Partnering for Agroforestry, Education, and Water
Mamie Njie spends her weekends on the smallholder farms of Fula Bantang, Gambia. At just 23-years-old, she’s forging a path for sustainable agriculture and agroforestry in her country. Mamie is studying agroforestry at university and is interning with a collective of nonprofits to train Gambian farmers in what is known as the Forest Garden Approach.
“School and education [are my future] because without them I don’t think I can prosper well, much less help to develop my country The Gambia,” Mamie says. “GambiaRising, Water Charity and Trees for the Future have definitely changed the villages around Fula Bantang.”
Mamie interns with Trees for the Future (TREES) as part of a three-way partnership between TREES, Gambia Rising, and Water Charity. She’s helping farmers in her region learn how to implement the Forest Garden Approach, a sustainable agroforestry system that benefits the land and the farmer. With strategically planted trees and crops, Forest Garden farmers improve their degraded land and have plenty to eat and sell, effectively lifting themselves out of hunger and poverty.
TREES began working in Gambia at the end of 2019 through a Collaborative Field Partnership with Gambia Rising and Water Charity. Gambia Rising is a nonprofit that funds scholarships for girls and has financed the community building of four schools in the Fula Bantang ward in Gambia with over 900 students now attending school there. Water Charity is a local nonprofit that builds and restores wells.
As a girl, Mamie received a Gambia Rising scholarship (funded by their Sperry Scholars program) to attend school. Given the importance of agriculture in her community, Mamie decided to study agriculture at university and received a second Gambia Rising scholarship to do just that. Now, Mamie is using her Forest Garden training and the knowledge she gained at university to train farmers in her community.
“Agroforestry and Trees for the Future teach us a lot as agricultural students because it brings new ideas and boosts our knowledge to a higher standard,” Mamie says.
More than 70% of the Gambian population depends on agriculture to make a living, but with little crop diversity and a changing climate, farming is not as reliable as it could be. More than 40% of the Gambian population is living in poverty and the average Gambian spends less than four years in school.
“Our three-way partnership allows us to use the strengths and resources of each organization to address the persistent challenges Gambian families face,” says TREES Director of Programs Brandy Lellou.
The partnership is simple and effective. TREES trains Gambia Rising and Water Charity in the Forest Garden Approach, providing them with the knowledge and resources needed to educate farmers in the region. Dedicated Forest Garden technicians in Gambia then train farmers in the same communities where efforts are being made to improve education and water access. There are currently 500 farmers enrolled in the Forest Garden program in Gambia.
“We can’t overstate how sustainable an approach like this is. Each of the elements of this partnership have a lasting impact,” Lellou says.
Agroforestry Training: Agroforestry training improves the land so that a farming family can thrive on it for generations.
Water: Clean water means a healthier community and wells ensure access to a critical resource for an economy dependent on farming.
Education: Putting more girls in school is proven to break the cycle of poverty and strengthen communities.
There is perhaps no better example of the power of this partnership than Mamie.
“It’s kind of this full circle moment,” Lellou says. “After receiving an education, she’s now working in the environment with the same people who originally sponsored her scholarship. She’s committed to creating avenues of education and opportunity for other members of her community.”
Once she graduates, Mamie will join the team full time. She and her fellow Forest Garden team members and the 500 Forest Garden farmers in the program will plant 450,000 trees in Gambian Forest Gardens this year.