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Ruins of Fort James, on Kunta Kinteh Island

Good day!

Yesterday we decided to take the day off work (well, we went in briefly just to confirm that they had nothing for us to do) and head to one of The Gambia’s most historical sites: Kunta Kinteh Island (or James Island). Fort James is situated on the island, and this is where slaves were held before being shipped to the Americas. It was quite an experience walking through the ruins of the old fort. The island was also in a strategic location to guard the upstream portion of the River Gambia. While the British controlled the island for most of the colonial period, there were also pirates and merchants who occupied the island at various times. The fort was also destroyed twice by the French and once by an accidental gunpowder explosion.

To get there we took a number of taxis, a ferry and a pirogue (a small wooden boat). Just as we were heading out to the island on our pirogue, we could see rain in the distance, and on the way back, the rain was literally right on our heels. As soon as we docked back on the shore, the rain started up and we were fortunately able to make it to cover. Afterwards we had lunch at the restaurant there, and then checked out the museum.

On Friday we went upcountry with Kebba to see some of the PIWAMP job sites. It was great to see some of the work firsthand and to spend some time in the provinces. We stayed the night in Soma at an agricultural training centre. Sleeping was a challenge for me though because of the heat and because someone in the adjacent room sounded like they were cutting down trees with a chainsaw… I decided to move outside where it was cooler and to put some distance between myself and the lumberjack, and despite bringing my bug net I ended up getting devoured by mosquitoes (they somehow always find a way to get in!). In the morning, we continued on our journey, stopping at more PIWAMP locations. We managed to get a good look at some more dikes and spillways, as well as bridges and causeways that SWMS builds to help farmers access fields and markets (otherwise getting there would be near impossible, check out the photos). We also checked out some bunds (which divert water to prevent erosion) and a sluice gate. The sluice gate is part of a salt flushing system that helps remove salt from lowland fields near the river that have been flooded by the saltwater portion of the River Gambia. After a couple of years the fields will be rehabilitated and ready for crop growth again.

That’s all for now! We are also planning to visit River Gambia National Park and hopefully Senegal as well over the next few weeks, so I’ll keep you posted about that.




On the weekend I had the opportunity to go on a meter reading/maintenance trip with GAM-Solar. I went with Peter, who is the Water Division Coordinator for GAM-Solar, along with Ba Esa the driver, Malik the technician, and Modou the plumber (unfortunately they only had room for one of us so Yena, John and I had to draw straws to see who got to go, and I was the lucky winner). We left on Friday and arrived back home on Monday. GAM-Solar has over 80 villages with solar pumping systems in the country, and we visited about a dozen of them.

The trip consisted of stopping at various villages to read the meters of their solar pumps to determine how much water they’ve used since the last GAM-Solar visit. The villages were then billed for their water usage at a modest 2.10 Dalasis per cubic meter (1 Dalasi = approx 28 USD).  A portion of the funds go to GAM-Solar, some stay in the village to pay the watchmen of the pumps, and the rest goes to a maintenance fund. The idea is that the maintenance fund will be able to bail out the villages when their pumping systems are having problems. Part of what I want to do while I am here is look into this fund and do an assessment to see if it will be able to do that consistently, since replacement and maintenance of these solar pumping systems can be quite expensive. It might seem counter intuitive to be asking for money from people who do not have much of it when working towards development, but this is necessary to be able to provide the proper maintenance, and without proper maintenance the systems will fail and the villagers will have to resort to their previous water sources of lower quality. This also helps the villagers develop a sense of ownership of their solar pumping system, and the goal is for the villages to not rely on donor funding. Improved water sources, electricity and in some cases improved farming/irrigation techniques will hopefully help with the development of the villages in both the short and long terms.

Malik and Modou also had some maintenance work to do at a few of the sites. At one they were prepared to replace a whole pump, but they ended up being able to fix the problem by doing some wiring work. They also repaired a floater, which detects when the reservoir is full and turns the pump off to prevent overflow wastage, then turns it back on when the villagers are taking water from the reservoir. They also removed and cleaned a filter at one of the sites (see the pictures on flickr).

With only a little over 3 weeks left of our placement, we are trying to fit as much in as possible and make the most of every day. On top of the assessment I want to do on the maintenance fund, we are also helping out on one of GAM-Solar’s agricultural projects. This project has the goal of producing income for the beneficiaries to help ensure the sustainability of the project and to help the villages develop. We are also planning two more trips with Kebba from SWMS at the MoA. For the first one, we will be leaving tomorrow, and staying upcountry for one night. For the next one we will head farther inland and stay for a few nights. We are also doing some investigative work for Growing Necessity, which is a company that wants to help farmers connect with soil testing labs to help them with their crop yields (see my first blog post).

That’s all for now and I’ll be sure to keep you updated! Also feel free to post any comments or thoughts if there’s anything from my post you want to discuss.



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July 2011
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