Sun setting at Njawara


(Fula for ‘good afternoon’)

The meeting we had with GamSolar last week ended up going pretty well, and they invited us to come to a village called Njawara, on the North Bank, where they were doing a survey for installing a solar power system. We headed up there with our new friend, Alfusainey, on Wednesday and came back on Thursday. The financial donor for the solar system is apparently a woman who regularly comes to stay at the Njawara Cultural Camp, where there are cultural festivals at certain times of the year. It was really cool to experience village life and hospitality.

The survey involved finding the power requirements for the first phase of the project, which involves providing power for certain key buildings in the village (the mosque, the school, the clinic, the agricultural training center, and the cultural camp). The next phases will provide street lights, then bring power to individual homes. As we walked around the village, I wondered about the sustainability of installing the system. How would the villagers pay for maintenance and repairs once GamSolar’s 6-month warranty was over? Would the donor be willing to provide continued financial assistance? (solar panels usually last around 20 years, and some components of the system will need replacing sooner). But I guess if they want power, it is better to go with renewable energy than to connect to the grid.

We also saw the village’s community garden, where a solar water pump has already been installed. This pump uses the sun’s energy to pump the groundwater to an elevated reservoir. The water then flows into reservoirs on the ground level spread throughout the garden (when the taps are turned on), where villagers will use their buckets to irrigate the garden.

One of the reservoirs in the garden (above), Elevated reservoirs and solar water pump (below)

It was pretty cool to see solar power in action.

Back in Yundum, things are going well. I am now learning a third African language: Fula  (my family’s tribe is Fula). Some days I speak 5 languages… English, French (some people here speak better French than they do English), Wolof, Mandinka and Fula. Well, maybe ‘speak’ is too strong a word for Wolof, Mandinka and Fula, but I can say a few words..

I also helped some of the guys make sandcrete blocks on Saturday for the coming construction at the back of my room..or at least I tried. They let me help with mixing the sand, concrete and water, but only let me form one block. Unfortunately, it rained later that day and some of the blocks were ruined..that will likely delay the renovation of my bathroom ‘floor’.

We are still trying to figure out what exactly to focus on for the rest of our summer. We have ruled out the earth blocks option, which I mentioned in my last post, and have decided to find something more related to agriculture, water and/or soil (our original internship). GamSolar also does work with the Ministry of Agriculture, under the Gambian Lowland Development Project (GALDEP), so that was exciting for us. One possibility is to somehow relate the two during our time here. We have already seen a community garden in Lamin that GamSolar is in the process of constructing.

Thanks for reading and I’ll keep you updated with all the new events,