is at the expense of quality. A risk we do not want to take when we build schools.

We ask Omar to contact Ousman to arrange another appointment with those responsible in Fuffor tomorrow.

Dirk Depoorter

Saturday March 16

Wake up at 5 am local time with hymns and prayers. Ramadan occupies a very important place here. Every morning we wake up around this time with prayers in the distance. Quite monotonous, but above all loud. I'm not going to be completely used to that. So wake up early. Omar and Lamin have breakfast very early, and then don't eat or drink anything for the entire day until 7:30 PM. We have breakfast around 7:30 am, and fast during the day, out of solidarity. In the evening we eat together. What we do do is drink during the day. Today it was 45°C and we drove on dusty dirt roads, which inevitably meant you swallowed dust. Being able to drink some water in between is really welcome. But Omar and Lamin do not drink during the day. Really not obvious. But they do pray in between, very disciplined. Faith: it remains something special.

Today we visit three distant projects and we have another appointment in Fufford. A lot of kilometers to cover.

Sotokoi Village

The women's committee of Sotokoi Village is very happy with the new water installation

After breakfast we leave for the first village, Sotokoi Village. When we arrive in Sotokoi we are warmly welcomed by the entire women's committee, led by the local council, Binta Bah, sister of the regional council Ousman Bah. Women in power here! There is no dancing or partying during Ramadan, but here they have found a way to welcome us: they sing from the Koran and wave their hands above their heads. Moreover, part of the village is Christian, who are not bound by the customs linked to Ramadan.

Sotokoi is a village with more than 200 compounds. The water installation we have installed here supplies just over half of the village with clean water, about 120 compounds (estimated between 1,500 and 2,000 people). It would therefore be strange if they did not request an extension of the installation.

We start the meeting, as usual, with a prayer. However, here are 2 prayers: the Muslim and Christian community live here together, in connection with each other, without any form of conflict.

Then we receive words of thanks from the various village 'notables'. Traditional, but it remains so important to them. First comes Binta (council), then KabiroNyassi (representative of the VDC), Seedou Barrow (representative of the Alkalo), Isatou Badjie (representative of the woman community). Omar, Dirk and myself deliver our closing message, after which we all have our picture taken.

The most important messages we receive, in addition to the thousand thanks and a long life full of happiness and success:

  • This used to be a region without water, this is a gift from Allah.
  • Now they come here from other villages to get water, because there is finally clean water.
  • But that is why there is now a need for more water.
  • Another problem is that their marketplace is too small. This is the place where they can make (a little bit) money.
  • And the school is also too small. Because the population is increasing thanks to clean water.
  • In addition, the community garden needs a sturdy fence, because the animals have destroyed everything.

Each of the speakers presents their needs and puts their own emphasis. For example, Kabiro emphasizes that Allah and Gammol brought them water, water that is so essential for the body that consists of 90% water. Seedou who thanks Omar. “He is the rope of the well”, without a rope it is not possible to get water from the ground, without Omar there would be no installation. We are blessed and are now part of their community. He also emphasizes the fact that there are so many women present, because they are now being helped the most. No more dragging jerry cans for miles. Isatou, who speaks for the women, indicates that she first wishes to dance and sing with us to show us their gratitude. She also literally says that she wants to keep it short and won't repeat what the others have already said 😊. Isatou explains to us what the water means to them as women, and does not hesitate to explain to us why other communities also ask about this. Finally, she gives us the message that from now on the women in the village will accept us as 'fathers'. Certainly a consequence of being a bit older... 😉

Our message is now well known: the importance and responsibility they bear for the maintenance of the installation, the many requests we receive for help or extra help, our options are not unlimited, the importance of our sponsors who make this all possible. and who also expect that the installation will be taken care of. With a clear final word that it is now up to them to demonstrate that an additional investment is appropriate here by taking action(s) themselves: asking for a contribution for the water that will allow them to realize other things, building a fence themselves and create a community garden, draw up and implement an action plan... with the clear message that if they keep their promises in this regard, we will do so too.

From now on we will deliver our message with more strength and conviction, by referring to what happened in the 2 villages we visited yesterday, Gidda Sukuta and Daru Salam. Where the promises made were not kept, as a result of which the projects we planned for an additional water installation and a school will not be realized. We emphasize the mutual trust that must exist.

