By: Modou Touray
Ebrima Manka is a farmer who specializes in groundnut cultivation on a large scale. He is a resident of Kembujeh-Mandina in Kombo Central District, West Coast Region.
In his first-ever media interview, Mr Manka speaks to The Fatu Network about his challenges as a seasoned farmer in the Gambia.
“This is the first time I have had access to a media interview. I have been engaged in groundnut cultivation since I was a child. There are many hindrances to my farming but lack of modern farming tools is my main problem,” Manka laments.
Modern tools for effective groundnut production are a key determinant for higher yield. Ebrima’s farmland is huge but that does not stop him, with the help of his family, to use manual labour to weed the farm every year.
“My farm is large; it takes me time to weed the entire farm. It would have been more effective and convenient with the availability of modern farming implements. Manual labour requires time and more energy compared to the use of farming tools which is more proper,” he said.
Weeds are unwanted grass which grows amongst the crops. The normal growth of a crop would be slow for the fact that they compete with planted crops with sunlight and soil nutrients.
“Weeds make our crops grow slowly. If you don’t have the proper tools to uproot them, it affects the timely maturity of your crops. The more time I use my simple tool to weed, the more my yield drops,” he bemoans.
Ebrima Manka and his family spend more time weeding their groundnut farmland daily.
“Sometimes if it rains heavily, our weeded grasses regrow. I am a farmer who grows crops regularly but the lack of support for modern tools is a major obstacle.”
He uses his agricultural produce for both commercial purposes and home consumption. Although he is not making much savings to buy costly modern farming tools, instead he takes care of his domestic expenses. “If your family is large, it’s difficult to have savings,” Manka noted.
This issue is not only peculiar to Ebrima but most low-income farmers in the Gambia also endure similar situations.
Besides the need for tools, land for groundnut production is another challenge for him. He discloses to this medium that his farm is located on a piece of land which belongs to the National Water and Electricity Company (NAWEC).
“I was informed by some officials that I am using their land but I negotiated with them to allow me to farm here until the time they will need it. Previously, I farm in the Nyanbikala area but there is an increase in housing for residential purposes in that area. Owners of that area now sold it for settlements. The area is already demarcated and buildings are being erected. Our farmlands get narrow yearly.”
The availability of land for agriculture and market gardening is limited in urban settlements due to scarcity of land. This is threatening the flourishing of agricultural production and productivity. Hence lawsuits on land disputes are magnifying, and farmers in the urban areas remain cautious.
Groundnut is a crop which usually requires a minimum of 3 months to mature depending on the variety planted
Experts recommend that sandy soil with less clay is the most ideal area for groundnut cultivation.
Groundnut production seems to be on the decline in the Gambia which is attributed to multiple factors including limited land resources and proper farming tools.