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Revitalizing Cotton Production in The Gambia

My Magazine 2023/12
3 min
The Gambia boasts stunning beaches, excellent accommodation, and dining options in popular tourist hubs. Yet, the true potential lies in rural, eco, cultural, and community-based tourism. Recognizing this, My Gambia has joined forces with students of Tourism Management from Holland for an innovative cotton project, amplifying our commitment to fostering opportunities in rural areas.

Students are currently engaged in ongoing research and exploration to unlock the potential of this new project. The aim is to create a community-based tourism product, contribute to the economic growth of upcountry regions, and revive the once-thriving cotton production.

The cotton industry in The Gambia experienced its heyday during the 1970s and 1980s, providing employment opportunities to over 3,000 farmers. At that time, approximately 10,000 acres of land, predominantly in the Upper River Region (URR), were dedicated to cotton cultivation. This not only offered a lucrative alternative cash crop but also significantly contributed to the country's GDP through foreign exchanges gained from exporting cotton to the international market.

Despite its past success, the cotton industry witnessed a decline, resulting in a loss of livelihood for many farmers and a reduction in the cultivation of this valuable crop. Various factors, including changing global markets and economic challenges, contributed to this downturn.

Recognizing the potential impact of reviving cotton production, My Gambia, in collaboration with the tourism management students, conducted a visit to Kerewan Samba Sira village. The objective was to meet with the village head, Mohammed Saidy, assess the land for future cotton cultivation, and engage with local artisans, such as a woman who still practices hand-spinning cotton. These interactions aimed to understand the historical importance of cotton and lay the foundation for the upcoming project.

The proposed initiative seeks to reintroduce cotton cultivation in the next rainy season, with a focus on sustainable and community-based practices. The project aims to involve local farmers, spinners, weavers, and other villagers in the entire production chain, creating a holistic community-based tourism product.

The success of the initiative hinges on active community participation. By involving local communities in the process, from cultivation to the creation of end products, the project strives to generate income for farmers and villagers. This approach aligns with the principles of responsible and sustainable tourism, fostering economic growth while preserving local culture and traditions.

The collaboration with students from Holland brings an educational dimension to the project. Their insights and expertise in tourism management will contribute to the development of a tourism product that not only promotes economic sustainability but also provides visitors with an authentic and educational experience.

Revitalizing cotton production in The Gambia represents more than a mere agricultural initiative. It is a step towards sustainable community-based tourism, economic empowerment for local communities, and a revival of an industry that once played a vital role in the country's economic landscape. As the project unfolds, it holds the promise of creating a model that combines agricultural sustainability with tourism, benefitting both the local community and the broader Gambian economy.

At the conclusion of our visit, in line with our commitment to giving back to communities, we were delighted to engage in charitable activities within the village. Students and visitors who joined our trip generously contributed four solar lights to the community members. Additionally, we made a donation to Kerewan Samba Sira Primary School and surprised the local Salifu Mballow and Children Football Academy with two new sets of team jerseys.


 
This trip, like many before, left us with meaningful memories and reinforced our belief in the positive impact of responsible tourism. If you are the kind of traveller seeking destinations where your journey directly contributes to the well-being of local people, we extend a warm invitation to visit The Gambia, especially Kerewan Samba Sira and neighbouring villages.

 

ARE YOU READY?

Our next trip is scheduled for the 24th of January 2024. Click HERE to get more information.

Join us! It will be unforgettable!

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