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|T O P I C R E V I E W
||Posted - 16 Jun 2022 : 18:52:35
WELL dear READER what do you think ? Me? words fail me this is 2022 near the capital city of a quickly developing country.
By Oumie Mendy
If you leave Jeshwang and head towards Denton Bridge, the only destination on your mind, most of the time, is the capital: Banjul. Bustling and lively, filled with students, workers and businesspeople crisscrossing around. But what you probably never know is that, there is actually a tiny village situated in the outskirts of the capital. Yes, there is a village and it is called Ndangan.
This is a remote settlement forgotten or barely known by most people in The Gambia. The shanty Ndangan village has a population of 200 people, including children and is nestled in the muddy banks of River Gambia dotted with mangroves and fresh smell of fish wafting around.
The word Ndangan is of Serer origin, meaning ‘fishing place’. The settlement was predominantly dwelled by fishermen, originally from Senegal. However, today, the settlement is entirely inhabited by Gambians with schoolgoing children. They live in small locally built mud houses with few cement buildings.
The settlement was sparse and covered a larger area than what it is now. It only got constricted as a result of encroachment by influential business tycoons, who are allocated land in the area to build commercial stores. Access is now a problem as there is only a small road in between the stores leading in and out of the small community and the settlement is clouded with smoke from the dump site, where all the waste from Banjul is dumped.
Ndangan has co-existed with the dumpsite and scavengers since its inception.
Augustus Sanyang, the 29-year-old Alkalo of Ndangan who succeeded his uncle Peter Jatta, complained that the road leading in and out of the community is usually dark at night and unsafe for people to use, emphasising the need for proper road and electricity.
Regarding the pollution of the community by smoke emitting from the dumpsite, Alkalo Sanyang noted that “years back, there was no burning at the dump site and maize was cultivated there, but now because people are venturing into this scrap metal copper ‘ferrai’ business, they started burning and polluting the air”.
He added that the continual inhaling of the smoke could be a health hazard to the people. He said frantic efforts and constant dialogue with the responsible authorities to stop the burning and improve waste management at the dumpsite yielded no positive results. “Ndangan was there before ‘ferrai’, so ‘ferrai’ cannot relocate us,” he emphasized.
Aside from the risk of air pollution, Alkalo Sanyang said the sewage pipes connected to the river that discharge effluent into the river is also causing water pollution. “Fish breed in the mangroves but the dirty water coming from the dump site and the factories, especially during the rainy season causes small fish and mangroves to die. Avoiding the sewage is the reason why we dug a soakaway to contain the dirty water from the washroom,” he said.
Ndangan is a close-knit community involved in self-help and entrepreneurial ventures to maintain social cohesion. “We are setting up bee hives where we can produce honey and cream among other things to create self-employment for both the youths and the old,” he said. He called on the government to assist the community in its self-employment and entrepreneurial initiatives to empower the youths and the women.
Ndangan is a friendly community with few but energetic inhabitants ready to make a change for the betterment of the upcoming generation. The young people as well as the old are involved in different activities like harvesting oysters and fishing, beekeeping, and pig rearing, to make income and a sustainable living to change the narrative of ‘hand-to-mouth’ existence.
Hamadi Jarju, a 56-year-old woman born and brought up in Ndangan, said the river has been her source of income and sustenance since the death of her husband 6 years ago. Hamadi lived with her husband and children in Manjai and relocated to Ndangan due to the hardship she faced in raising her children in that semi-urban settlement. She now lives her life paddling her canoe into the mangroves to harvest oysters and small fish to sell in the market in order to sustain her family.
“Since the demise of my husband, my business is what I use to pay school fees for my 5 children, feed and clothe them as well as take care of myself. One of my daughters I educated from my business is now a graduate and is now teaching the children voluntarily here in Ndangan to also attain a bright future,” Hamadi said.
To her, oyster scooping was a very lucrative business year’s back, but it has become uneasy for her of recent because a lot of people are now involved and oysters no longer breeds close to the muddy river bank. “Before, we used to gather as much oysters as we wanted a few steps away from home but due to oil spillage into the water and the plastic bags blown by the wind from the dump site, oysters now breed deep in the water. And if these oysters are trapped in the plastic bags, they get opened and become tasteless,” she lamented.
She highlighted the struggles she faces in her seasonal job and hopes that a remedy could be found which include fishermen with canoes fitted with outboard engines, which she called “machine boats”.
“We only use small pedal boats and the machine boats are more powerful than ours. Considering the speed at which they run, if they hit our boats, we will capsize. So whenever we see them coming, we take shelter in the mangroves and allow them to pass or in a case where we are far from the mangroves, we wave and shout for help.”
She said oyster harvesting is risky and one can lose one’s life in it. She further explained that it is labor intensive and lack of electricity is a great constraint. She said buying “ice-block” to preserve her oysters or fish can be very expensive.
She appealed to the government to provide the settlement with proper road and electricity to ease the difficulties in her business, and also to find a way of improving their safety at sea.
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