As an ardent advocate for environment-friendly initiatives, I have been living in The Gambia, for almost two decades. Here are the top 10 things I have been doing at home and also will advise anyone who wishes to save the beautiful environment around to do in the Beautiful Gambia.
Taxis or “gale gales” as they call it here are very famous and the most common public transport systems available in Gambia. The people are very friendly, and welcoming when you want to take ride in them. A tourist or a foreigner can go for a ride in one of these vans without fear. Not only will you be saving fuel by carpooling but also will meet interesting people in one of your rides. You will enjoy the ride and see the common man’s hospitality and witness how people help each other with their babies or elders with their heavy bags. The interaction in a “gale gale” will help you to have a peep in the common man’s culture. You can rent a bicycle if your destination is not far away. Though there are no separate lanes for bicycles in The Gambia, one can ride safely on the roads. Walking is also a memorable experience with the weather so pleasant most times of the year, to avoid the hassles of everyday traffic. I enjoy my walks on the beach or on the roads as the climate in January, February and March is so pleasant and commute becomes more enjoyable rather than stressful due to traffic blocks.
Some restaurants are very mindful of single use plastics like avoiding one time use of plastic straws and cups. They use paper or bamboo straws and offer drinks in glasses to reduce the amount of single use plastic. However, if you happen to be in a restaurant or eat-out place, where they do not offer such alternatives, the managers or waiters will be happy to oblige to your request if you make one. I usually insist on avoiding the use of straws or cups or even carry my own takeaway containers. Restaurant managers are more than happy to accept your request without any qualms or complaints.
Planting trees is a very common activity in The Gambia. Tress are planted across the coastline or at homes. You will find nurseries where they sell beautiful plants for your house garden. Big organizations take up “planting” drives during key dates in a year to contribute to protecting the environment in The Gambia. The Municipal councils and some government environment agencies participate in drives to create more awareness.
When a country is famous for its beaches, then ocean cleanup activities and beach cleanup initiatives must be an integral part of yearly events. Many volunteering organizations like Ocean heroes, The Great institute and many others coordinate these events. You can volunteer and be part of such events anywhere. They are advertised and many youths willingly come forward to be part of such initiatives and help to remove the clutter and waste in the oceans that may harm the marine habitat.
There are various small scale local businesses that promote environment friendly products: like selling cloth bags instead of plastic bags. Cloth bags are available in all supermarkets. Many consciously avoid using plastic bags. Locally made soap bars are widely available and in great demand. These soaps are biodegradable and can save the planet from use of harsh chemicals and plastics. Soaps are available in many flavors like moringa soaps, honey soaps. Black soaps are particularly famous in the western and northern Africa regions. Wrappers made from beeswax, cloth bags instead of leather, are also very famous. They are easily available in craft markets and give a good variety of choice to customers.
Making your own manure and compost is an activity one can do anytime. Gambia has vast stretches of land where plants can be grown and the vegetable waste or decomposable waste when segregated, can be turned into compost or manure. The compost made over the years can be a source for manure for growing plants and is sold by nursery owners who sell plants.
The water available in The Gambia is good to drink in its natural form. It is clean and when boiled or filtered and can be drunk without any fear of harmful pollutants. So, there is no need for a common man to buy bottled water for consumption, thereby avoiding plastic waste. This reduces the plastic waste made by water bottles or large water cans. Those who prefer to drink the natural clean underground water available do not use bottled and treated water. Even when some of them prefer to drink bottled water to be on the safe side, these bottles are reused by locals to sell their fruit juices (wonjo, baobab, etc.) and never thrown as single use bottles.
Reusable items are plenty in the Gambia. Yoghurts are sold in bottles instead of plastic cups in some shops. In Maroun’s supermarket there is a bottle collection dropping point where anyone can leave their bottles which is cleaned and reused later. Empty cokes and cans are reused in making big pots for cooking. It is amazing to see the cooking pot making industry thrive by reusing empty can drinks. Secondhand clothing is very famously used in The Gambia. Most villages and towns sell secondhand clothes to those who want to save the planet. Those who do not want to give into fashion fads and clutter their wardrobes with new clothes every time can buy secondhand clothes available. There are special bazaars organized for car boot sales or garage sales where people come in large numbers to buy and reuse goods.
Renewable energy is a well-known concept in Gambia. Because Gambia has sunshine all year through, solar energy can be optimally used as an alternative to nonrenewable energy source. Solar panels can be found in most houses as back up. Most houses have Solar lights and solar powered appliances. Villages also use solar powered equipment.
In Gambia, in early 2000s there was a special day called “set-settal” day, where one Saturday of every month was allocated to clean. On that day, there will be no cars running for few hours and the entire nation will use that Saturday morning to clean their environment outside their homes and offices. Though this practice has stopped due to economic grounds of revenue loss, the idea of cleaning every house and its surrounding is instilled deeply in every Gambian’s mind. You can find men with cutlasses cutting the long grasses outside compounds and making sure there is less litter outside an average Gambian household. This culture of cleaning one’s immediate surrounding also reflects as a reason for cleanliness of many places in the cities and villages.