Faraba Suutu

Covered marketplace of Faraba Suutu

Our next appointment is with Alieu Sanyang, Faraba Suutu's alkalo. This is not a new project, but a 2022 project. We visited this last year, where we received the classic question for extra support, to which we gave our traditional answer: prefect maintenance installation and taking action ourselves. Alieu had promised us that we would see this next year (now).

This is a very dynamic community. Alieu is a barrel full of energy, a young alkalo, surrounded by other young and intelligent people. Really a very warm reunion with this young, dynamic team.

And they have kept their promises. Last year they told us they needed extra water. An installation that offered the opportunity to supply the marketplace they were going to build. In addition, this additional installation could provide the other half of the village with clean water. After all, the village is torn in two by a large (asphalt) track. What we see today really gives energy: a covered and concrete marketplace. Not yet fully finished, the (financial) resources are not there yet, so savings must first be made, but it is impressive if you consider the fact that there was nothing here last year.

I asked Alieu how they started this project? Cents was the first challenge. To raise money, they organized a festival (don't expect too much, it wasn't Rock Werchter or TML), which, together with the small contributions from the people in the village, was the start of the project. In addition, someone gave them 100 bags of cement and that's how they started. No labor costs, because the men of the village are building it themselves!

Alieu explains to us why the marketplace is so important: today the women sell their fruit and vegetables along the large, busy and dusty road. To be avoided in terms of both safety and hygiene. And it consumes time for the women: the stalls have to be set up and taken down every day. The marketplace is the solution to all these problems.

We also speak to a fellow villager who is an engineer and who shows us the plans he has designed. And they are ambitious. The marketplace is designed in such a way that a floor can be built on it in the long term. Objective: to have a space where they can teach young people a trade. The (almost complete) roof that has now been installed can be demolished quite easily and reused once another floor is added. This is a long-term project, as there is no funding. And they are NOT asking us to sponsor this. To install that additional water installation for the other half of the village and the marketplace. Where they also want to build a toilet for the women who will run the marketplace.

It goes without saying that we will keep the promise we made last year. Without any doubt. They will receive a second water installation, one of 2 x 4,000 liters, which will provide the +- 75 compounds (+- 1,500 children and parents) with clean water and the marketplace will be supplied with water. We go to check our first installation and find that they have built a sturdy fence for protection. However, I also notice that there is a small leak at the top of the water barrel. This apparently has to do with a seal that only leaks when the barrel is completely full. Alieu will repair this himself, since he is a plumber. He also takes us to their nursery school (also visited last year), where they have taken action to lay an extra pipeline from our installation to the school. There is a separate pump in the school, but it is electrically powered, which costs them money. This is only used when there is a need for water in the school and there is not enough sun (our pumps are powered by solar panels). You can't blame them for a lack of initiative here! This is another visit that gives us energy and enthusiasm, because the people here demonstrate that the investment that Gammol has made also pays off and creates new opportunities!

Niggie Village

The new water installation of Niggie Village

After warm pats on the back and hugs we leave for Niggie Village, a new realization of 2023. Niggie is located in one of the poorest regions of Gambia. They turn off the taps because they don't want to waste a drop of water. However, they know that the water flows back into the well when the water barrels are full. But this also shows that they take their responsibility for properly maintaining the installation and the taps very seriously.

The alkalo, Alkuri Sanyang, emphasizes that other surrounding villages now also come to Niggie for clean water, and thanks us 10 times on behalf of the entire village. Ebrima Colley, member of the water committee, repeats Alkuri's words and apologizes that more people did not show up, a result of Ramadan. Which is of course no problem for us. Maybe this will shorten the ceremony a bit? Again, we know how important this is for those involved, but hearing the same story over and over again with slightly different accents is not really efficient and takes a lot of time. Knowing that we are only here for 5 days, we want to use our time as efficiently as possible. Ebrima is well aware that Gammol will not continue to support them and that it is their own responsibility to ensure that the installation remains in perfect order. That in the event of a leaking tap, they will have to set aside resources to repair it. This is also the reason that they have set up a water committee to monitor this and raise the necessary resources for any repairs.

