Putting Theory Into Practice: University Student Engages In Functional Agriculture

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By: Modou Touray

Dembo Keita is a final year student at the School of Education, University of The Gambia. He majors in agriculture. As a way of putting his ‘book knowledge’ into practical, he contemplated on establishing a nursery agrobusiness. Mr Keita took advantage of the fertile land in his locality and embarked on the said agric venture. While focusing on the completion of his university education, Dembo decided to travel to his native village of Wuli Sutukonding in the Upper River Region in pursuit of his dream.

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“This idea emerged as a result of my interest in biodiversity conservation. I was born and grew up in a community where most of the population use wood for cooking, construction, and other activities. These acts are increasingly negatively impacting the environment, leading to drought, erosion and loss of our rich biodiversity and ecosystem services.”

He justified the production of seedlings of fruit trees for the fact that vegetables and fruits supply essential minerals and vitamins that are very essential for our health, however, access to fresh vegetable or fruit products is a serious challenge in the Upper River Region.

“Most of the products are imported from neighbouring Senegal. They are mostly available in February, March and April. The supply is very limited in these three months as those living in the North Bank of Upper River region have limited or no access to these valuable products.”

Mr Keita said he came up with this idea to help address the severe environmental challenges that his region is currently facing, and the lack of adequate fresh vegetables and fruits to enhance the dietary need of his people and the country at large.

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“If I am able to fence the garden and have a borehole, I can produce more than fifty thousand seedlings or  trees of different species.”

We will supply fresh fruit and vegetables to all the markets in my region and even to the Kombos”

There are many different species of fruit seedlings such as mango, orange, cashew and other species for wood suck as mahogany which Dembo grows. He also outlined his long-term agricultural production plans which includes establishing more farming initiatives.

“After one year of full operation, I will use the profit gained from the seedling business to establish both poultry and small ruminate production. Then in the third year, I will establish fish farming and in the fifth year, the farm will be used for both production and training of farmers and students.”

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“My main challenge is fencing my farm to minimize damage caused by animals. I have been in this farming for almost 2 years now and it’s progressing slowly. For now, I am specializing in tree nursery and backyard gardening.

Mr Keita’s seedling production is believed to help community and government projects concerned with climate change and restoration of the natural vegetation.

He asserted that if seedlings are available in large quantities in the rural areas, there would be no need to transport seedlings from the Kombos for tree planting activities.

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