Day 11

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Day 11 The women's garden, the unfinished mosque and spiders

We’re busy doing our project work at the moment, but we did get out in the morning – quite early – to visit the women’s vegetable garden. It’s a very large, ten hectare site that had been given by a family to the women of Gunjur so they could feed their families and make some extra money. In the 1990s a group came out here with Dr Nick and put up a fence around the garden to keep the animals out. The fences here are made of sticks, so they don’t last very long!

Because it’s the rainy season, the women were mainly growing spring onions and okra. They make a lot of okra leaf soup here; it’s one of their favourite dishes. At other times of the year they grow peppers and carrots and a wider variety of vegetables. But this year, because of the changing climate, they’re finding they’re not able to grow such a broad range of vegetables.

We spoke to one woman who told us that from one small plot she could grow about four hundred dalasi (about £6.50p) worth of spring onions. And the women are allocated twenty-three plots each. Before the garden, the women would have had to grow their vegetables in their compounds where there’s neither the space nor the same access to wells.

We saw some of the wells in the garden. A couple of us had a go at drawing water up in buckets. That was a new experience, and trickier than it looks. It would be hard work if you were having to do it a lot. I got up two bucketloads and that was enough.

While we were in the garden there was a flash rainstorm, so we took cover under a purpose-built shelter with many of the women gardeners. Dr Nick was talking to them and after a bit they wanted to say prayers. So, they said Muslim prayers in Mandinka, and then we said Christian prayers in English – for the continuing relationship between Marlborough and Gunjur. It was a very warming experience.

We then went into the centre of Gunjur with our Gambian partners. We explored a mosque which is in the process of being built. The builders have stopped working on the site, so a local man has just chosen to carry on the work himself. The unfinished mosque is really quite grand. Inside it has very high ceilings with lots of arches. There’s a massive dome in the middle, lots of doorways and pillars. And goats were wandering round inside. It’s still a building site so we didn’t want to go too far in.

There’s one main road through Gunjur which is tarmacked, but once you head into the village itself, it’s just dirt tracks and sand. After the rainstorm this morning it was tricky going in the minibus. There’s a lot of litter everywhere too, plastic shoes floating in the puddles.

After lunch the Gambian partners came back to the Project and practiced their swimming in the pool. They’re getting better!

This evening’s entertainment was me locking Emily in a cupboard with a fat, hairy spider. All in good humour, and she got her own back!

Maisie Medcalf 17 St Mary’s Calne

Minty Mills 17 Marlborough College

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