Malang Saidy, VDC member, explains that the children of the village have to walk 4 km every day to the nursery school (i.e. toddlers). The logical consequence is that they ask us if it is not possible to build a nursery school. And the gardens are also discussed.

Finally, Isatou Jammeh, member of the woman's committee, speaks. And, as is usually the case when women take the floor, she keeps it short: “the alkalo has already said it all, for us women this is instant happiness.” She emphasizes the consequences for their children, explains the difference between an "open well" and the pure water they now have, and also asks us if we can help them with a nursery school. The toddlers are tired from the distance they have to travel each time, and there is the safety aspect of the toddlers.

We give our normal explanation, where we also emphasize to them that it is now up to them to take the initiative, draw up an action plan and actually take action. Only then can we discuss possible further help.

We do ask them to show us their community garden and existing nursery school. What we see is indeed not wonderful, not to say sad. The women have saved up for a pump in their community garden, but the capacity is too small to irrigate the entire garden. They had to close the school (two classrooms and a teacher's room) due to poor quality and a lack of teachers. The stones are made of water and sand! The teacher's room has become home to a colony of bats... The result of limited resources (dalasi), for both the garden and the school.

And yet we repeat that we first expect concrete action from them before we can promise anything. We also make it clear to them, using the examples of Gidda Sukuta and Mandinaba, that action must follow promises, otherwise no additional investments will be made. There is sufficient manpower available, so that is not a problem. They promise us that a fence will be in place within three months, so that the communal garden can be put into use.

As far as the school is concerned, in addition to the problem of classrooms, there is also the problem of finding teachers. They all leave because of lack of… dalasi. Here the alkalo says that he will guarantee the payment of the teachers if a new school were to be built. The teacher's salary is between 8,000 and 10,000 dalasi per month (106 euros - 133 euros). And then this is the salary for a better and motivated teacher. We have already heard wagering of 3,500 dalasi per month. No wonder that those teachers also have to have another job to make ends meet.

We will invest further in the village garden of Niggie Village, if it is properly fenced by next year

Back to Fuffor

We conclude our visits today with another visit to Fufor, where we bring the “good news” that we will build a primary school (6–12 years) for them. We choose Fufford instead of Mandinaba because they had not fulfilled the agreements there. Needless to say, they are very happy in the village. The reason we decided this so quickly has only to do with the fact that they have already started it themselves, with inferior material, due to their limited resources. Self-made stones of inferior quality, foundations only on the corners of the building... In our opinion, the best possible decision, given the demonstrable initiative they take, without asking us anything. Example: yesterday we came by, today the men had completely weeded an entire strip next to their youth center under construction. Koyo Kandeh and Dawda Jatla will ensure that a financial, educational and organizational plan is drawn up, with our support. Here we also impose the condition that they will follow the Gammol curricula and that they must be part of our Gammol school community with the aim of exchanging experiences and learning from each other. The objective is to increase the quality of education, which can only benefit the students. This is the theory. To actually put this into practice, we realize that there is still a lot of work to be done.


Our last stop today is Sanyang. We saw on a website that there is land for sale in Sanyang. We have been unsure about the use of our Gammol House for a number of years now. This is our headquarters in Sanyang, where we have our offices, a warehouse (also for Leetulor's medicines) and where our intern students and nurses stay when they are in Gambia. The objective of today's search is initially to get an idea of ​​how much the land here costs. In the street where the land is for sale we meet the (large land) owner, who shows us a number of plots of land that he wants to sell. There is a piece of land that might interest us, a piece of 25 m x 45 m, for 1.7 million dalasi (23,000 euros). No negotiation. But then a house still has to be built. Now, the visit has made us a little wiser, but we have another meeting planned for Sunday with the new VDC of Sanyang, where we hope to get more clarity about our current Gammol House. It is now 6 p.m. We drive to our lodge, freshen up, eat with Omar and Lamin (who almost falls asleep on his plate) and say goodbye. It is once again clear that Ramadan is not in their cold clothes! Hedwig, Dirk and I continue to discuss the Gammol House, without the need to come to a decision. We agree that this should not be at the expense of our projects.

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